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Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians play on the picket lines on Michigan Avenue. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images

The longest strike in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's 128-year history is barreling on with no end in sight, as stalled negotiations with the orchestra's controlling board have extended the impasse into its 7th straight week.

The backdrop: The CSO's world-renowned musicians began striking on March 10 after management proposed changing the orchestra's pension structure, citing higher interest rates and updated mortality tables. Wages have also introduced a major sticking pointing in negotiations, with musicians arguing that their annual base pay — while higher than most other orchestras' — has not kept up with inflation.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association President Jeff Alexander wrote in an email when the strike started that pensions are expected to add up to $36 million over the next 8 years, and that the CSO simply doesn't have the cash to fund the current structure, per the Chicago Tribune.

  • CSO bassist Stephen Lester argues that with its $300 million endowment, management "could easily afford the requirements that we have outlined," and that pensions wouldn't be so expensive if the orchestra had been adequately funded in the first place.
  • Alexanders counters that minimum required funding for pensions was the trend in the 90s and 2000s, and that "hindsight is very good."

In the meantime, the 7-week strike is squeezing pocketbooks for musicians and management alike, with concerts canceled through the month of April. Even still, there are few indications that talks will be relaunched after the CSO rejected management's "last, best and final offer" on April 8.

"We’ve been buoyed by the generous support of our peer orchestras, who have responded to a call for action from the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and to date we’ve received pledges and actual contributions totaling $65,000, and we’ll be getting more. But this is a hardship. Our musicians are frightened. They’re upset."
— Bassist Stephen Lester told the Tribune

Go deeper: Tribune columnist Howard Reich on the notion that musicians "have it easy"

Go deeper

House passes $768 billion defense spending bill

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House approved a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2022 fiscal year in a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: The annual bill, which authorizes Pentagon spending levels and guides policy for the department, would require women to register for the military draft, among other provisions.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.

CBC members nix border visit

A Haitian migrant carries a toddler on his shoulders today as he crosses the Rio Grande River. Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus weighed visiting the U.S.-Mexico border this week to investigate the conditions faced by Haitian migrants and protest allegations of inhumane treatment by U.S. agents.

Why it matters: It's a thorny proposition both in terms of timing and messaging. Going assures a new wave of negative headlines for President Biden amid sinking popularity. And with congressional deadlines in the coming days over infrastructure, a possible government shutdown and debt-limit crisis, Democrats can't afford to lose any votes in the House.