San Antonio Symphony Society cancels striking musicians' health insurance

click to enlarge Symphony musicians and their supporters picketed the Tobin Center on Oct. 12. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Symphony musicians and their supporters picketed the Tobin Center on Oct. 12.
The San Antonio Symphony's managing body has canceled medical, vision and dental benefits for all the orchestra's musicians, who are currently on strike.

The change was announced in an email sent to the Symphony's performers on Thursday afternoon.

"Our malicious and vindictive management and board, headed by Corey Cowart and Kathleen Weir Vale, have just canceled health insurance and all other benefits for all the musicians," the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony (MOSAS) stated in a post on Instagram.

MOSAS also announced that it had set up a PayPal account for those wanting to support the striking musicians with financial donations. The organization stated that donated funds will be used for public relations and legal expenses, as well as to directly support the musicians.

At press time, the Symphony Society, which employs the musicians, had not responded to a request for comment.

In an email provided to the Current, Director of Orchestra Operations Sara Vreeland notified musicians of the forthcoming cessation of benefits.

According to the email, at the time of the Symphony Society's implementation of its "Last, Best and Final Offer" — also called "Proposal #5" — on Sept. 27, the musicians' benefits were unaffected since the premiums had been paid for in advance. Referencing a Sept. 26 email reportedly sent by Symphony Executive Director Corey Cowart, Vreeland said that at that juncture benefits were to remain in place through Nov. 1.

Vreeland went on to say that, effective Nov. 1, the musicians' benefits would be changed to reflect the terms of Proposal #5, which made severe cuts to the orchestra's personnel that would result in many losing their benefits.

Additionally, she stated that all striking musicians had been deemed ineligible for health benefits.

"Because striking employees are not eligible to receive benefits, this will further advise and confirm that the Symphony Society will be ceasing to pay medical, dental, and vision benefits for all striking employees effective November 1, 2021," the email reads.

Vreeland stated that musicians can sign up for coverage under COBRA through Dec. 31, 2021.

The San Antonio chapter of the American Federation of Musicians is holding a public rally in support of the striking performers from 6:30-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29 at the Veterans Memorial Plaza, Auditorium Circle and Martin Street in front of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle.

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