The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Musicians Strike Detroit Symphony

Oct 11, 2010

On October 4, musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra went out on strike. They are facing a management that, after draining big bucks out of the symphony’s cash reserves, is demanding that musicians take a 30% pay cut and put in more hours of work for less money.

It’s obvious by the behavior of management that they intended to impose this deal – or to let the musicians hang out on strike for a number of months. Management started the season in mid-October this year, almost a month late, and then scheduled only two week-ends of concerts by the symphony – filling the hall with other money-making events, trying to pressure the musicians on strike.

Management stuck with its outrageous demands, effectively refusing to negotiate. Of course, like all bosses in Detroit who demand concessions from their workers, the symphony management says it has a large budget deficit.

Yes, it does – precisely because management engaged in a wide refurbishing and additional construction of the orchestra’s buildings. To do it, they went 54 million dollars into debt. And now, interest rates on their loans are going up – even while some bank rates are going down. The increase in rates this year alone accounts for most of the supposed deficit.

An entity like the Detroit Symphony is not, unfortunately, concerned only, or even primarily, with music. It is a showpiece where wealthy “society people” show off their furs and latest fashions while pretending to listen to music, or take advantage of the orchestra’s resources to hold receptions. It is a profit-maker for banks that loan it money at outrageously high interest rates or construction firms that get big contracts. Its board of directors includes many people with little knowledge of music, but represent the interests of big business.

The musicians currently on strike have the understanding and support from workers in the area.