On Wednesday, the 100-plus musicians of the San Francisco Symphony officially went on strike, just days before they were set to perform at Carnegie Hall and kick off an East Coast tour. The musicians say they want salaries comparable to the Chicago and Los Angeles symphonies, and they question the bonuses and spending of symphony management. Symphony officials say musicians are already well compensated, with average salaries exceeding $165,000. We hear from both sides on the discord.

Dave Gaudry, viola player in the San Francisco Symphony since 1982 and chair of the musicians' negotiating committee, which represents bargaining for 105 musicians
Oliver Theil, director of communications for the San Francisco Symphony
Robert Mnookin, chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and director of the Harvard Negotiation Research Project

  • erictremont

    I don’t think that an average annual salary of $165,000 for a world class symphony musician in the insanely expensive Bay Area is unreasonable. However, I would respectfully ask members of the symphony’s union to reflect upon the fact that (according to the S.F. Chronicle) they get 10 weeks of paid vacation per year. While I am also fortunate to earn an annual six figure salary, unlike the symphony’s musicians I get a measly 3 weeks of vacation a year, while the rest of my life involves commuting to and from work for 3 hours a day for 49 weeks a year, spending 50 to 60 hours a week staring at a computer screen, and feeling chronically sleep deprived. In other words, I hope these very talented musicians recognize how fortunate they are to get paid for pursuing their life’s passion while avoiding much of the soul deadening aspects of work that many other professionals (and ordinary working class folks) have to endure. And by the way, in spite of the fact that I am in the top 7% of the U.S. income distribution, I can’t afford to buy tickets for decent seats at the S.F. Symphony more than a couple of times per year.

  • Guest

    I’m a supporter of the SFSymphony, but they need a dose of reality. Every family medical doctor I know makes less than $165k, and certainly does not have 10 weeks of paid vacation. That is only one example. Their argument of a “living wage” is laughable. $165k is livable even in SF. Their argument is falling on deaf ears.

  • Chemist150

    I cannot express enough how much I don’t want to hear about these cry babies. If you’re making more than $75k a year and need a union. Get real! If you don’t like getting paid $140K, get a job elsewhere but don’t plug my ear holes with your bellyaching childish behavior.

    Go get a job with another symphony if you’re that good but all I’m hearing is noise that hurts my ears.

  • Love the show, but KQED should disclose that they are a Union shop. The station gives way too much coverage to Organized Labor issues. I question if these stories would air over other topics if KQED wasn’t organized. As such, you run the risk of tarnishing public radio’s brand of being unbiased.

  • TrolleyMolly

    The Mahler 9th is the Big Ticket Item of the season. I’m sure that’s why the musicians are using it as a lever against management. But do they stop to think that they are disappointing the many patrons who are waiting to hear it, and that WE are the ones who ultimately pay their salaries? It’s not management who pays them, it’s us. And they are screwing us.

    I mostly support labor, but am far less sympathetic to their cause when they pull stunts like this.

  • Selostaja

    After learning the symphony is striking because the low end of their pay scale is currently ONLY $145K with 10 wks of paid vacation, benefits, etc., followed by Sutter Health’s advert, I can only wonder what happened to my home town. I’m an SF native that will probably have to move when the kids grow up because we can’t afford to live here. I’m in the health field and many of us haven’t seen a raise in 5+ years, making less than $50K/yr. My husband is a professional pianist piecing gigs together all over the bay area with no paid time off nor benefits and has never had a yearly income beyond $38K. We can’t afford tickets to the symphony or museums, let alone buy Dodger caps… we can hardly afford to park.

    • Gracchus

      Who are the rich retárds buying the tickets to hear these little children make bing-bop-squeak “classical music” noises? Those wealthy bástards are the enablers. We need to tax them far, far more so they won’t be able to afford to listen to these superhuman noise-makers.

  • menloman

    Another scheme by the rich to deprive culture workers from a livable wage. Bassoon players can’t raise a family of t̶w̶o̶ f̶o̶u̶r̶ six on what they make.

  • Tiffany

    They should play “Cry Me a River” next… The base wage they are paid is more generous that my own and I’m a Software Engineer in SF. Additionally, I only get 3 weeks paid vacation. As someone living on less, but still living well, I have to say this whole thing reeks of greed.

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