SAS Contract Negotiation Updates

Last updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Disclaimer: this page is for general information purposes only and not intended to represent a full account of negotiation or organizational activities.

What is the latest news?

To read the Open Letter from the elected members of the San Antonio Symphony Board, please click here.

On Thursday, January 6th, a negotiating meeting was held at which the Musicians’ Union presented a verbal proposal. The Symphony Society subsequently requested a formal written proposal, as the specific terms of the verbal proposal were not clear. On January 14th, the Symphony Society received a written proposal, restating the Musicians’ Union’s January 6th verbal proposal. The Symphony Society is hopeful to continue to meet with the Musicians’ Union to work to negotiate mutually agreeable terms for a contract.

In a previous bargaining meeting with the Musicians’ Union on November 23rd, the Symphony Society proposed the use of binding interest arbitration as a means to move forward with negotiations. Because the Musicians’ Union has so far rejected the involvement of a mutually agreed upon mediator, we have identified a provision of the pro-labor “Protecting the Right to Organize” act (PRO Act)* which works to bring in an arbitrator when talks have stalled. Under the PRO Act, which is strongly supported by the AFL-CIO, an arbitrator looks at both sides of the negotiation and helps both parties come to agreement. We proposed this step in an effort to find common ground with the Musicians’ Union, recognizing that a third party may see a way forward and the Symphony is willing to accept binding arbitration in service of that goal.

The Musicians’ Union has unfortunately stated in writing that they are unwilling to involve a neutral mediator or arbitrator. A recent letter from the Musicians’ Union infers the Symphony Society is unwilling to negotiate; this is not accurate. We do, however, recognize that both parties remain very far apart. We still believe it’s critical to get all parties in a discussion of what is possible to bring our Symphony back to live performances and eventually move us into a position of ongoing sustainability. We remain determined to find a contract all parties can live with.

In summary, we understand and appreciate that this is an extremely difficult time for all involved. We are deeply gratified that our audience is continuing to purchase tickets and are eager to hear Symphony musicians performing on stage at the Tobin, Majestic Theatre, and across our community this season. While recent events might make some contemplate their ongoing generosity for the organization, the reality is that we need everyone’s support now more than ever.

If you have any comments or questions that are not answered here, or would like to be in touch with us about how you can help, please email info@sasymphony.org. Thank you for your support of the San Antonio Symphony.


Are there any changes to the 2021-2022 season?

As of September 27, 2021, the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony are on strike. San Antonio Symphony concerts will only be performed when mutually agreed upon contract terms are reached between the Symphony Society, AFM Local 23, and the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony. As the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony remain on strike, the following concerts have been postponed:

  • Radiant Rachmaninoff, October 29th & 30th, 2021
  • Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, November 5th & 6th, 2021
  • Russian Masters, November 19th & 20th, 2021
  • Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, November 26th & 27th, 2021
  • Rhapsody in Blue, February 5th, 2022

The following concerts have been cancelled:

  • Holidays at the Majestic, December 18th, 2021 (matinee and evening)
  • Handel’s Messiah, December 22nd & 23rd, 2021
  • Hotel California: A Salute to the Eagles, January 8th, 2022
  • Bronfman and Pines of Rome, January 14th & 15th, 2022
  • Symphonie Fantastique, January 28th & 29th, 2022

Symphony staff is working to reschedule these postponed concerts. If you hold tickets to one of the above concerts, a San Antonio Symphony Box Office representative will contact you directly over the phone to ensure you understand next steps and your ticketing options. For Holidays at the Majestic, refunds will be automatically issued to your original method of payment from your point of purchase. Refunds may take up to 30 days to be processed.

The San Antonio Symphony will no longer be partnering with the Tobin Center on the production of Pink Martini featuring China Forbes, which will be held on January 11, 2022 at 7:30pm. Please contact the Tobin Center Box Office with any questions or inquiries about this event at (210)223-8624 or at tickets@tobincenter.org

We know this is disappointing, and we appreciate your continued support as we navigate this challenging time. Our board and management have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the San Antonio Symphony is both artistically and financially strong for our audiences, community, supporters, and musicians for years to come. We will continue working with our musicians to arrive at an agreement that achieves both financial stability and sustainability. We remain ready to meet the Musician’s Union at the bargaining table to continue the negotiations process to arrive at a mutually agreeable contract. Should negotiations remain at an impasse, upcoming performance dates will be evaluated for postponement or cancellation to avoid unnecessary expense and to provide ample notice to musicians, sponsors, donors and patrons.

The San Antonio Symphony Box Office is available for assistance at (210)554-1080 or boxoffice@sasymphony.org. If you have any questions or would like clarification about your ticketing options, please call!


What is the history of the current contract negotiations?

The Symphony Board is committed to fulfilling the mission of the San Antonio Symphony to serve its community through performances of great music.  We know the musicians share this same commitment.  Our joint mission is not possible, however, without financial viability. By fulfilling our mission, within a sustainable budget design, community confidence will increase, as will the Symphony’s ability to once again attract the leadership donors and underwriters who are with us for the long-term because they see the Symphony as a worthy investment.

Over the past several months, the Symphony Board has put forward 6 written proposals to the Musicians’ Union.  The Board of Directors and the Board Negotiating Committee voted to implement its 5th proposal effective September 27, 2021. On Sept. 27, 2021, the Musicians’ Union declared a strike. Since that time, the Musicians’ Union has rejected both mediation and binding arbitration.

Regarding Core vs Full Contract Per Service Musician Status:
As laid out in multiple previous Collective Bargaining Agreements, Symphony musicians work for an agreed upon number of weeks each year. Depending on the amount of rehearsals and performances in a given week, musicians may work anywhere between 12 and 22.5 hours per week for the Symphony. This structure remains the same for Symphony proposals and the currently implemented contract.

The current implemented contract includes a complement of 68 musicians—42 core musicians and 26 full contract per service musicians for 24 weeks of work. Core musician positions would be paid at a weekly wage regardless of the amount of rehearsals or performances played and would receive healthcare benefits, paid sick leave, and pension benefits. Full contract per service musicians would be hired for an agreed to minimum number of services per season. These musicians would be paid per service worked.

In compliance with the necessary protections in the CBA for each individual musician’s performance schedule planning, musicians would continue to receive 12 weeks of advance notice of their schedule with the Symphony. Full contract per service musicians would be offered a minimum of 90 services per season, also with 12 weeks advance notice of their scheduled services.

Regarding Wages and Benefits
While striking musicians are still employees of the organization, as is the case with any employee, musicians on strike are withholding services and do not earn wages and benefits. As healthcare, dental, and vision insurance accrue one month in advance, striking employees kept benefits through the month of October. As no wages were earned or accrued in the month of October, and November benefits were not accrued, therefore, striking employees were instead offered the option to elect COBRA coverage. Additionally, and accrued separately from healthcare benefits, the organization will continue to carry each individual musician’s instrument insurance through June 2022, as it is accrued annually.

Regarding NLRB Charges
Both the Symphony Society of San Antonio and the Musicians’ Union have filed Unfair Labor Practices Charges with the NLRB. Each are currently under investigation by regional field examiners.

To stabilize the organization and sustain it for the future, the Symphony must hold strong to creating a sustainable future. The musicians are the heart of the Symphony, and we are committed to continuing to bargain with the Musicians’ Union until we reach a mutually-agreeable contract. Only together can we keep orchestral music a vital component in the San Antonio community.


Why is the Symphony continuing to fundraise?

We are confident, based on our conversations with community leaders, donors, and ticket holders, that once we resolve the strike and have a sustainable budget, we will return to our mission. In order to do that we must continue to ask for support. Fortunately, our donor base is growing, which we see as their continued confidence and passion for our mission as well.


How do the negotiations currently affect our patrons and what should they do today?

No matter the circumstances, patrons, donors, grantors, and supporters are key to our artistic and financial success. All have been patient, gracious, and generous over the last 22 months. This continues today with many asking how they can help during this time. We are incredibly grateful and ask you to demonstrate your support by generously giving today and then preparing to attend and celebrate the return of the Orchestra to the stage.

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What does the term “Last, Best, and Final” offer mean in a contract negotiation?

The term “last best and final offer” is a term in collective bargaining that is a basis for the employer to implement its proposed terms and conditions of employment should the parties reach a good faith impasse in negotiations. But, as the Musicians’ Union knows, it does not mean that efforts to get to a tentative agreement acceptable to both sides has stopped, or that an employer will not negotiate.


What is the difference between Interest Based Bargaining and Traditional Bargaining?

Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) may offer parties more flexibility than traditional bargaining, not locking them into predetermined issues and bargaining positions. Instead, the process begins with understanding the problem and identifying the interests that underlie each side’s issues and positions.  Positional Bargaining focuses on “the what” in a negotiation.  Interest Based Bargaining focuses on “the why” in a negotiation. This method opens the door for an integrative approach to negotiation, where both sides  work together to find the best solution for all parties involved.


What is the NLRB?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency created to enforce the National Labor Relations Act.  Headquartered in Washington DC, it has regional offices across the country where employees, employers and unions can file charges alleging illegal behavior, or file petitions seeking an election regarding union representation.


What is an NLRB Unfair Labor Practice Charge?

Charges alleging Unfair Labor Practices are filed by individuals, unions or employers at NLRB regional offices, prompting an investigation by regional field examiners and attorneys. More than half of all charges are withdrawn or dismissed. In cases where an investigation finds probable merit, the majority settle by agreements between the parties. If no settlement can be reached, the Regional Director issues a complaint detailing the alleged violations.


What is Collective Bargaining Mediation?

Mediation is a tool through which a neutral 3rd party, called a mediator, supports sound and stable labor management relations. As neutrals, mediators provide a third-party perspective and leverage the expertise of the skilled negotiators at the table to address the core interests of the negotiating parties.


What is a Collective Bargaining Agreement?

A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is a written legal contract between an employer and a union representing the employees. The CBA is the result of an extensive negotiation process between the parties regarding topics such as wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Mandatory subjects of bargaining are those topics required by law and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Those subjects include items like wages, overtime, bonuses, grievance procedures, safety and work practices, and seniority, as well as procedures for discharge, layoff, recall, or discipline.


What is a Musicians’ Union?

The two major unions representing musicians are the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). AFM represents musicians, while AFTRA members are vocalists and actors.

The AFM is the largest musicians’ union in the world, with members from all fields and types of music. The group negotiates and administers agreements with the major recording companies, film and television companies, live music venues and booking agencies, and so on. These agreements designate a basic union “scale” wage that the companies must pay to musicians at a minimum, and provide for employer contributions to the AFM health and pension funds.

The AFM has eight Texas chapters. The San Antonio local is Musicians’ Society of San Antonio, Local 23

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