Petition Rally

This morning’s labor action in front of the Emporium building was a success buoyed by our brethren from the Democratic Socialists of America, Jobs with Justice and the Knoxville/Oak Ridge Central Labor Council.

Eli Stanfield with the United Campus Workers and Jobs with Justice, and Katy Myers of UCW came and stood out in the cold with us, 

Sam Alexander (head of the Knoxville/Oak Ridge Central Labor Council and General Chairman for the BMWED—IBT)) and his daughter Emily (honorary member of our Local 546) stood with us. 

Barbara Hickey, David Linge, Jim Sessions, and his daughter Lee Sessions, from the Knoxville chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America were encouraging passing cars to honk.

KSO musicians Bill Pierce, Edward Pulgar, Rachel Loseke, Cindy Hicks, Steve Benne, and Stacy Nickell taped up our petitions and generally stayed warm.

Camera crews from WATE and WVLT interviewed us, and we were able to greet Rachel Ford and Mary Sue Greiner on their way into the office.

It is powerful and fun to have the activists there with us. While for many musicians, myself included, protests and rallies are a bit scary, for our brothers and sisters in the CLC, DSA, and JWJ, they are part of the landscape.

This morning Sam Alexander told me that he’d been arrested in D.C. and pepper-sprayed in Chicago (I think). His daughter Emily said that she’d been elbowed in the face somewhere else (although she thought the elbow was probably friendly fire). Then they laughed about it.

Eli Stanfield made me think by asking where our center of power was… I’m still thinking.

Awesome.

After the protest Edward, Stacy, Cindy, and I spent an hour and a half taking our petitions into businesses on Gay St. and Union Avenue. The shop owners and their employees were very patient with us. They listened and took our petitions. We’ll be back.

In all, it was a good day.

Petition

Knoxville Musicians Association has started a petition to Executive Director, Knoxville Symphony Society Rachel Ford.   Restore furloughed Knoxville Symphony musicians to employment.

Visit the Knoxville Musicians Association change.org petition to view our open letter to Knoxville Symphony management.

September 3, 2020 Press Release:

Musicians Reject Unsustainable Offer

The musicians of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra voted by an overwhelming majority on Thursday to reject an offer from management to renew the season and reinstate them with a drastic pay cut.

On August 24, KSO management publicly announced the cancellation of the season and furlough of musicians through January 31, in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement. Privately, however, they contacted the musicians and said they would reinstate the season and hold concerts if the musicians would agree to a 27.5 percent pay cut.

“The movement to furlough us was a strong-arm tactic to force us to accept a drastic pay cut that would have made many musicians dependent on government assistance,” says Sam Chen, a member of the orchestra negotiating committee. “Musicians on salary would have been cut from $31,500 to $18,000 annually after health insurance costs.”

Even with the drastic pay cut, musicians considered accepting the agreement as long as management allowed time off to pursue part-time work that would help them survive, but that was refused. “Management asked us to be available 14 hours a day, 6 days a week to perform on demand,” Chen says. “We could not agree to that in good conscience. We want this orchestra to survive, but it can’t if the musicians are starving.”

The Knoxville Symphony has over $9 million in unrestricted cash on hand, the result of aggressive moves to fund the endowment while keeping musician salaries on the poverty line.

BREAKING NEWS: Illegally Furloughed Musicians are Still out of Work

The musicians of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra voted by an overwhelming majority on Thursday to reject an offer from management to renew the season and reinstate them with a drastic pay cut. 

On August 24, KSO management publicly announced the cancellation of the season and furlough of musicians through January 31, in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement. Privately, however, they contacted the musicians and said they would reinstate the season and hold concerts if the musicians would agree to a 27.5 percent pay cut.

“The movement to furlough us was a strong-arm tactic to force us to accept a drastic pay cut that would have made many musicians dependent on government assistance,” says Sam Chen, a member of the orchestra negotiating committee. “Musicians on salary would have been cut from $31,500 to $18,000 annually after health insurance costs.”

Even with the drastic pay cut, musicians considered accepting the agreement as long as management allowed time off to pursue part-time work that would help them survive, but that was refused. “Management asked us to be available 14 hours a day, 6 days a week to perform on demand,” Chen says. “We could not agree to that in good conscience. We want this orchestra to survive, but it can’t if the musicians are starving.”

The Knoxville Symphony has over $9 million in unrestricted cash on hand, the result of aggressive moves to fund the endowment while keeping musician salaries on the poverty line.

The musicians need your help. Please Follow Us on Facebook, comment on our posts, help us spread the word. If you are able to donate, please consider doing so.

KSO Musicians Reject Unsustainable Offer

The musicians of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra voted by an overwhelming majority on Thursday to reject an offer from management to renew the season and reinstate them with a drastic pay cut. On August 24, KSO management publicly announced the cancellation of the season and furlough of musicians through January 31, in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement. Privately, however, they contacted the musicians and said they would reinstate the season and hold concerts if the musicians would agree to a 27.5 percent pay cut.“The movement to furlough us was a strong-arm tactic to force us to accept a drastic pay cut that would have made many musicians dependent on government assistance,” says Sam Chen, a member of the orchestra negotiating committee. “Musicians on salary would have been cut from $31,500 to $18,000 annually after health insurance costs.”Even with the drastic pay cut, musicians considered accepting the agreement as long as management allowed time off to pursue part-time work that would help them survive, but that was refused. “Management asked us to be available 14 hours a day, 6 days a week to perform on demand,” Chen says. “We could not agree to that in good conscience. We want this orchestra to survive, but it can’t if the musicians are starving.” The Knoxville Symphony has over $9 million in unrestricted cash on hand, the result of aggressive moves to fund the endowment while keeping musician salaries on the poverty line.

WATE News Article by Robert Holder

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra musicians file grievance following furlough announcement.

Link to Original WATE Site

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is facing a grievance from its members after furloughing musicians for five months.

The Knoxville Symphony Society announced Monday it was canceling the remainder of the 2020 season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The orchestra is also furloughing most of its administrative staff starting Sept. 14.

KSO Executive Director Rachel Ford said it was a “heart-wrenching decision” but one that had to be made to make a viable path going forward for the orchestra. 

The musicians say the decision is “cruel and unconscionable” and violates the collective bargaining agreement between them and the KSO.

“We’ve been working with the KSO for several months to offer extra flexibility and innovative ideas for putting on safe performances that bring music into our community and schools at a time when everyone needs it most,” Steve Benne, chair of the musicians’ orchestra committee, said. 

“In return, and without any advance warning, the KSO furloughed us a week before our season was about to begin.” 

The cancellation covers 24 shows and other educational concerts. 

Benne said other orchestras have developed creative and safe plans to perform and keep musicians compensated and covered under their health plans. 

“We are ready, willing, and able to work,” he said. “That management would take this route during a national health crisis, especially without communicating with us, is a huge blow to Knoxville.”

On Wednesday, the KSO released the following statement:

As the Knoxville Symphony stated to the Orchestra Committee, we remain open to continue bargaining with Local 546 of the American Federation of Musicians. We remain committed to reaching a viable solution for the KSO, musicians and staff.

KNOXVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

In the meantime, ticket holders have the option to donate the value of canceled concerts to help support the KSO or request a refund. For ticket assistance, visit the KSO’s website to access an online form or email boxoffice@knoxvillesymphony.com.

Knoxville Symphony Illegally Silences Musicians

For Immediate Release:

The Knoxville Symphony Society’s notice on August 24, 2020 to furlough orchestra musicians without pay for five months violates the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) and the American Federation of Musicians, Local 546. Musicians have filed grievances to fight the decision and secure contractually guaranteed pay.

“This decision by the KSO to strip away our livelihood and healthcare in the middle of a pandemic is cruel and unconscionable,” says Steve Benne, chair of the musicians’ orchestra committee. “We’ve been working with the KSO for several months to offer extra flexibility and innovative ideas for putting on safe performances that bring music into our community and schools at a time when everyone needs it most. In return, and without any advance warning, the KSO furloughed us a week before our season was about to begin.”

KSO is one of only a handful of symphony managements in the country who have chosen to furlough their musicians without pay. Many other orchestras have developed creative and safe plans to perform and keep musicians compensated and covered under their health plans. “We are ready, willing, and able to work,” says Benne. “That management would take this route during a national health crisis, especially withoutcommunicating with us, is a huge blow to Knoxville.”

New contract signed!

In the wake of the global news and covid-19, after many discussions with KSO management over the course of the last year, we are pleased to announce we have reached an agreement with the KSO on a new contract!

The contract terms, which include modest raises for musicians, cover the current 2019-2020 season and last though August 31, 2023. Thank you for your continued support. We are excited about this development, and look forward to seeing you at a concert soon.

Stay Healthy and Safe!

February Masterworks Leaflet for Audience

In case you weren’t at our February Masterworks, this was the leaflet that we handed out to our wonderful audience. We need all the support we can get in our contract negotiation. It was inspiring and encouraging to see all the bright blue waving leaflets during the audience’s rambunctious applause.