Two Stalemates and One Unsatisfying Resolution

By Brian Prechtl


For those who love the incredible gems that are our major American symphony orchestras it’s valuable to observe the struggles we see in other communities across the country. We have witnessed three work actions in several ICSOM orchestras this fall. Take a few minutes to learn about the situations in the ongoing strikes at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as well as the brief strike and subsequent settlement at the Philadelphia Orchestra.

It is only through the dedicated work of standing up for the hard fought gains of the past 100 plus years that these cultural icons can be maintained at a standard equal to the artistic brilliance of the works of art that they bring to life nightly on the stages of our great American cities.

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

The following quotes come from the :

“The Fort Worth strike has taken 15 months to reach the current dead end situation. In 2010 the musicians accepted a 13.5% cut to help face recessionary economic conditions. But today, Fort Worth is one of the most thriving and growing cities in the nation, ticket sales are on the rise and the orchestra is consistently garnering positive reviews. Reducing the budget has already caused musicians to leave the orchestra at twice the rate of the previous decade, and musicians refuse to agree to more damaging cuts. There must be a plan for growth, and the FWSO does not currently have a strategic plan beyond 2017.

‘Our serious decision to provide authorization for a strike is about more than wages and benefits’ said FWSO Cellist and Negotiation Committee Member Shelley Jessup, ‘It is about the future of the orchestra. Fort Worth is a proud destination city and should have a destination orchestra. The cuts we have seen since 2010 threaten to undo all the work that donors, musicians and citizens have done over the last 100 years to build the FWSO into the world class orchestra our city deserves.’ ”

There are several ways to help the musicians in Fort Worth.

  • Share their situation and posts on social media. Here is the Facebook link. Here is the Twitter link. Tag all your posts with the marker #GrowthNotCuts
  • Subscribe to their newsletter here
  • Buy their T-Shirts and lawn signs
  • Finally, the Musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony have written:

“We are very grateful to the many supporters that contributed to our first GoFundMe campaign to help us through our unfortunate work stoppage. However, we were very disappointed to learn that our CEO, Amy Adkins in an email to the Symphony Board, dismissed musicians’ supporters whom she did not have in her database, and insulted the ones whose average donation amounted to $109. Therefore, we are challenging the attitudes of the board and Mrs. Adkins with a new GoFundMe campaign called “The 109 project”. We think it would be a great show of the power of community action if a large number of people made donations of $109, either as individuals or as teams (you can come up with a fun name for your team when donating). Of course, we will gladly accept any amount you wish to give–we don’t discriminate. Be sure to end your donation amount with the number “9” to show your support for this project. Remember, whether you donate $19, $109 or any other amount, you will send a clear message that small donations make a difference. All money raised goes directly to our campaign fund to pay for expenses during our strike. Thanks for being part of our community of strong and generous advocates as we fight for GROWTH NOT CUTS”


The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Media Committee supplied the following statement:

“Greetings from Pittsburgh,

As you know by now, the Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra went on strike on Sept 30. On September 18 our management presented what it termed its last, best and final offer, which included cuts to base salary of 15%, an end to our defined-benefit pension plan for all players with less than 30 years of service, and the right for management to unilaterally decide whether or not to replace retiring or departing musicians.

We have been negotiating – at management’s initiation – since February, but were completely blind-sided when we received the terms of their financial proposal in July. Nevertheless, we continued to negotiate and offered major concessions in each of the areas management was seeking relief. When our contract expired in September, and upon receiving their final offer we requested federal mediation, which management agreed to. However, after two weeks of working with a pair of mediators, and despite continued concessions on our part, management’s position did not move an inch. The orchestra found the terms of their offer unacceptable, recognized that they would cause immediate and lasting damage to our beloved institution and voted unanimously to reject this proposal.

Since the first day of our strike we have made it clear to our management that we are willing to talk anytime, any place; instead, our management responded by immediately canceling all of October’s concerts. Our invitation to return to the table has been rebuffed with the statement, ‘We’re willing to negotiate as long as you accept our proposal’. This is not an offer to bargain in good faith, this is a threat and an ultimatum.

In addition to our website,, we have set up a site specifically for news related to our negotiations and strike at Included on this site is a thorough debunking of the numbers management is using to demand these draconian measures, citing their own audited financial statements. Click on the ‘What Can I Do?’ tab to see how you can continue to assist us in our struggle for a fair and competitive contract.

The outpouring of support we’ve received has been tremendously uplifting, whether it comes from strangers on the street, letters to the editors of our local papers, or expressions of solidarity from our colleagues across the country. Please keep the positive vibes coming our way!

All best wishes and in solidarity, The Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.”

As of October 17th, the management of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has cancelled all concerts through Nov. 18.


Philadelphia Orchestra

The Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra went on strike on September 30, 2016 – the evening of the orchestra’s Gala. There was a frenzied yet unsuccessful effort on both sides to settle the negotiation before such a high profile event. The strike only lasted two days.

The following statement was posted on their web site on October 2, 2016. Visit this site for more information.

“We, the Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra, with the deepest respect for our music, our audience, the City of Philadelphia, and the world’s musical community, have today ratified a new contract. This agreement covers the next 3 years, and gives us modest increases of 2%, 2 1/2% and 2 1/2%.  These increases do not achieve our goal of being compensated on a level comparable with other leading American Orchestras.

The Philadelphia Orchestra Association has indicated to us that it will be engaging in new methods to enhance the position of the Orchestra in the community and to reach new donors.  The musicians have committed to working with the Association in these endeavors.

The musicians believe that the vast majority of the recommendations made by Michael Kaiser should be adopted by the Association.  We will be closely watching to see if this occurs.

When we reluctantly went on strike a few days ago, we had no expectation that we could quickly restore this Orchestra to the compensation and working conditions for which we are striving.  But we felt that, after years of decline, which threatened to become irreversible, this was the only way in which we could call attention to a situation we regarded as desperate.

Three years from now, we look forward to ratifying a contract which will truly restore the Philadelphia Orchestra to its rightful place among the great orchestras of the world.”