On the heels of what management called their final offer on Monday, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) musicians yesterday voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, following the vote with a march through downtown Fort Worth.
With this vote, FWSO musicians can now go on strike at any time, but are not obligated to do so.
Two days ago, symphony management told musicians they would no longer bargain and threatened to implement their current contract proposal on Monday, January 25—but musicians say there is still plenty to bargain over.
“We musicians have decreased $1.25 million from our original proposal, and there are many issues still on the table. It’s wrong and a betrayal to our audiences and the broader Fort Worth community that management will not bargain,” said Ed Jones, the tuba player in the orchestra.
Management’s financial proposal, unchanged since October, would cut musician salaries by almost 9%, back to 2003 levels—after musicians already took a 13.5% pay cut during the recession.
“In 2010, we agreed to cuts that saved the orchestra $2.3 million to date. That was supposed to give them time to get their house in order. What happened to that money?” said bassist Julie Vinsant.
Musicians dispute that FWSO finances are in bad shape.
“Management claims our orchestra is in dire straits, but they’re simply not being truthful,” said viola player Scott Jessup. “Our research shows that the orchestra’s finances are strong, the organization has plenty of money to operate, and they have no debt.”
After Tuesday’s vote, musicians marched through downtown, playing handheld percussion and calling out, “Growth not cuts, no ifs, ands, or buts!” They ended up in the Bank of Texas building near Burnett Plaza, where they asked to speak with Mark Nurdin, chair of FWSO’s executive committee, also the CEO of Bank of Texas, Fort Worth Region. Mr. Nurdin declined to meet with the musicians.
“Management is undermining the health of this orchestra, and by extension the vitality of downtown Fort Worth and the legacy of Bass Hall. That Mr. Nurdin refused to speak with us is outrageous and irresponsible,” said cellist Shelley Jessup. “We will not let management destroy the legacy of cowboys and culture.”
Orchestra members are set to vote on management’s proposal this Friday.