Even though the musicians went on strike six weeks ago, forcing the cancellation of fall and early winter concerts, the management of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is forging ahead with its annual fundraising campaign. As it should. A work stoppage highlighting the PSO’s financial challenges gives added urgency to the appeal.
In the run-up to the strike, management asked musicians for a pay cut of 15 percent in the first year of a contract — to be followed by raises of 2 percent and 3 percent in the second and third years — to help close a structural deficit that totaled $1.5 million during the most recent year. The musicians argue that pay cuts hinder efforts to retain and recruit talent, dinging the PSO’s quality.
The parties’ current positions are unclear because they returned to the bargaining table under a media blackout. While the PSO solicits contributions through the mail and with appeals on billboards, the musicians’ union is encouraging patrons to write to symphony executives with a promise to donate once a contract is in place.
But that suggestion is shortsighted. Let the symphony make its case for enhanced public support and see how the public responds. An enthusiastic response will be good for the organization and the musicians — and might even push negotiations to a crescendo.