Responses Far and Wide to the SFS Strike

Janos Gereben on March 19, 2013
The youngest picket sign
The youngest picket sign

Here are just a few of the hundreds of comments on the web and in e-mails I received. Where necessary, I am withholding names, beginning with the first item, which comes from a relative of a freelance musician:

Extras & Subs

What happens to the extras and subs who were contracted to go on the tour and turned down other work offers in order to go?

They aren’t the ones striking but I suppose they lose all the money they were to make these weeks, which can be difficult for a freelancer with an unpredictable work schedule.

From Musical America

Report by Susan Elliott:

So that’s that. Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, apparently dissatisfied with being the third highest paid symphony musicians in the country, rather than the first, will not be making the coming week’s trip to the East Coast.

They walked off the job on March 13, causing the cancelation of four concerts last week. Negotiations have continued, some late into the night with the tour looming, but to no avail. The orchestra called off the tour today.

Staff Compensation?

On the left: concertmaster Alexander Barantschik Photos by Michael Strickland
On the left: concertmaster Alexander Barantschik
Photos by Michael Strickland

From Anonymous on the Adaptistration blog:

... how many orchestras give raises or cut salaries of ALL administrative employees based on the outcome of labor negotiations? For example, if there are salary increases in the musician’s contract, are administrative employees also given raises and vice versa?

The article from management says that musician salaries were increased an average of 4.3% per year in their last contract. Was there a blanket increase given to all administrative staff?

Bewildered More Than Angry

Michael Strickland on the SF Civic Center blog:

When I asked one of the musicians outside why they were so angry, the response was interesting. "We're not angry so much as we are bewildered. Why are we being treated this way?" It seems time for some healing and less disconnect.

What They Deserve

Picketing (and everything) is more difficult for cellos and double bass
Picketing (and everything) is more difficult for cellos and double bass

Susan Greene on the Adaptistration blog:

As a 10-year veteran as CEO of a regional orchestra, I cannot tell you how deeply I believe these incredibly talented and highly educated musicians deserve to be paid what top-level doctors and attorneys are paid. For most of them, they’re not even close.

That said, I participated in contract negotiations virtually sickened by the "row I had to hoe." It begins with the fact that this country does not value the arts in general and live symphonic music in particular.

When one can hear 103 of the most talented musicians in the world LIVE for $15 and still, there are empty seats ...

Not As Bad As at the Bolshoi

Intense trumpet: Mark Inouye
Intense trumpet: Mark Inouye

janinsanfran on the SF Civic Center blog:

It is amazing the damage a lack of respect can cause among people who, relatively speaking, are doing just fine. I'm instinctively with the musicians, but they need to communicate better how they've been dissed if they expect sympathy. And that's not easy.

Just read David Remnick [in The New Yorker] on the Bolshoi. Somehow I suspect that in some venues of elite art, that sort of thing festers. At least that's not what we've got here. Being San Francisco, nobody would be too surprised.

Running a Business of Their Own

Fabio Fabrici on Slipped Disc:

Dear musicians of the SFS, I suggest the following solution to your problems with management: All of you quit your jobs effective immediately. Then you build a new orchestra, but you do it with a business model where all of you own shares in the orchestra.

You determine your base salary and benefits collectively. You share profits collectively. You hire managers and all other staff which you then have on payroll, not the other way around. They do the fund-raising for you. What is stopping you?