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Call to Action

ICSOM is supporting the musicians
of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
in the fifth week of their strike


On Monday 8 April 2019, ICSOM (the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians) issued a call to action to support the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

These musicians are now in the fifth week of their strike. ICSOM claims that this strike is the result of unacceptable demands made by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, including minimal salary increases, and that the musicians agree to close their defined-benefit pension plan and replace it with a defined-contribution system.

It is essential, ICSOM claims, that the member musicians of ICSOM respond whenever and wherever their members are in need, as it is through their united network of orchestras that they can effectively articulate to orchestra managements that a move against one of them is a move against all of them. 'Let this serve as a call to action for our membership. The unity and generosity of all ICSOM musicians, along with our brothers and sisters in ROPA, OCSM, RMA, TMA, and throughout the AFM, have been an inspiration to our members and a cautionary tale to our managements.'

The musicians of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra have apparently offered a lead donation of US$15,000 for their colleagues in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The ICSOM press release goes on to say that 'The support of our ICSOM orchestras in these calls to action has been extraordinary and makes a tangible difference in the lives of our fellow musicians. Now the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra need our help. What happens in Chicago affects us all. If we respond effectively to every call, we demonstrate the power in collective action as we spread the positive community message of the musicians of ICSOM.'

The International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) represents nearly 4,000 symphonic musicians in the top fifty-two orchestras in the United States and Puerto Rico. ICSOM's mission is to promote a better and more rewarding livelihood for the skilled orchestral performer and to enrich the cultural life of the society in these countries.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2015
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2015

The President, Jeff Alexander, and Chair of the Board of Trustees, Helen Zell, of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, whilst disappointed in the Union's decision to strike, wrote the following, yesterday, to its patrons :

As the strike by the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) continues, we appreciate the patience and support of all Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) patrons as we work toward coming to an agreement with the musicians on a new contract.

As we are certain you know, the Trustees and administration of the CSOA have been extremely supportive of the members of the Orchestra for over 125 years. We work every day to support the musicians as individuals and as the ensemble that is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; planning and producing concert seasons, tours and broadcasts; working tirelessly to bring in earned revenue through ticket sales, and contributed revenue through donations, sponsorships and special events. The role you play in making all of this happen has been and continues to be extremely important to the success of the Orchestra and the institution, and we are grateful for it.

We believed before the strike, and we still believe today, the CSO is a wonderful cultural jewel that brings great joy to millions of people in Chicago, across the country and around the world each year through concerts, recordings and educational activities, and the individuals who make up the CSO as an ensemble are to be greatly admired.

The musicians and the CSOA both feel strongly about their positions in bargaining over the details of a new contract. Speaking on behalf of the Association, we assure you we are eager to come to an agreement that will enable us to continue to sustain the excellent contract already in place for the musicians, while also securing a strong and healthy financial position for the CSOA, so that it can continue to support the Orchestra and its activities for generations to come.

Thank you once again for your ongoing support of the CSO and the CSOA. We all look forward to being back at concerts at Symphony Center as soon as possible.

All Chicago Symphony Orchestra and 'Symphony Center Presents' concerts and related events are currently cancelled through to those scheduled to take place up to and including 23 April 2019. Announcements of cancellations for additional concerts and events that may be affected by the strike will be issued by the orchestra if necessary.

Posted 10 April 2019 by Keith Bramich



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