Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony voted unanimously Wednesday night to authorize a strike if negotiations "continue to stall."
The musicians want to obtain parity with higher-paid colleagues in Chicago and Los Angeles. Management's current offer, they contend, would freeze players' salaries and pensions, and cut medical benefits. Management, however, points out that musicians' pay increased 17.3 percent over the run of players' current contract, which expired Feb. 15, and that musicians currently pay nothing toward health-care premiums.
The timing is crucial because the symphony is scheduled to begin an East Coast tour, with stops at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Hall in New York City, later this month with its music director Michael Tilson Thomas (pictured above).
Negotiations, which are being overseen by a federal mediator, will resume Tuesday.
The musicians' union also wants management to open its financial books by next week. The union contends management has awarded itself "significant raises" while embarking on a $500-million expansion plan. "How [can] symphony executives be giving themselves raises and embarking on massive spending programs while asking the musicians to make major sacrifices," said Dave Gaudry, chairman of the Musicians' Negotiating Committee, in a statement. "Our ability to continue to be a top-tier symphony and compete against Chicago and Los Angeles will be directly impacted if management continues to pursue an agreement with such draconian cuts."
Meanwhile, Brent Assink, the symphony's executive director, said in a counter-statement, "We are working to develop a fair agreement that recognizes the musicians' stature as one of the top orchestras in the country, but one that does not compromise the future artistic quality or financial stability of the institution."