Arts Commission Comments Jan 11

3 minute talk to San Antonio Arts Commission Jan 11, 2022

Good morning and thank you for this opportunity to speak.

When I last saw you, the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony were rather newly on an unfair labor practice strike. I am sorry to say that the necessity for the strike has not abated.

Our current situation is this:

Our negotiating committee met with representatives of Board and Management last Thursday, at which time we gave them a proposal that would allow us to return to the stage under the terms of the original Collective Bargaining Agreement as agreed to in 2019, with the significant exception that we did not ask for the rescheduling of any canceled concerts to date nor did we ask for any back pay. This would represent a concession on our part of between 35% and 50% salary for the 21-22 season, depending on the Symphony’s ability to reschedule previously canceled concerts.

You need to know that the Symphony Society currently is projecting a surplus of up to $1.8M for the current season, due to receiving federal money in two Shuttered Venues grants as well as an employee retention tax credit, combined with the obvious fact that no musicians have been paid since last September. They have the money to pay musicians and present concerts going forward for the rest of the season.

Putting us back on stage would also be seen as a positive sign by the donor community with a resulting boost to the Symphony Society fundraising.

Our Board and Management responded to our generous offer by saying that they would get back to us, so we hope we may return to performing for you very soon. We are waiting for their response.

San Antonio is a great city with a strong growth rate and a booming economy. There is absolutely no reason why we should lag so far behind cities of similar or even smaller size, such as Kansas City, with a symphony budget of approximately $20M, or Nashville, with a symphony budget of nearly $30M. Yet here we are, fighting desperately for an eight million dollar budget.

Of one thing you may be sure: the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony will never agree to terms which would ensure the demise of the San Antonio Symphony. The A/B structure* which is still in the imposed terms will absolutely be the end of the SAS. People will leave town. In fact, many of my colleagues are either already gone or are making plans for the near future. Time is short and the need for leadership with vision is urgent. Our board and management must change course if there is to be a professional orchestra in San Antonio. Thank you.

**A/B refers to a smaller “core” of 42 full-time musicians at a proposed salary of $24,000 a year with benefits (down from just under 36,000), and the removal of full-time jobs and benefits from 26 of my colleagues, offering them just $11,000 a year with no health insurance or other benefits, along with the elimination of four currently vacant positions.

-Mary Ellen Goree

Principal Violin II

Negotiating Committee Chair

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