San Antonio Symphony musicians face proposed 50% pay cut for 2020-2021 season

click to enlarge The proposed base salary for the Symphony's musicians was cut by half, down to $17,710. - Courtesy of San Antonio Symphony
Courtesy of San Antonio Symphony
The proposed base salary for the Symphony's musicians was cut by half, down to $17,710.
After weathering the pandemic, the San Antonio Symphony's musicians are staring down the barrel of another year of slashed wages.

According to the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony (MOSAS), the Symphony has proposed a base salary of $17,710 for the 2021-2022 season, which equates to a 50% pay cut from the previously agreed-to base salary of $35,774.

The proposal also includes cuts to the performers' health insurance benefits.

“Instead of honoring the third year of our agreement and recognizing the sacrifices we made during the pandemic, the Symphony Society has made several successive proposals to the musicians that would drop our wages to the poverty level,” MOSAS Chair and Symphony principal second violin Mary Ellen Goree said in a statement.

The U.S. Census Bureau's 2021 poverty threshold for a family of two is $17,420.

The San Antonio Symphony's Board of Directors argues that the proposed cuts for the 2021-2022 season are part of an effort to make the orchestra financially stable. 

"The board’s priority is to create a sustainable artistic and financial future, so that the San Antonio Symphony remains a highly valued asset for our community. To maintain stability, we are fully dedicated to addressing the long-standing cost structure issues that challenge the sustainability of our organization," the Symphony Board of Directors said in a statement shared with the Current over email.

The new pay negotiations come after the Symphony musicians agreed to an 80% pay cut for the reduced 2020-2021 performance season.

Goree clarified the status of the Symphony musicians' collective bargaining agreement to the Current over email.

According to Goree, the musicians are entering the third year of a collective bargaining agreement ratified two years ago, which was set to cover the 2019-2020, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons.

Due to the pandemic, the musicians agreed to renegotiate the 2020-2021 contract, and took an 80% pay cut for that season. They also granted the option to reopen the third year of the collective bargaining agreement should the Symphony request it by a deadline of January 2021.

The memorandum of agreement that included the 80% pay cut for the 2020-2021 season expired at midnight August 31.

In its emailed statement, the Symphony's board defended its decision to scale back wages, saying it has to balance the musicians' work environment with the orchestra's ability to stay solvent.

"The musicians are the heart of the Symphony, and we are committed to creating an environment for them to thrive artistically, while simultaneously developing a sustainable financial model," the statement said.

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Kelly Nelson

Kelly Nelson is a digital content editor for the San Antonio Current.

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