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Union letter to SSSA 4/29

April 29, 2022


Dear Corey:


Throughout the course of the current negotiations fraudulently entered by the board and management of the Symphony Society, you have intransigently adhered to arbitrary and unjustifiable figures of $4.7 to $5 million as an annual budget and/or revenue ceiling. You have presented no reliable or credible study to substantiate your position that this is all the funding the Symphony Society can raise. In contrast, we have posted statistics showing that even in years when fundraising was lower than usual the Symphony Society raised no less than $6 million.


We sent a request for information to you on April 5, 2022, designed to elicit the basis for your revenue forecast and budget numbers, and the details behind those numbers, with a response requested by April 15, 2022. To date you have not responded at all, not even with a request for clarification or with any questions or objections you may have to our requested information. Your silence is our answer.


Through the course of these negotiations, all you have done in your proposals and counterproposals is rearrange the same artificial, low-vision numbers on which your unilateral imposition of conditions of last September were based. In fact you have no vision at all, nor any concern for the musical integrity and quality of the Symphony. We told you over a year ago that your demands were unacceptable and intolerable, with the certain result of the destruction of the San Antonio Symphony as a nationally respected orchestra. Many of our best players will leave or in fact have already left, and we will be unable to attract musicians of an equivalent caliber with such a low salary combined with such a long history of concessionary demands from the management to the musicians.

Why you seek to wreck the legendary San Antonio Symphony, which was founded in 1939 as a fulltime professional orchestra, is beyond comprehension. You have not provided meaningful answers as to why you are pursuing such a goal. All you do is insist this is the way it has to be because you say so, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As we have repeatedly informed you, we will not be complicit in our own destruction.


Our negotiating committee met with the federal mediators on April 27th. That meeting confirmed to us that you continue to maintain your goal of making the Symphony budget fit your unrealistic, arbitrary, and destructive figures. What you offer to the musicians with one hand, you take away with the other. Do you think we cannot see that you are still stuck on your artificially low and destructive budget?


As our community can see, you still refuse to engage in a mass fundraising appeal to the general public. We have repeatedly offered to join with you in a collaborative joint labor-management fundraising initiative, to which you and Symphony board representatives flatly say NO. It is clear to us that you and the Symphony board are hell-bent on ruining the San Antonio Symphony and its legacy. It is also clear to us that resorting to mediation has failed. You have not made a single step of meaningful movement throughout the course of the negotiations and mediation. Simply rearranging your proposals while keeping the negotiations and mediation captive to your phony revenue forecast is not movement. You are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.


What have you done during the past 18 months to unveil any dynamic new fundraising project? If you are truthful, you know the answer to this question is “nothing,” except for your successful applications for federal grants (some of which were prompted by the musicians) wherein you received almost $2 million in forgivable loans, none or very little of which you utilized to improve your bargaining positions toward us. Why have other major metropolitan symphonies as well as other non-profits thrived in their fundraising efforts despite or even because of the pandemic? It defies credulity that the pandemic could have been good to the donor class everywhere except in San Antonio. At one of our “negotiation” sessions, a member of the board chanted “pandemic, pandemic, pandemic,” like a schoolboy. Yet the Symphony Society is manifestly better off financially now than it was in February 2020.


Every time you and/or the board complain about the so-called futility of your so-called fundraising efforts, you and the board are admitting your own incompetence. If not incompetence, then it must be a willful desire to starve the Symphony’s musicians and to deprive the San Antonio community of the world-class symphonic institution to which it is accustomed and entitled.


We have informed you for many months that your demands for lower pay and benefits, and for eviscerating the orchestra structure with a lower or two-tiered complement of musicians, will wreck the Symphony’s ability to attract first-class professional musicians and will destroy the artistic integrity of the institution. In fact, those of us on audition committees have been experiencing this for years, with multiple no-hire auditions due to the difficulty of attracting qualified artists to a geographically isolated city with very low pay. Yet you dismiss our concerns and show no respect for our expertise.


You and the board seem to be assuming that the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony will lose their resolve, accept your unfounded demands, and abandon their lawful work stoppage. If this is what you think or what you are being advised, you are deceived. We have told you in no uncertain terms for many months that the musicians will not work under conditions that reduce their take-home pay to figures that are even less than the low pay we are used to in comparison with industry standards. We will not work for you under a diminished orchestra structure that reduces the artistic quality of the Symphony’s musical product. You fail to take us seriously. Your legacy will be the destruction of the San Antonio Symphony.


Nobody in their right mind relishes a strike, but you left us no choice when you unilaterally imposed intolerable conditions on us on September 26th, effectively scuttling negotiations. Be well advised, as long as you remain entrenched in your obstinate determination to hold to your present course, we will not abandon our resort to the only course of action you left available to us. Our actions will continue to include producing concerts independently of you for our supportive public, despite your apparent attempt to interfere with our doing so by firing Maestro Lang-Lessing as Music Director Emeritus of the Symphony when you learned that he had agreed to conduct one of our independent performances. We are very grateful to the First Baptist Church, the Symphony League, all patrons and co-sponsors, and our large audiences for their generous support of our independent concerts. We wonder what you will do to try to retaliate against all of them.


Until you are ready to utilize a positive, visionary budget framework based on the factual history of Symphony revenues as well as the economic and population growth of San Antonio, negotiations between us are fruitless, and your intransigence has caused mediation to fail. You have continued throughout negotiations and mediation to make it clear that you will agree only to what you want, with no sincere consideration of the musicians’ needs and goals. We do not wish to engage any further in the current charade of your making.


Accordingly, unless and until you abandon your rigid artificial budget figures and are ready to engage us in honest, forward-looking discussions that include how to nurture rather than wreck the world-class artistic quality of the Symphony, we are not interested in continuing these fruitless negotiations or mediation. If your position changes you know how to contact us.


Sincerely,


Mary Ellen Goree

Principal Violin II

Chair, Negotiating Committee


cc: Symphony Society board members

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