The musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will meet in a few hours (9 am Tuesday) to ratify a peace agreement before they go into rehearsal at 10 with music director Riccardo Muti.
If, as expected, the strike is called off, it will be one of the swiftest resolutions ever seen in a US orchestra dispute. Credit is due to both sides – to the CSO president Deborah Rutter and to the musicians – for entering instant mediation and emerging with faces saved.
Rutter, in negotiating a new three-year deal, was not demanding the kind of wage cuts seen in Atlanta, Minnesota and other battle spots. She was actually offering a 4.5 percent pay rise, tempered by an increase in the musicians’ contributions to soaring health insurance costs. That, for the players, was a sticking point.
However, looking around at declining wages in US orchestras, the players needed to retreat from an unnecessary confrontation. According to recent salary figures that we have seen, three musicians were in the quarter-million bracket and the concertmaster, Robert Chen, was earning more than the chief exec. Sympathy for the players’ case was notably muted across a devastated sector. They beat a swift retreat – or that’s how it appears at this hour.