By Cy Musiker
The musicians of the San Francisco Symphony have voted to strike next week if there is no progress in contract negotiations.
Negotiations have been going on for eight months, with the two sides far apart on wage and benefit issues. Musicians have been performing since mid-February without a contract.
The musicians say they are angered by an offer that includes wage freezes, cuts in health care benefits and pension changes. Symphony management says its musicians are already among the highest paid in the country.
Violist David Gaudry, who heads the committee negotiating the new contract, said he was shocked at management's first offer.
"I've been bargaining contracts for the symphony for the last eight years," Gaudry said. "So it was kind of jaw-dropping what we saw at the table this time."
Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink would not discuss the details of the contract, but he said that musicians received about a 4 percent raise each of the last four years.
San Francisco Symphony musicians earn an average salary of $165,000, according to a press release from the symphony, with the median salary closer to $140,000. Musicians also get 10 weeks of paid vacation, paid sick leave, health care with no monthly contribution for members, and a pension, the press release said.
The symphony's endowment is around $262 million, according to its most recent tax filings.
A strike would force the symphony to cancel its East Coast tour, which includes performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.