There hasn't been a lot of news on the Symphony strike in the past few days, though I know the story was featured on the NewsHour last night (I haven't had a chance to watch it yet). I'm not even sure if the sides are currently negotiating, though one would hope so. Some of the best comments I receive are via email rather than through the comments section. Here's one from a regular reader, a 30-year subscriber to the Symphony who requested I not print his name, who writes:
... As for the strike, I'm of 2 minds. Since I don't work there, I don't know what the working conditions and relations between the management and the players are, so I'll take the players at their word that it's about the money (as they originally stated, though the comments from Nicole Cash, the horn player, on your blog raised some interesting questions -- like performing on Christmas Eve -- that's just unacceptable).
As someone who runs a small nonprofit organization, but also just as a member of the public, it's hard to feel sympathy for players whose base salary is $140+ K and average/median is $20 K higher with other fees thrown in, and 10 weeks vacation on top of that. And David Herbert, with 16 weeks vacation and $210+ K year, sounds spoiled to claim he gets little support from management. I recall reading some years ago that he had set up a company to sell/distribute high end timpani sticks. So he has time for lots of other things. Additionally, the previous contract sounded quite generous with its 15+% increase over 3 years. So given the general state of the economy right now, they should consider themselves fortunate. And many have time to be on the faculty at the Conservatory, too, so their time can't be too loaded up with Symphony obligations.
And to need to be the highest-paid in the country is kind of ludicrous (not that they aren't an outstanding orchestra and the cost of living high here. But it's high in New York and in Boston, too).
On the other hand, if management is giving themselves bonuses and the players not receiving any increase (as the original offer apparently was, at least for the first year) that's not fair either. I'm also surprised to read how much MTT is paid in comparison to conductors at other orchestras. He's making out very well. Also surprising that the musicians' payroll is only 23% of the total budget. I would have thought it was higher. I did think that the complaint about the 100th Anniversary was a bit silly, though I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what was so special that it would have cost $11 million. But I'm not an events planner.
The big time lag between the expiration of the old contract and the start of negotiations is troubling. That seems to be a failure on the part of management. They should have been negotiating and proposing long before the contract expired -- which is what I think they did after the last strike.
Whether it's all worth going on strike over, I don't know, but I also don't know how else one makes it clear that the situation might not be fair. I'm not a labor specialist. I'm not sure it was well thought out. I think it's causing a lot of ill-will right now that might be hard to fix, and that's an added cost that should have been considered. On the other hand, the regular audience might just be glad to have it all over with when/if it's settled and just move on.
One thought occurs to me: the Berlin Philharmonic and the London Symphony are both self-governing orchestras. Maybe it's time San Francisco explored that option. It would be an interesting experiment.