In Chicago, No News Is No News

At the end of week two, Chicago Symphony Orchestra is no closer to resolving the strike than they since it started. While both sides have engaged in bargaining and there appears to have been some progress, it was limited to non-showstopper level terms.

Adaptistration People 055Both sides continue to hammer away at their existing talking points. The bulk of musician press statements have been focusing on highlighting support and while there’s plenty of focus on pension and salary talking points, some of the additional items mentioned early on as cause for the strike are seeing far less air time, such as substitute parity.

In the employer’s offer that triggered the strike, the musicians indicated the proposed cut to substitute musician parity was one of the unacceptable terms that led to their decision to call a strike.

Since then, substitute parity has received little love. On March 15, the musicians’ released a four-page statement that addressed what they characterized as “distortions.”

It addressed issues related to the pension and core musician base salary but nowhere in that document did the musicians mention substitute pay.

While the pension issue is certainly the most pressing, seeing items like substitute parity begin to fall by the wayside so early into the work stoppage could be a sign that the musicians are willing to sacrifice those colleagues in order to maintain their own salary demands.

As of today, the employer has canceled concert events through March 25 while the musicians announced they will perform a pair of free concerts, the first on March 22 and the second on March 25.

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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