Musicians of Philadelphia Orchestra Vote to Authorize Strike

By Francisco Salazar

The Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra have voted to authorize a strike in the event that negotiations with the Philadelphia Orchestra Kimmel Center, Inc. for a new collective bargaining agreement break down.

The vote, which was held on August 19, saw 95 percent of participating musicians vote in favor of authorizing the strike.

The union called the vote as POKC has failed to address the musicians’ common-sense proposals to secure comparable compensation with their peer musicians in other American orchestras, improvements in retirement benefits, fair pay for freelance musicians who play in the Orchestra on an as-needed basis, improved leave, librarian and scheduling protections, and the filling of 15 vacant positions in the Orchestra.

In a statement, Ellen Trainer, President of the Philadelphia Musicians’ Union Local 77 said, “The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra have declared that enough is enough. The POKC can no longer refuse to prioritize the musicians that make Philadelphia’s orchestra the best in the world. The Union has proposed a fair and equitable contract that ensures economic dignity and respect for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s musicians and freelance musicians who help to maintain the Orchestra’s sound. But management has shown that musicians are a cost to be contained, rather than the most important asset of the Orchestra and the Kimmel Center. Our Union stands behind these courageous musicians. If the musicians do in fact go on strike, I know Philadelphia will, too.”

Meanwhile, William Polk, Philadelphia Orchestra violinist, and member of the Union’s negotiating committee, said, “I am extraordinarily proud of my Philadelphia Orchestra musician colleagues for standing together. I came to this world-class city because of its world-class orchestra. Historically, Philadelphia’s musicians were some of the most generously compensated and supported in the nation, in light of the Orchestra’s sterling reputation. This is our business model, to attract and retain the best of the best. But over time, I have watched us veer onto an artistically unsustainable path. Our salaries and our retirement benefits have been decimated, while vacancies have long gone unfilled. Authorizing a strike is an important next step to show the Orchestra’s management, and our great city, that the Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians stand together. We will not allow this miraculous ensemble to be downgraded into something merely ordinary.”

The POKC’s collective bargaining agreement with Local 77 expires on Sept. 10, 2023.