San Francisco Symphony Strike Continues

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SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Symphony canceled its third and fourth concert scheduled for Saturday, March 17  at 8 p.m. and  Sunday, March 17 at 2 p.m. due to its strike by musicians which began Wednesday, March 13.

San Francisco Symphony performing at Davies Symphony Hall. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

“The Musicians Union of San Francisco, Local 6, American Federation of Musicians, representing musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, have rejected proposals from the Orchestra administration for a new three-year contract that would have kept the musicians among the three highest paid orchestras in the country,” stated a press released by the SFS on Thursday, March 14.

The musicians were informed that a revised proposal would be presented Thursday, however, the musicians decided to go forth with the strike instead of continuing to make negotiations that were overseen by a federal mediator. One of the proposal offered a minimum base salary of $144, 560 with multi-year increases to $144,560 by the end of the proposed contract. The most recent four-year contract had the musicians’ base minimum pay increase by 17.3% and an average of 4.3% per year. In addition, musicians were compensated with radio payments, over-scale as well as seniority raises the current annual average pay for the musicians to over $165,000.

In addition, the offer had all current benefit payment levels that included ten weeks paid vacation, a maximum pension of $74,000 annually upon retirement, paid sick leave and a full coverage health plan without monthly contribution for individual musicians. The Musicians Union of San Francisco, Local 6, American Federation of Musicians, representing 103 SFS musicians, stated management was attempting to freeze musicians’ wages.

“We are disappointed that the musicians have chosen to strike and deeply regret any inconvenience to our patrons,” said Brent Assink, Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony.  “We will continue to work hard to develop a fair agreement that gives our talented musicians a contract that reflects our stature as one of the top orchestras in the country but also one that sets a prudent financial course for the future.”

The strike began when musicians did not show up for a Wednesday rehearsal, leading to the cancellation of four concerts. Symphony management and union representatives met along with a federal mediator on Thursday and Friday but nether have commented on progress, merely stating they were working towards a new three-year contract.

“Many of America’s top orchestras are facing similar challenges with increased concert production, pension, and health care costs currently outpacing revenue growth.  We are developing a multi-year plan to achieve a balanced operating model, including identifying and growing new sources of revenue and at the same time reducing the growth rate of expenses,” said Assink.

The symphony’s musicians have been working without a contract since February 15, only five days after they received its 15th Grammy Award for best orchestral performance.

Patrons with tickets to the canceled concerts can exchange them for an upcoming concert, donate tickets, exchange tickets for a Gift Certificate which can be used at any time or receive a refund. For more information on concerts, ticket exchanges and customer service call the Symphony Box Office at (415) 864-6000 or visit www.sfsymphony.org/press.

By Ivetta Babadjanian