Editorials

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, RIP

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Striking Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians picket under the Bass Hall angels Thursday afternoon after rejecting a contract offer from symphony management.
Striking Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians picket under the Bass Hall angels Thursday afternoon after rejecting a contract offer from symphony management. dkent@star-telegram.com

Several very smart and dedicated people have worked for more than a year on a new labor agreement between the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association and its musicians, aiming to continue world-class symphonic music performances begun more than a century ago.

It hasn’t worked. The musicians have gone on strike, and the orchestra’s season-opening performances last weekend were canceled.

It’s hard to imagine that the FWSO’s death could be at hand, but neither side offers hope. We have only irresistible forces opposed by immovable objects — given voice, again, by very smart and dedicated people.

Symphony association managers say too many sources of income from previous years have dried up. There is no choice, they say, but for the organization to further reduce its spending.

They want to do that by cutting back on the number of weeks for which the musicians are paid.

Their reasoning is believable, their approach reasonable.

The musicians have higher aspirations. “Growth, not cuts,” is their slogan; they refuse to accept that the symphony association can’t raise the money to pay them their current salaries or better.

The musicians, represented by Local 72-147 of the American Federation of Musicians, are still smarting from a 13.5 percent pay cut they accepted in 2010 to help the FWSO weather the effects of the Great Recession.

While frequent references to that cut might help gain public sympathy, that money is gone and won’t come back.

The union negotiating committee worked with association managers and a federal negotiator to develop a new contract offer. Although the committee recommended approval, the musicians rejected it “overwhelmingly,” union representatives said.

The two sides portray the numbers differently, but the rejected four-year contract contained pay cuts in the first year followed by slight increases in later years, putting the musicians a little above their current salaries — which average $62,000 plus health benefits — by the fourth year.

It’s hard to imagine that such an offer, or something very much like it, isn’t the best the musicians can get. Still, they’ve made their position clear.

These smart and dedicated people could be talking about the end of the FWSO.

 

Clarification

Star-Telegram Publisher Gary Wortel is one of 83 board members of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. He is not a member of the 20-person executive committee. His membership on the board was not disclosed in a Tuesday editorial about the strike by symphony musicians.

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