Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians Reject Management’s ‘Best and Final Offer’

By Francisco Salazar

The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra have voted to reject their management’s “best and final offer” ahead of the expiration of the contract between the Philadelphia Orchestra Kimmel Center, Inc. (POKC) and Local 77 of the American Federation of Musicians.

According to a press release, not a single musician voted in favor of the POKC’s “best and final offer” with 85 musicians voting against it, and two musicians abstaining.

The Orchestra’s management forced the vote after pulling the plug on negotiations and presented a final offer on Sept. 8 ending negotiations.

In a statement, Holly Blake, Philadelphia Orchestra bassoonist and member of Local 77’s negotiating team, said, “The results of this vote send a clear message that Philadelphia’s musicians stand together and will not accept anything less than a fair contract. We have been bargaining in good faith with our management, whose decision to suddenly end negotiations on Friday and thrust an offer on the musicians was both insulting and demoralizing. Today we made clear that we are more unified than ever, and stand together for the future of the Orchestra. I am looking forward to getting back to the bargaining table and continuing to build on the progress we were making before our management attempted to force a deal that would compromise the future of this world-class orchestra.”

The offer that management presented included “a parental leave policy that’s worse than the existing policy” as well as “an absurd, draconian code of conduct that would discipline musicians for almost anything—including criticizing or voicing concern about orchestra management or the direction of the ensemble—giving management extreme control over these professionals.” The offer also “presented a financial proposal which would continue to worsen the disparity between Philly musicians and their peers in the nation’s other premier orchestras, and keep Philadelphia’s world-class musicians dead last in compensation among their peers.”

While the contract has already expired, the orchestra has said it is willing to continue to negotiate but the musicians have already authorized their negotiating committee to call a strike if and when they deem it necessary.