On the Picket Line

Chicago Symphony Orchestra players strike to defend pensions

By Naomi Craine
April 1, 2019

CHICAGO — Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians put down their instruments and raised picket signs March 11, opposing management’s demand to replace their guaranteed “defined benefit” pension with “direct contribution” savings accounts. 

“What they’re proposing would not be even with what we’ve had,” violist Danny Lai told the Militant  on the picket line March 15. And it’s divisive, he said, as it “splits the older players — who are vested and will keep the pensions they’ve earned — from the newer people,” who will only get the savings accounts. 

The company’s proposed wage increases “won’t keep up with inflation,” Lai said, noting that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra contract has often been used as a pattern for other orchestras. 

Strikers say they’ve been joined on the picket lines by workers from other unions, including teachers, electricians and stagehands.