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BSO Likely to Cancel Upcoming Concerts After Musicians Reject Contract Offer

Emily Sullivan/WYPR


Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians have voted overwhelmingly to reject what a union spokesman called an “unacceptable” contract. As a result, the musician’s work stoppage will continue and management will have to cancel upcoming shows. 

The musicians struck the contract down because of management’s proposal to indefinitely ended summer concerts, and as a result, implement a steep pay cut that comes with working 12 weeks less a year, said Greg Mulligan, a chairman of the Baltimore Symphony Musicians Players Committee.


The musicians voted on the contract Tuesday night, and; votes were counted on Wednesday afternoon. Union leaders say members voted overwhelmingly against the contract but would not share the exact vote count.


The vote is the latest move in a months-long fight between BSO management and the musicians.

Credit Emily Sullivan/WYPR
Baltimore Symphony musicians picket outside of the Meyerhoff in July.


In late May, BSO management abruptly cancelled the summer season, leading to negotiations between management and the musicians and aided by federal mediators.


The summer season’s cancellation meant musicians were locked out of Meyerhoff Symphony Hall; they picketed outside the building through the summer. That lockout was lifted Monday. The musicians were scheduled to rehearse on Wednesday to open the Meyerhoff for a new season this weekend.


“This morning, the lights were on and the stage was empty, and we were greatly disappointed that our musicians did not show up for the first rehearsal,” BSO president and CEO Peter Kjome said in a statement. “We’re offering work and urge our musicians to come back to work so that we can open the season this weekend.” 


The subsequent concert cancellations will cost the BSO money, doing additional damage to its financial state.


But management’s proposals are insufficient, Mulligan said. 


“All we’re asking for is a cost of living increase,” the violinist said.


He said management offered a slight increase in salary for 40 weeks and a summer stipend of $430 a week, which according to Mulligan amounts to 15 percent less than the musicians’ current salaries. 

The union’s rejection of these proposals was  the primary obstacle toward reaching an agreement.

According to Mulligan, federal mediators asked both sides after a bargaining session on Monday to consider returning to the table on Thursday. 

“We said yes, and management said no,” Mulligan said. 

The union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday.

Musicians will continue to picket this weekend.

Update posted to the BSO website 09/13/19: 

The free Season Preview Concert originally scheduled for this Saturday, September 14, 2019 has been postponed to next Saturday, September 21 at 8 pm at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. This concert is free and open to the public, and seats are first-come, first-served. Box seating is reserved for Governing Members (and higher) donors and corporate sponsors. Please visit BSOmusic.org/calendar for more information.


Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – In Concert performances originally scheduled for Thursday, September 19 at Strathmore, and Friday and Saturday, September 20 and 21 at the Meyerhoff, will be postponed to spring 2020 (future dates to be announced within the next two weeks). If you currently hold tickets for these performances, the Ticket Office will be in touch with you as soon as new dates are confirmed. Please visit BSOmusic.org/calendar for more information.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.
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