Musicians of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra took to the picket lines Saturday instead of the stage.
The musicians, who announced Friday night they were going on strike after months of contract negotiations with the Spokane Symphony Society, picketed outside Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox on Saturday evening.
The group, several dozen strong, also included musicians’ families, audience members and supporters from other unions.
Some drivers honked in apparent support of the messages on their signs: “Save our Symphony,” “Music Matters,” “Fair Contract Now.”
Meanwhile, some who held tickets to Saturday’s canceled SuperPops performance showed up to the theater to get refunds, including a Canadian couple.
“They were supportive and understanding, yet regretful,” said harpist Earecka Tregenza Moody. “I’m regretful, too. We want to play.”
Musicians representative Adam Wallstein said they are hopeful some agreement can be reached by next week’s performances, Friday’s “Spokane Symphony with a Splash: Composed in the USA,” and Saturday’s “Spotlight Series: Video Games Live.”
At the heart of the dispute are pay cuts, the symphony’s leave policy and a two-year contract freeze, Wallstein said. Musicians say the pay cuts amount to more than 13 percent, from $17,460 a year to about $15,130, and the leave policy inhibits their ability to find outside work. The symphony’s final offer also had no guaranteed minimum salary in the second year of the contract, he said.
Symphony officials say it has been paying for work the musicians aren’t doing because they’ve had to reduce the number of services – including rehearsals, performances and educational events – that were originally guaranteed in a 2006 contract but have since been curtailed by the economy and ticket sales.
“It’s the position of the board that we will not run deficit budgets,” Peter Moye, symphony board president, told The Spokesman-Review on Friday. “Until the economy picks up and ticket sales pick up, we need to live within our budget.”
This is the first time the musicians, members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 105, have been on strike.
“We’re not here because we want to be here,” Wallstein said. “We have no choice.”