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Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra Ratifies Agreement

Today, the musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra ratified the tentative agreement reached last evening with Lyric management.

The musicians of the Orchestra went on strike on October 9 for one reason: to preserve the Lyric Opera that generations of Chicagoans have built over the past 65 years. A world-class opera company needs a world-class orchestra. The musicians will never stop fighting for that ideal; but at this time, the music needs to return to the Civic Opera House. Further cancellations by Lyric management were threatened, and the result would have been destructive for everyone – Lyric, the musicians and other Lyric employees, and Lyric’s loyal patrons.

Additionally, given that Lyric’s other unions (including IATSE and AGMA) had settled their contracts earlier, we were keenly aware of the pressure on the members of those unions and their families. We needed to settle this contract not only for us, but for them.

In the end, both parties compromised. This is still a concessionary contract, but much less so. When we started bargaining in March, management was demanding pay cuts of up to 43%. That was still on the table as recently as ten days ago. The final agreement includes a reduction in the number of main opera season weeks from 24 to 22 and a reduction in the number of musicians, but those concessions are mitigated by more favorable terms we were able to obtain:

  • There is now a 5.6% increase in weekly salary over the 3-year contract term.

  • The 2019-20 season now includes a guarantee of five (5) additional weeks for the “Ring” cycle, outside of the 22-week main opera season.

  • The orchestra size will be reduced by four instead of five musicians, delayed until the 2019-20 season.

  • The Spring musical is now guaranteed to employ 37 members of the Orchestra, and the salary for the musicals increases significantly (by 6.6%).

  • There are new guarantees regarding the hiring of Orchestra musicians for Joffrey Ballet productions beginning in 2020.

  • Health care benefits are maintained as is; family leave is now 8 paid weeks; and there are numerous other improvements in working conditions.

The musicians of the Orchestra are forever grateful for the overwhelming support we received from Lyric’s patrons and donors from the moment the strike began.

That outpouring of support gives us great hope for the future of Lyric Opera. We are confident that they are ready to stand with us as we continue to fight to preserve Lyric Opera of Chicago as one of the world’s greatest opera companies and the crown jewel of Chicago’s cultural life.

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