Detroit Symphony Strike – Settlement Needed

I wrote this on 9th October 2010:

Orchestral strikes are always poignant. Musicians are a bit like miners: they stick together. It’s their job to stick together.

Plus it’s hard for orchestral management to organise scab labour. If an orchestra’s on strike and the employer brings in alternative musicians – assuming such people are available and willing to break a strike, undermining the striking musicians who may be friends and colleagues – audiences don’t like it. They paid to listen to Orchestra X, not Orchestra Y, while Orchestra X demonstrates on the street outside the hall. Source

18 weeks later that seems pretty much what DSO management intends. Striking Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra write:


It appears that the DSO Board and management have finally dropped the mask. They never intended to reach a contract agreement with the musicians of the DSO. Instead, their intention is, and has always been, to start over with a new group of musicians working without a union contract. What kind of an orchestra does the Board think they can have with no professional musicians? The Board’s and management’s misunderstanding of the DSO and its audience goes very deep–they seem to think that DSO subscribers and donors will continue the same level of support for an amateur pickup orchestra that they have given to the proud world-class ensemble that has been built up in Detroit over so many decades. Please send emails expressing your opinion to Say, “Please post” and we’ll add your message to our website. Source

Do DSO management really expect Detroit audiences to run the gauntlet of a permanent picket line when attending a performance of, say, Beethoven’s Ode to Freedom, assuming strike-breaking musicians can be found? Do they expect international conductors and soloists to work with a scab orchestra, with the shouts of the pickets peppering quiet passages? Or will the police be sent in to break heads in the locked out woodwind section?

Because that’s what will happen if this dispute isn’t settled, via a reasonable compromise, hammered out in a civilized manner, round the negotiating table. These people won’t just go away. It’s their job not to go away.

More on the dispute here.