The month-long labor dispute between the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians and their management has forced the cancellation of all ASO concerts through November 8th. The musicians are currently locked out, and contract negotiations are at an impasse.
This labor dispute has its roots in long-standing budget issues. Two years ago, the musicians agreed to sizable pay cuts and other concessions following a lockout. They acquiesced with the understanding that those actions were not only necessary, but sufficient to ward off financial ruin. Unfortunately, the ASO continued to operate at a deficit, which is expected to be $2 million in 2014 alone.
Having made sizable and recent sacrifices only to hear that the underlying financial issues were not resolved, the musicians are now demanding that the next round of budgetary cuts attack something other than their numbers or compensation. The management feels that adjusting both orchestra size and compensation is inevitable given the ASO's financial outlook.
One can only hope that the situation is soon resolved to the satisfaction of both sides, should such a solution even be possible.
For those who are interested in state of American classical music, the ASO labor dispute feels uncomfortably familiar. Arts organizations in cities across the country are struggling, with artists who demand to be compensated fairly on one side, and apparent economic realities on the other. This ASO lockout comes on the heels of a Met Opera lockout and Minnesota symphony lockout. Something is clearly not working in a global sense, but despite many interested and invested parties, no obvious path forward exists.