The Musicians of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra have rejected their management's “Final” offer.
“The vote was nearly unanimous,” said musicians’ Negotiating Committee spokeswoman Molly Sharp. The
offer included a 7% weekly wage reduction and reduced the season length from 38 to 36 weeks for full-
time musicians. Per-service musicians would see a 7% reduction in per-service rates and a 7% reduction
in annual service guarantees. Annual full-time wages would be reduced from $32,785 to $28,886.
Additionally, nearly every benefit to musicians would suffer severe cuts. Between wage cuts, furlough
weeks, and a reduced season, musicians would lose 12-15% of their annual income.
These losses do not include a 5% wage restoration that was promised to be repaid on August 31, 2012. This
5% wage restoration was part of an agreement intended to resolve a complaint issued by the National Labor
Relation Board against the RSO management for refusing to pay the musicians a contractually mandated
wage increase at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season. The musicians agreed to modify their contract
with a 5% cut in wages for the 2010-11 & 2011-2012 seasons, withdrawing the unfair labor practice charge
in exchange for the 5% wage cut to be restored on the last day of August 2012 - the day the current contract
expired. Several weeks ago, as negotiations continued, the musicians agreed to temporarily suspend this
restoration and perform under the terms of the old contract - a decision designed to allow the season to
begin without interruption.
The RSO contracts 36 full-time musicians and 32 per-service musicians. Per-service musicians are paid by
performance. Under the new offer, a musician who is married with two children would be eligible for SNAP
(Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). “A musician who wins a competitive job in the Richmond
Symphony could arrive having spent $250,000.00 on a music degree and the purchase of an instrument.
There is little incentive left to come to Richmond to perform with the RSO” says Sharp. “We are not
looking for handouts; we want to put our own food on the table.”
“This offer does not benefit the RSO musicians or the City of Richmond” says George Tuckwiller,
President of Local 123 American Federation of Musicians and former RSO trumpeter. “The City of
Richmond and real estate developers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to renovate the
downtown cultural area. How can you justify downsizing the RSO to an ensemble that is less than a major
player in the industry?” says Tuckwiller.
“We are not going to play into the hand of a labor dispute or a national phenomenon” says Christopher
Durham, the RSO musicians’ labor negotiator from the national office of the American Federation of
Musicians. "The employer has advised that they will implement this offer. Upon such implementation,
the musicians have the choice of working under the terms of the implemented final offer or striking. The
musicians have every intention of performing upcoming services. This is a revenue problem. There is no
more to cut and still maintain a viable musical ensemble. The musicians have been very generous over the
past five years. We have accepted cuts every year since 2009. The budget has not balanced for 8 of the past
ten years,” Durham adds. “The Board of Directors and community have been generous with their time and
resources. We do not want to seem ungrateful, but let’s face it: musicians simply cannot afford to accept
this offer, nor can Richmond afford to lose the RSO. The RSO belongs to the community.”
Contact: Molly Sharp, firstname.lastname@example.org