SAN ANTONIO — Musicians with the San Antonio Symphony have been on strike since late September. But there’s potential renewed hope from both sides of the ongoing labor dispute to reach an agreement soon.
The strike stemmed from symphony management’s contract that would slash 30 full-time positions (72 to 42) and cut pay.
On February 14, the musicians' union and the symphony board will engage in negotiations once again but with a mediator.
“The gentleman who approached both sides seems to be from all that we’ve been able to determine, a very reasonable person and our hope and expectation is that he will be able to strike a fair balance during the course of these proceedings,” said Richard Oppenheim, president of the AFM Local 23.
Oppenheim noted it’s projected the symphony at a minimum is sitting on a surplus of slightly less than $1 million, which he stressed could be twice that much based on financial reports from the symphony.
The union proposed early last month for all musicians to return for the remainder of the performance season under terms from the previous contract. No counter offer was met.
San Antonio Symphony Executive Director Corey Cowart provided a statement in regard to multiple issues including the surplus:
“The surplus comment is not accurate whatsoever. The most recent audit - conducted by a third-party and recently completed for FY2021 - cited a deficit working capital of -$649,747 and noted that the impact of the pandemic on the organization has been substantial. As with the most recent audit, and audits for the past 10 years, "going concern" disclosure on this audit (FY21) and previous years (with the exception of the 2013-14 year) dating back to at least 2010.”
Cowart expressed optimism in the future of the symphony: “Overall, we remain hopeful that we can work to negotiate mutually agreeable terms for a contract and return live Symphony performances back to the community in a way that is sustainable.”
Cowart noted concert cancelations are not because of current negotiations.
“The Symphony works on a rolling timeline of preparations for each program - those plans and details must be finalized roughly two weeks in advance of each performance week. Concerts are canceled only when it becomes necessary due to scheduling of negotiation meetings.”
Striking musicians have taken part in multiple rallies downtown San Antonio outside the Tobin Center for Performing Arts. The musicians have also held silent pickets outside the homes of symphony executives.
San Antonio Symphony musicians are continuing to conduct private lessons, play with smaller ensembles, work at local universities, and play with orchestras across Texas and throughout the country.
Oppenheim said the union has received a wealth of community support since the onset of the strike. He also has confidence that the musicians will stay with the symphony until an agreement is solidified.
“After the onset of the strike, we’ve had a massive outpouring of both moral and monetary support particularly from musicians from the other orchestras from across the country and in some cases outside of the country," he said.