On Saturday, over one hundred Chicago Symphony Orchestra players rejected the Orchestra Association’s final offer of a three-year concessions contract. The players formed picket lines outside of Orchestra Hall ahead of a scheduled evening performance.
This is the first strike at the CSO in more than twenty years. In 1991, Chicago Symphony musicians were on strike for three weeks.
The players’ contract expired September 16, and negotiations for a new contract took place throughout the summer months.
The issues in the strike center on musicians’ wages and health care costs. The Association is insisting on a seven percentage point increase in employee health care costs, from five percent to 12 percent (more than doubling what musicians have to pay). This would far outstrip the proposed pay raises for the years spanned by the contract, in effect cutting the orchestra’s pay.
That story went up on Monday. I hadn't heard about the strike. Had you?
This is now the second strike in Chicago this month, the first being the teachers' strike which ended last week.
You would think, probably wrongly, that Chicago would be much more friendly to workers because of its history of strikes, unions and more. But a pro-worker city wouldn't elect Rahm Emanuel let alone Bill Daley for all those years.
Chicago is America. It has this savage history that has a glorious part to it when the people stand up and say enough. But the wheels of oppression never stop turning and the machine is all about bearing down on the workers, extracting that pound of flesh.
Again, it's the story of America and, since it seems like the bullies always win, it's not a very pretty story.
I hope the city appreciates their orchestra. I hope they realize how important a living wage is and how important an orchestra is.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"