My thoughts on the strike by the San Francisco Symphony musicians? Not that you asked, but since I mention it… first, it’s now a battle being fought in public, which means both sides will present information and disinformation. Second, neither you nor I will know enough to make a really informed decision about what should actually happen. That’s why we’re sitting here on the sidelines. Third, this doesn’t stop anyone from having an opinion, so here’s mine: instinctively I want to lean toward the musicians, but from what I’m reading that’s not the team I'm feeling the empathy for this time around- at least based on how they're presenting their case.
Just because musicians in Chicago or LA make more than the SFS players do, that doesn’t mean they should get the same amount. What kind of juvenile argument is that? How do we know what else goes into that equation in the other organizations? Also, I don’t buy the “lack of transparency” argument put forth by the union about the money- the SFS is a non-profit, the books are open, and as far as salaries go, it’s a specious argument to compare the relative worth of administrative versus artistic positions. Both are necessary, and in an organization like the Symphony, roles in both areas are filled by people at the top of their respective fields. Brent Assink and MTT have done an incredible job steering the company through the past few difficult years. Do the musicians think just anyone with an MBA could have done that? “Talent” isn’t something only found on the stage. Finally, while I think everyone I know would like to make more money, the Symphony musicians do make a decent living. They may not be paid at the pinnacle of the range, but neither are they at the bottom, or even close to it. I would love to have those benefits. Is it enough? Of course not, but I know very few people who think they make enough money. My question is can they leave and go make equivalent salaries with the same benefits somewhere else? I doubt it. David Herbert is leaving for Chicago, but overall there aren’t too many defections. More to the point is how many opportunities are there for the musicians in other markets or orchestras?
That's no excuse to squeeze the musicians, but if you're already number three on the list of the "top ten" in terms of compensation in your field, that's not a very sympathetic point from which to argue a raise.
I don’t know what was offered by management that the union turned down, but I’m hoping both sides consider the future health of the company as they continue with the negotiations and that the end result is something both sides feel good about it. My sense is that sadly, it may already be too late for that.