Striking San Antonio Symphony musicians picket home of the chair for the orchestra's managing body

click to enlarge Symphony musicians protest in front of board chair Kathleen Weir Vale's Monte Vista home. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Symphony musicians protest in front of board chair Kathleen Weir Vale's Monte Vista home.
Musicians from the San Antonio Symphony picketed the home of Kathleen Weir Vale, board chair for the Symphony Society, Thursday to protest a proposed labor contract that would slash the orchestra's pay and number of full-time musicians.

Wearing classical concert attire, including tuxes and evening dresses, the striking musicians marched silently in front of Vale's home in the tony Monte Vista Historic District. They carried signs reading "No to bad faith bargaining" and "Honor our collective bargaining agreement."

The musicians have been on strike since September 27 in response to the Symphony Society imposing a "Last, Best, and Final Offer" that would slash the orchestra from 72 full-time musicians to 42 “core” musicians and eliminate four vacant positions. The offer would also mean that 26 musicians, based on seniority, would perform “per service” at a base annual wage of $11,250, without healthcare.

In a statement emailed to the Current, Symphony Executive Director Corey Cowart said the musicians didn't respond to December 10 request to continue negotiations and also rejected a request for mediation and binding arbitration.

"We hope to hear from the musicians’ union soon so we can pursue productive efforts to return to negotiations and a resolution of the strike," Cowart added.

As she watched picketers approach Vale's home, Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony Chair Mary Ellen Goree said management's current offer would essentially destroy the orchestra by making it impossible for players to support themselves. She also rankled at the idea of entering mediation on a toxic offer.

"I don't think they respect the musicians, and I think they think are counting on our passion for our art to keep us here," Goree said. "But our passion for our art doesn't extend to accepting an unlimited level of abuse."

As the strike dragged on, the Symphony Society ended the musicians’ healthcare benefits effective November 1, a move Goree described as both retaliatory and a personal attack.

"There's nothing more personal than taking away someone's health insurance with one business day to make other arrangements," she said.

Both the musicians and the symphony's management have filed charges against the other with the National Labor Relations Board, and both are pending review.

"The musicians will not give up on the only path forward, which is one that has a professional orchestra at the end of it," Goree added.

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