SF Symphony musicians draw attention to economic impact of strike


Musicians will be visiting businesses around Hayes and Octavia streets starting around 11:30 a.m. to distribute leaflets with information on the financial impact of the work stoppage.

Symphony patrons often dine at Hayes Valley restaurants before concerts, according to the musicians, who will accompany the leafleting with a concert at Octavia Park.

The musicians went on strike on March 13, prompting the subsequent cancellation of multiple concerts at Davies Symphony Hall last week as well as a three-city East Coast tour this week.

The musicians are unhappy with proposals by management that they said do not allow them to stay competitive with other top orchestras in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Symphony officials have said substantial pay hikes are not likely since operating expenses have outpaced income for the past four years.

However, in an open letter, musicians noted that the symphony is "financially robust, with the second largest endowment of any orchestra in the United States and an extremely generous donor community."

"Our management gave top executives large raises and bonuses, spent $11 million on our Centennial Celebration last year and is planning to spend up to half a billion dollars on an expansion of our hall," the letter read. "Yet after eight months of negotiations they were unwilling to offer the musicians an agreement that reflected the success and health of the organization, were unwilling to engage in financial transparency, and in the end, were willing to cancel the tour in lieu of offering a reasonable contract," the letter read.

San Francisco Symphony musicians make an average of about $165,000, the third-highest total behind Chicago and Los Angeles, but the musicians say the costs of living in the Bay Area and expensive instruments take up a large chunk of their paychecks.

Despite the strike, the San Francisco Symphony's Youth Orchestra concert scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. will take place as scheduled, symphony officials said Friday. Symphony musicians work with the youth orchestra members as mentors.

Anyone with tickets to a canceled show can exchange them for an upcoming concert, donate their tickets, or receive a refund. Info can be found by calling the Symphony Box Office at (415) 864-6000 (between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday) and on the Orchestra's website at www.sfsymphony.org.

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