PerformInk is Chicago's entertainment industry trade publication.
The members of the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM) Local #10-208 that comprise the orchestra at Lyric Opera of Chicago have been on strike since Tuesday, as the opera seeks to reduce its overall payroll. Performers, stagehands, and ticket-takers have agreed to new terms with the organization, but the orchestra has not found offers from Lyric acceptable, refuting claims that the opera is in financial trouble, and asserting that Lyrics’ claims of their demands are overstated. CFM has planned a rally for 2 PM Friday at Daley Plaza.
Lyric Opera has released a statement defending their position, saying that an increased offer has been made to end the strike, which was rejected by CFM. The full statement follows.
“Lyric Opera today offered the Chicago Federation of Musicians (CFM) Local #10-208, a new contract proposal in an effort to resolve the current strike.
The CFM leadership rejected the compromise, made no counter-proposal, and maintained their proposals to add nearly $2 million to the orchestra budget during the term of the contract. As a result, Lyric performances will continue to be canceled, additional staff will be laid off, and the financial future of Lyric is in jeopardy.
Lyric deeply appreciates the talent and dedication of our musicians and, like all of Chicago, would embrace their return to work. We have signed agreements with our IATSE groups (ratified) and have a tentative agreement with AGMA (still subject to ratification), and submitted multiple proposals to the CFM leadership.
This strike impacts over 1000 Lyric individuals and their families.
Among other proposals, Lyric offered wage increases that result in average take-home wages (including vacation pay) of $82,500 per orchestra member, for 22 weeks of work per year. Overtime wages begin after 20 hours in a week, producing additional income. Work on the musical, community engagement activities, and The Joffrey Ballet performances would be additive, as would the extra 5 weeks of work on the Ring Cycle next year. Lyric also proposed to continue the generous plan of full health and welfare benefits for orchestra members and their families. A musician who works the 22 weeks is entitled to these benefits for the full calendar year by paying only 8% of the premium. Lyric pays 92%, which costs the company nearly $1 million annually.
We have made fair offers consistent with Lyric’s finances and the nationwide environment for grand opera. We have been transparent with the union leadership about Lyric’s budget and finances in every way: in all-company meetings for the past 18 months, in published financial reports, in small-group conversations, and at the bargaining table since March. Lyric has been grappling with an annual $10 million budget shortfall, which we have filled with contributed revenue and special funds that have been depleted more rapidly than originally projected. That shortfall is expected to increase next year and resources to cover the gap are being exhausted. Lyric’s cost savings from our unions and Lyric’s administrative staff, coupled with revenue generating initiatives, will reduce the annual shortfall. The CFM’s proposals, which would increase the shortfall, are irresponsible and shortsighted.
Lyric’s proposed terms would preserve musicians’ jobs that are among the highest paid and best working conditions in the region. Stated simply, the contract changes we seek are necessary for the financial future of Lyric. We urge the CFM and its members – our musician colleagues in this great artistic endeavor at Lyric – to accept our offer before further financial losses force a different outcome. It is the only path forward.”