Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Elaine Roach via Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians say they’ll return to the stage for rehearsal on Thursday.

DSO officials have announced a tentative agreement that would end a bitter six-months-long players’ strike.

Detroit Symphony officials canceled the whole concert season in February, when it seemed like feuding Orchestra players and management just couldn’t agree on a new contract. The two sides had deadlocked for months over issues ranging from pay to musicians’ outside teaching obligations.

But under mounting political pressure and after a marathon weekend bargaining session, the two sides hammered out a tentative work agreement.

Musicians’ union President Gordon Stump wouldn’t talk specifics. An official ratification vote will wrap up on Friday.

Stump says musicians are happy the strike will end even though they’re “not crazy” about parts of the agreement.

“I’m sure the management wasn’t crazy about it either. But most of the things that we had a problem with are gone. In that sense, I think it was a resolution we could all live with.”

Stump says the strike was “a long, protracted struggle, and it’s going to take a long time to heal.”

The strike cost the Orchestra some musicians, including its whole percussion section.

The Detroit Symphony announced late this afternoon that orchestra musicians have agreed to return to work before voting on a new contract. The DSO and its musicians' union reached a tentative contract deal over the weekend.

The musicians' union met this afternoon. After the meeting, the DSO announced the musicians will return to work on Thursday to begin rehearsing for upcoming concerts. The union plans a vote on the union contract later this week.

In a written statement, music director Leonard Slatkin expressed the hope that the DSO will emerge strong from the strike that has silenced it for the past six months:

“As we return to our home, I’m confident that the artistic product will continue at the highest possible level.  There is much to be done but the DSO will emerge a healthier and stronger institution.”

ZUU Mumu Entertainment / Flickr

Update 6:36 a.m.:

From the AP: Musicians' spokesman Greg Bowens says the tentative agreement was reached late Sunday. He says musicians will vote this week on whether to ratify the deal.

6:27 a.m.:

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra says a tentative agreement has been reached with striking musicians that could resolve a six-month strike, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Management spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt tells The Associated Press in an e-mail Monday morning that details of the agreement reached following talks over the weekend weren't being immediately released.

A message seeking comment was left with musicians spokesman Greg Bowens... Musicians had said they were given a deadline of last Friday to settle the strike or face losing the summer performance season and jeopardizing the fall season.

Musicians have been on strike since October 2010.

MaxiuB / creative commons

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra board gave management and its striking musicians until today to reach an agreement in order to avoid canceling the orchestra's summer season.

But according to a DSO press release issued at 5:37 p.m. today, the two sides will continue talks through the weekend:

Conversations with the Musician's leadership via phone and email have been robust this entire week.  TheDSO agreed to get together to work through the remaining issues as soon as acceptance of terms proposed by one of our intermediaries had been acknowledged by both parties.  The DSO agreed to these terms on Monday.  The DSO learned this afternoon that the musicians have accepted this framework as well and we will be scheduling a face-to-face meeting this weekend to resolve all other remaining issues.  A decision regarding our summer season is on hold pending the outcome of these meetings. 

Earlier this afternoon we spoke to Greg Bowens, the musicians' spokesperson. He said the head of the United Auto Workers and the AFL-CIO have shown their support for the striking musicians:

"The longer that things delay, the more national attention and pressure is put on the DSO to settle this situation."

The current $34-million, 3-year contract under negotiation is similar to a proposal musicians rejected back in February.

Nate Luzod / creative commons

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians said last week they would return to the stage if management agreed to binding arbitration. But management has yet to agree…so the musicians are still on strike.

Roland Zullo is a labor specialist at the University of Michigan. He says binding arbitration is all about persuasion; which side can best convince a panel of the merits of their bargaining proposals:

"If management looked at their proposal carefully, weighed it against what’s happening elsewhere in the industry and saw that they were on weak ground, they might refuse arbitration."

Zullo says it would "be good for the public" for management to accept binding arbitration "and get the Detroit Symphony Orchestra back up and operating again."

In a statement, a DSO spokeswoman said management proposed several ways to return the musicians to work.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Earlier this week, the DSO striking musicians say they’re willing to come back to work without a contract if management agrees to binding arbitration.

Greg Bowens is a spokesman for the musicians:

"It was a very difficult, gut-wrenching decision.  Something we would have thought was un-thinkable a week ago today. They are trying to extend the hand of friendship in an effort to end the strike under the conditions management had previously imposed."

On today's Artpod, we'll look at what kind of role social media played during the five month labor dispute between the two sides.

Elaine Roach via Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Striking musicians with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say that after five months on the picket line, they’re willing to come back to work without a contract. The musicians say they’ll go back on stage “immediately and unconditionally” if Orchestra management agrees to binding arbitration. The musicians propose that its union and Orchestra management each pick one arbitrator. The two people selected would then pick a third arbitrator to hear the case.

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra voted today to return to work without a contract.

Greg Bowens is the musicians spokesman:

"It was a very difficult, gut-wrenching decision; something we would have thought was unthinkable a week ago today, and that is they are trying to extend the hand of friendship in an effort to end the strike under the conditions management had previously imposed."

Bowens says the exact conditions under which the musicians would return will be revealed at a press conference this afternoon.

Management still has to agree to the idea.

The musicians have been on strike since October fourth.

Bowens wouldn't give details on why the musicians voted to go back to work without a contract, except to say this:

"Look, the Max M. Fisher Theater is spiraling out of control financially. Artists are turning down left and right the opportunity to perform there because they don't want to be a part of this strike.

The musicians understand that it's an important part of the economic engine for Midtown, and so they want to do everything they can in order to let the music play."

screen shot / DSO facebook fan page

As the fight between Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and musicians drags on for the fourth month, another fight of sorts is playing out on facebook.

Before the strike vs. now

The DSO  facebook fan page used to function like a typical fan page - stories about visiting conductors, upcoming concerts, and news about the orchestra’s Tiny Tots series.

But as the strike progressed, management has turned the DSO facebook fan page into a strike-update page, posting about negotiations and contract proposals. (The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have their own facebook page and post their viewpoints there.)

Some, like DSO Executive director Anne Parsons, describe the DSO facebook fan page as "a pretty active place to be." DSO conductor Leonard Slatkin commented on the page's level of "vitriol" at one point in a Detroit News Article.

Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have voted to reject what management has called its final labor contract offer.

The announcement Saturday by the musicians dashes hope for a quicker end to the more than four-month, contentious walkout.

The symphony has responded by saying it has released artists and conductors from their contracts and suspended all remaining orchestral concerts through the end of the season in June.

Governor's Budget Draws Praise, Criticism

Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal drew praise and criticism (though slightly more criticism) on Thursday.   The budget calls for deep cuts in spending across the board.  It also calls for taxing private pensions.   The Detroit Free Press described Snyder's budget as 'ambitious, but controversial:

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike might be reaching a crescendo.   The DSO issue what it labelled its 'final offer' to striking musicians this week.   And now, the Associated Press reports, the musicians union has scheduled a vote: 

The DSO talks have apparently hit another roadblock according to the Associated Press:

Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have rejected the latest contract proposal from orchestra management. A musician speaking Wednesday on the condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to speak for the union told The Associated Press the offer was rejected but more talks are possible. Management officials submitted the proposal last Friday. It included a stipulation the musicians must respond by this Friday. Management spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt wouldn't confirm the rejection but says a statement is expected to be released later Wednesday. Teams representing management and musicians met in late January, but those talks collapsed as they accused each other of not adhering to a three-year, $36 million proposal made in December by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. The walkout began Oct. 4.

Zuu Mumu Entertainment / Flickr

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra agreed to meet with striking musicians on Thursday. Musicians walked out on October 4th. The last time the two sides met to resolve the contract dispute was late November.

Meanwhile, patrons are hoping for a resolution soon. Jean Cranston has attended DSO concerts for the past 15 years.  She says missing out on the concerts is like “losing a friend.”

Cranston lives in the suburbs now – but she was born in Detroit.

"It made me have some connection with the city -- which I feel I don’t have too much of any more," says Cranston.  "And it also gives you hope when you go down there that things can revive in the city."

The DSO lost nearly $9 million last year. Management recently increased its wage offer to musicians. But the DSO also wants work rule changes that musicians oppose.

Nate Luzod / Creative commons

Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and its striking musicians are headed back to the bargaining table.

The players have been on strike since Oct. 4.

DSO management and the musicians have submitted new proposals to a federal mediator. Both sides’ proposals revolve around a $36 million compensation package. That dollar amount roughly splits the difference between the two sides’ previous proposals and was suggested by U.S. Senator Carl Levin and then Governor Jennifer Granholm last month.

flickr - user paintitblack22

Update Thursday, 9:57 a.m.:

DSO management wrote to us saying the information provided below regarding the DSO contract proposal was dated. We've updated the copy to clarify that this was one of management's original proposals.

Update 6:45 p.m.: 

At today's press conference, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians urged management to return to the bargaining table. They say the strike is hurting area businesses, especially restaurants.

David Zainea co-owns the Majestic Cafe in Midtown, and he says business has taken a big hit since the musicians went on strike Oct. 4: 

"We’re down almost 25% in the course of three months."

The musicians said they wanted to use the suggested proposal U.S. Senator Carl Levin and then-governor Jennifer Granholm had issued as a roadmap. 

That proposal called for a $36 million, 3-year contract that would require sacrifice from both sides. 

DSO management issued a statement this afternoon saying they would submit a proposal to the federal mediator "detailing how it would spend $36 million over three years once it secures additional, sustainable funding that would both close the gap between its position and the union's and support the enhanced communal and educational activities that are now even more important for the orchestra to revive and thrive."

DSO board chair Stanley Frankel had originally said he took the Granholm-Levin recommendation seriously, but:

"A $36 million compensation package is beyond what every consultant and our Board have said is feasible."

A small group of striking musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra brought holiday music to three area homeless shelters Wednesday.


The musicians’ made their final stop at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park, which provides shelter and other services for homeless and other at-risk gay and lesbian teens.


But the free concert attracted more than just the shelter’s clients.


Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians
Nate Luzod / creative commons

Governor Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Senator Carl Levin issued a joint letter Thursday detailing the framework for a possible resolution between Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and its musicians who have been on strike since October 4.

Granholm and Levin's proposal called for a 3-year deal that would cost a total of $36 million.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Update 8:01 p.m.:

Detroit Symphony Orchestra management issued this statement in response to the joint letter issued earlier today by Governor Granholm and Senator Levin:

We appreciate Senator Levin and Governor Granholm’s commitment to the DSO and their personal time and effort to assist in finding a resolution to the ongoing dispute between the DSO and its musicians.  We take their recommendations very seriously. 

A $36 million compensation package is beyond what every consultant and our Board have said is feasible.   In order to fund our current proposal, we have already cut our staff and operations severely and pushed our revenue expectations beyond every advisor’s recommendations.  Even with these dramatic cuts and ambitious goals, the DSO will continue to operate in a deficit position. 

We all want and need this strike to end with a mutually acceptable package and we stand ready to return to the bargaining table to pursue an agreement.  We appreciate the constructive offer of a framework within which this agreement might be reached and look forward to the continued engagement and support of community leadership as we pursue our goals.  

6:03 p.m.:

Governor Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Senator Carl Levin issued a joint letter Thursday detailing the framework for a possible resolution between Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and its musicians.

The DSO musicians went on strike Oct. 4 after management demanded a slew of concessions to deal with its growing deficit. The DSO recently announced a $8.8 million budget deficit for the 2010 fiscal year.

Granholm and Levin's proposal called for a 3-year deal that would cost a total of $36 million. (Management's most recent proposal totaled $34 million, the musicians countered with a roughly $38 million proposal.) 

Andy Levin is the Governor’s representative. He says both Granholm and Sen. Levin hoped that they "could get the parties across the finish line to a collective bargaining agreement  by making a suggestion about a difficult compromise."

Zuu Mumu Entertainment/Creative Commons

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has announced that it is canceling concerts through the rest of the year because of the continued strike by the orchestra's musicians.

The Associated Press reports:

The orchestra on Monday announced that the Home for the Holidays concerts scheduled for Thursday through Sunday as well as a December 21st concert featuring Canadian Brass had been cancelled. A Manhattan Transfer Christmas concert at Orchestra Hall still is scheduled for Tuesday night.

The DSO musicians have been on strike since October 4th due to a dispute over pay cuts with the DSO management.  Last week, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra reported a $6.7 million budget shortfall for the 2010 fiscal year.

Nate Luzod / creative commons

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra posted a $6.7 million budget shortfall for the 2010 fiscal year. Add to that the roughly $2 million the DSO spent on pension obligations and debt service on the Max M Fisher Music Center, and the total operating loss for the orchestra is $8.8 million.

Musicians perform
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians will play three holiday concerts outside of Orchestra Hall. The musicians have been on strike since Oct. 4, and since then have played several concerts in metro Detroit to raise awareness and money for the strike.

DSO management has cancelled concerts at Orchestra Hall through Nov. 28.

Photo Courtesy of ZUU Mumu Entertainment

Amind a continuing strike by its musicians, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has canceled concerts through November 28th.  The Associated Press reports:

ZUU Mumu Entertainment/Creative Commons

Informal discussions have resumed between striking members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and their managment.  In seperate statements released today, both sides said the talks are aimed at getting the