Chicago Symphony Orchestra strike nears end of first week
Michael Walters and Kristina Betinis
15 March 2019
Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) musicians are continuing their strike, which began Monday morning. The contract agreed between CSO and the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208 in 2015 expired on Sunday. Negotiations had been going for more than 11 months and no new negotiations have been scheduled. CSO Director Riccardo Muti spoke at a lunch hour press conference on Tuesday, surrounded by the horn section of the CSO.
“I am here with my musicians,” Muti said, who is known worldwide for his public defenses of funding for the arts and opposition against budget cuts in his home country of Italy.
“The entire world, the entire musical world, is listening to what they do in Chicago. When the Chicago Symphony goes around the world, the musicians not only play, they are ambassadors for the culture of the country. It’s a big responsibility for the city of Chicago, for the board, to take care of this treasure.
“The collapse of the Chicago Symphony would be such a tragedy that can affect not only the musicians, but the world. The Chicago Symphony represents one of the temples of culture of this nation and of the world.”
Muti’s defense of the musicians exhibits a significant amount of courage as his salary is partially paid by a $14 million donation by Helen Zell, the chairwoman of the CSO Board. This donation resulted in his official title being Zell Musical Director. Zell is the wife of real estate mogul Sam Zell with a net worth of $5.5 billion, making him the third richest person in Chicago. The family has made major contributions to former Republican governor Bruce Rauner and former Democratic mayoral candidate Bill…