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Pasadena Symphony musicians authorize a strike for higher pay

Pasadena Symphony musicians authorize a strike for higher pay
David Lockington conducts the Pasadena Symphony at the Ambassador Auditorium in April. The musicians have voted to authorize a strike as soon as this month, their union said. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Members of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops have voted to authorize a strike that, if launched, would imperil popular holiday and New Year’s concerts.

The American Federation of Musicians Local 47 announced the strike authorization vote Friday afternoon. The musicians have been without a contract for more than two years, the union said.

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The orchestra consists of about 70 part-time members who make less than $4,000 per year on average, the union said. Management’s last offer included an increase that amounted to less than 15% over five contract years. The union did not accept the offer as fair and in line with the compensation of other regional orchestras.

“Cost of living is likely to increase significantly over the next few years and we believe our orchestra will endure even greater economic hardship if we accept this offer,” the orchestra committee wrote in an email to orchestra members.

Ten years ago, when the orchestra, like much of the country, faced an extreme financial crisis, musicians agreed to absorb the brunt of cost-saving measures. However, the union said the Pasadena Symphony Assn. is financially healthy now, reporting annual surpluses of between $200,000 and $700,000 in recent years.

The Pasadena Symphony Assn. responded to a request for comment by issuing a statement from Chief Executive Lora Unger that read:

“Our musicians are the center of our organization. We are working with the union representing the musicians to develop a fair agreement that recognizes the musicians’ stature and their artistic contributions, but one that does not compromise the financial sustainability of the institution. We strive to ensure that the PSA is competitive on compensation as compared to its peer orchestras by region and budget size and are committed to prudent financial growth.

“We hope to have an agreement in place soon, and, when appropriate, the PSA will release more information. Out of respect for the process we cannot comment further on the status or progress of negotiations.”

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