Musicians rarely strike, but on Sept. 8, members of the Fort Worth Symphony packed up their instruments. After 15 months of non-productive negotiations, the American Federation of Musicians Local 72-147 are striking “to save our orchestra.”
Management imposed a 13.5 percent pay cut in 2010. This year its “offer” included more wage cuts, plus a $1,750 monthly increase in health insurance premiums with no disability benefits. Musicians blame management for the budget shortfall due to poor fundraising efforts, no strategic planning for 2017, and no endowment drive since 2000.
To be a member of an orchestra takes well-tuned teamwork and the striking musicians have certainly used their training to build support. They’ve explained their grievances to audiences before and after concerts, handed out leaflets and generated community support through their “Save Our Symphony Fort Worth” organization. Since the start of the strike, donations from orchestras across the U.S. are coming in. Freelancers and club musicians are joining the picket line in solidarity. The action has inspired the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia orchestras to strike, and Pittsburgh is still out. The latest management reprisal is to cancel all concerts through December 31.
These courageous musicians are standing strong and are inspiring a new wave of labor uprisings. As Local 72-147 President Stewart Williams said, “The days of not going on strike? Maybe that’s going away.”
Support the strikers through the Musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Facebook page.
Sandra MacKAY is a retired professional oboe player. Originally from Scotland, she was a member of the Musicians’ Union Central London Branch. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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