CSO: Saturday concert canceled due to strike

September 22, 2012 (CHICAGO)

An 8 p.m. performance was canceled. Ticket holders showed up, not knowing about the labor battle.

The previous contract expired last Sunday. Originally musicians and management had agreed to start the new season as they continued negotiations, but talks suddenly broke off Saturday.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's concert season began on a sour note with their musicians on strike.

Dozens of the nearly 2,000 patrons expected for Saturday night's 8 p.m. concert arrived to learn the performance was cancelled.

The musicians' contract expired September 16.

Both sides began negotiations this summer and agreed to start the 2012-13 season, but talks broke down Saturday afternoon.

The issues of salary and health benefits remain.

"I think that there's a climate right now in this country that's inclined toward union bashing and I think that's what's going on," said Sarah Bullen, CSO principal harpist.

But symphony management says they have offered a 3-year deal that increases musicians' minimum base salary from $144,000 to $150,000.

"We have been talking to them since 10 o'clock this morning," said Deborah Rutter, CSO Association President. "We had extensive, very lively conversations earlier this week and we put every single last dollar that we could on the table."

The musicians' contribution for healthcare would rise from 5-12 percent over that time.

"The association has proposed drastic cuts and a change in the way our health insurance is paid for that would create a situation where members of the orchestra would be paying multiple of what they are currently paying for their health insurance," said Steve Lester, Orchestra Members Committee.

The walkout has thrust the upcoming concert season into chaos for some music lovers.

"I don't think I could look at them and listen to them and sit the same way," said patron Rick Baumgarten. "I'm going to want to boo them the next time I have the opportunity. It just isn't right, I don't think they know what they're doing."

As for those patrons who showed up for Saturday night's show, which was canceled, they were either refunded the cost of those tickets or they exchanged those tickets for the next concert, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

Management and musicians said they are hoping to working something out so that performance will go forward.

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