Tuxedo-clad Detroit symphony musicians go on strike as French quartet plays in background

By Jeff Karoub, AP
Monday, October 4, 2010

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians go on strike

DETROIT — Musicians dressed in tuxedos and black performance attire hit the picket line Monday after refusing to accept pay cuts of more than 30 percent demanded by the financially struggling Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Musicians would normally be preparing this week for their first, still-scheduled performances at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in downtown Detroit and elsewhere. Instead, about 65 of them marched in front of center while a French horn quartet composed of orchestra musicians serenaded their picketing colleagues. They carried signs reading “DSO Quality since 1887,” ”On strike DSO unfair” and “Keep your DSO in the Top 10.”

Haden McKay, a cellist and spokesman for the musicians, called the strike “the only weapon we have” to keep the orchestra from being permanently harmed.

“If we were to continue to work under their contract, we would see a very bad talent drain,” said McKay, a 27-year orchestra veteran. “Some of our top players are already getting phone calls from all around the country.”

Symphony management declared an impasse Sept. 1 and began implementing a 33 percent base pay cut for orchestra veterans, from $104,650 to $70,200 in the first year. Musicians had offered a 22 percent reduction in the first year to $82,000, which would increase in subsequent years.

The two sides met most recently with state and federal mediators Sept. 24 but didn’t reach a deal.

No bargaining sessions were scheduled. The musicians’ union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

A statement released Monday by the orchestra board’s executive committee said the strike was the “worst possible outcome of these talks and we hope that it will end quickly so the music can return to Orchestra Hall.”

“The musicians are fighting for artistic excellence for the DSO and we wholeheartedly join them in this fight but there can be no artistic excellence without viability,” the statement read. “We hope the players will be realistic as negotiations progress, that a hurtful, lingering strike can be avoided, and that together — musicians, board, and audience — we will once again make and enjoy the majestic music that has come to be the signature sound of the DSO.”



Musicians union: www.detroitsymphonymusicians.org

Symphony: www.detroitsymphony.com

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