Chicago Settles

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) becomes the latest group from our list of mid to large budget orchestras with expired agreements to reach a settlement. The rumor mill was rife with fodder about a potential showdown over the musicians’ defined benefit pension but when the dust settled, the retirement benefit ended up with an improvement.

Adaptistration People 021Terms of the new three-year agreement will be enacted retroactively to 9/13/2015 and includes modest increases in base musician wages and no changes to health care benefits. Here’s a breakdown of monetary conditions:

  • 2015-2016: one percent increase in base annual wage ($152,833).
  • 2016-2017: two percent increase in base annual wage ($155,890).
  • 2017-2018: two percent increase in base annual wage ($159,007).
  • The defined benefit pension plan will increase from approximately $75,000 per year to $78,225 per year (exact figures vary based on a musician’s start
    date due to an accrual rate modification in 2007).

In addition to the CSO’s settlement, a tentative agreement has been reaching in Florida but the ratification process is not expected to be complete until Friday, 10/2/2015.

Here’s an updated version of the fourteen mid to large budget orchestra and opera organizations with a collective bargaining agreement that expired within the last three months; we’re down to the halfway mark.

  1. Chicago Lyric Opera 6/30/2015
  2. Chicago Symphony 9/13/2015
  3. Cincinnati Symphony 9/13/2015
  4. Cleveland Orchestra 8/30/2015
  5. Columbus Symphony 8/31/2015
  6. Dallas Symphony 8/31/2015
  7. Florida Orchestra 8/31/2015*
  8. Fort Worth Symphony 7/31/2015
  9. Grand Rapids Symphony 8/31/2015
  10. Milwaukee Symphony 8/31/2015
  11. New Jersey Symphony 8/31/2015
  12. Philadelphia Orchestra 9/13/2015
  13. San Antonio Symphony 8/31/2015
  14. Utah Symphony 8/31/2015

* tentative agreement

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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