CSO management, musicians reach agreement

Tentative deal ends strike

September 25, 2012

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has come to a tentative contract agreement after its first strike in 21 years.

Musicians walked out over the weekend after previously authorizing a strike. They were only out two days. Still, Stephen Lester, who represents the musicians, says reaching the three-year agreement wasn’t easy.

He says musicians will get what he calls a modest salary increase and pay more for health benefits, though not as much as CSO management had asked for.

But Lester thinks the fall-out from the strike is about more than finances: "This was a contentious and difficult negotiation. And it revealed much about how the (CSO) Association views our musicians, and what they view their future is."

Meanwhile Deborah Rutter, the President of the CSO Association, says management was thinking about the financial future of the symphony.

"Behind the scenes we’re working hard to make sure we have a stable organization, not just this year, not just next year, but for a very long time," Rutter says.

Both sides indicated changes to work rules are part of the agreement, apparently linked but not limited to the CSO's 2013 production of Verdi's Macbeth. Details are forthcoming; the CSO board still has to ratify the agreement.

The next performance at Symphony Hall is Wednesday night.