UPDATE Sept. 9: Fort Worth symphony musicians walked out Thursday afternoon over pay. Members and management agree on one thing. No one wins in a strike. The musicians don’t win, the organization doesn’t and certainly the patrons and community don’t.
Several dozen Fort Worth symphony musicians picketed outside the orchestra’s downtown performance home, Bass Hall, on Thursday. Their green shirts read “Growth, not cuts.” KERA’s Bill Zeeble caught up with marching musicians and orchestra president Amy Adkins, who says, despite some improvements for players, tough times still demand a financial sacrifice.
Musicians are fed up. This face-off has been festering for at least 14 months, since the old contract from 2010 – with built-in pay cuts north of 10 percent – ran out. Bass player Paul Unger said the economy and city are now growing. It’s time for pay to grow, too.
“Management said they were going to increase the number of donors, and they were going to increase fundraising to get the orchestra back to where it was. They haven’t done that. Instead they’ve come back seeking more pay cuts.”
The tentative contract musicians rejected Tuesday calls for a 6.5 percent pay cut the first year but with small increases to follow. Symphony president Amy Adkins says ticket sales and fundraising are up, but some corporate donations are significantly down, leaving a $700,000 deficit. Adkins thought she had a deal with the union.
“We’ve been negotiating in good faith for fifteen months and last week had reached tentative agreement. We’re baffled frankly by this turn of events. Just yesterday, the union came and had completely reversed course, has now asked for increases in every year of the contract. Which is a complete reversal of our tentative agreement that we had reached. What we need to solve this is mutual sacrifice.”
Unger is skeptical. Just after the recession, he says, musicians were sympathetic. No more. Now, it’s time for symphony fundraisers to perform.
“For the last year, we’ve heard from management that there’s just no money in Fort Worth and that donors aren’t giving at the level they used to. But the Fort Worth Opera last week just announced they raised $1 million and doubled their donors in three months, so they just proved that what management’s saying is wrong.”
Adkins says Unger has it wrong.
“This is a competitive deal. We don’t want to ask our musicians for cuts. We adore our musicians, we don’t want this, but if we’re going to survive, it’s absolutely necessary.”
Here’s where both sides agree – no one wins in a strike.
The Fort Worth Symphony’s season opening concerts – tonight, Saturday and Sunday – have all been cancelled. Ticket holders should contact the box office during business hours to discuss their options.
Story reported by Bill Zeeble
FORT WORTH, TX – September 8. The Fort Worth Symphony’s seasoning opening weekend has been cancelled, due to the strike by the orchestra’s musicians. The musicians picketed in front of Bass Hall this afternoon. The symphony is reaching out to ticketholders for this weekend’s performances of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” to inform them of their options.
KERA’s Bill Zeeble is in Fort Worth and we will update this post. Here’s the release from the FWSOA.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association (FWSOA) has cancelled this weekend’s performances due to a strike called today by its musicians.
“We regret having to cancel these concerts because of the musicians’ decision to strike,” said Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association President and CEO Amy Adkins. “Frankly we are baffled by their decision since the union’s own bargaining team agreed to a tentative contract last week during labor negotiations overseen by an independent federal mediator.”
The FWSOA has bargained in good faith for more than 15 months and conceded to more than 30 contract changes that the Union requested. Yesterday, the Union suddenly and dramatically changed its bargaining position, demanding increases that the FWSOA cannot afford.
The FWSOA submitted its final offer to the Union yesterday, which is identical to the terms of the tentative agreement reached last week. It calls for a four-year contract that incorporates a reduction in the number of paid weeks from 46 to 43 in the first two years of the contract, increasing to 44 paid weeks in years three and four. The terms would result in an approximate 6.5% reduction in annual pay in the first year with subsequent wage increases in years two, three and four. By the fourth year, musicians would earn approximately 3.5% more than their current wage, and principal players would be paid more than $70,000.
“The FWSO did not want a strike but we have an obligation to operate the orchestra in a sound financial manner and cannot let the Union force us into poor financial decisions,” said Adkins. “This strike benefits no one, and we feel badly for our patrons and ticketholders who have loyally sponsored the Orchestra with their financial support and attendance.”
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association will notify ticket holders immediately regarding options for handling unused tickets. Patrons are encouraged to hold onto their tickets and wait for notification before calling the ticket office.