Union: Striking Detroit Musicians Should Nix Offer

The union for striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians is recommending that its members reject a contract that management says is its final offer to end the monthslong strike that now threatens to end the symphony’s entire season.

Management has been seeking deep pay cuts because of the symphony’s deficit. Musicians have offered to accept some pay cuts.

Detroit Federation of Musicians spokesman Greg Bowens said Thursday night that union leaders have urged members to turn down the proposal to end the strike that started Oct. 4.

At a news conference earlier Thursday, musician Karl Pituch said union members would vote online Friday evening and Saturday, and that the vote will be subject to a 72-hour ratification process.

Striking musicians met Thursday afternoon to hear the recommendations of union leaders.

Photo: AP Photo
Striking DSO musician Karl Pituch stands with fellow musicians during a news conference in Southfield, Mich.

The symphony said Wednesday that management wanted an answer by Thursday on a final offer delivered earlier in the week to the musicians’ negotiating committee. On Thursday, symphony spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said management planned to await the musicians’ weekend vote before making any decisions, including about whether to cancel the rest of the season.

“We respect their voting process and we will not take action until the members have time to respond to our final offer,” Weigandt said.

The season is scheduled to end June 5, and an agreement could preserve the remaining portion of the schedule.

Symphony management declared an impasse Sept. 1 and began implementing a 33 percent base pay cut for orchestra veterans, from $104,650 to $70,200 in the first year. Musicians had offered to take a 22 percent reduction in the first year, to $82,000. Musicians’ salaries would have risen in subsequent years.

Violinist Joe Goldman said the latest proposals from the musicians and management have “substantial differences,” but he noted that management’s latest offer had changed from its past ones. He said wages and the weeks for working, for example, were different.

“We have been working tirelessly along with the mediators to reach an agreement,” Goldman said.

Mediators including U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert, who owns the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, met with representatives of both sides on Friday and Sunday to try to reach a deal, Pituch said.