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Chicago Symphony Musicians Strike to Save Pensions

March 17, 2019

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

CHICAGO, Ill.—Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians went on strike March 10, resisting management’s demand to change their retirement plan from a defined-benefit pension to a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan. “Individuals would have a retirement account which the association would fund. But the value of that account would not be defined. It would not be guaranteed,” bassist Stephen Lester told National Public Radio while picketing outside Symphony Center March 11. The walkout came after 11 months of talks between Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208 and the nonprofit Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. Management told the New York Times it can’t sustain the increasing cost of contributions to the musicians’ pension fund, which it says have risen from $800,000 two years ago to $3.8 million because of new federal mandates. Meanwhile, music director Riccardo Muti joined the picket line March 12. “We try to get a better situation for their life, their pension, their work,” he said. “Some people, they want to read my position with the musicians as against the board. “This is not true. I would just like them to listen more carefully to the musicians, who represent one of the great orchestras of the world.” Read more

March 17, 2019

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