Philadelphia Strike

A few hours ago, one of the world's most famous orchestras narrowly escaped disaster. Shortly after midnight local time, the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra settled a nine-week strike by accepting a new three-year contract proposed by the management. The fact that the mayor stepped in as a negotiator shows how much was at stake. The orchestra, which is preparing for its centennial in three years, is a highlight in a city that has been in the headlines for poverty and decline. Despite good ticket sales and a high popularity rating for Music Director Wolfgang Sawallisch, the orchestra has been through a lot during the past year. It ended up with a 600,000 dollar budget deficit, plans for a new concert hall had to be postponed, and a recording contract with EMI was terminated. Yet the musicians, whose contracts expired this summer, have been staunchly resisting any form of pay cut. Georg Hirsch, who has watched the Philadelphia Orchestra for the past 24 hours, is telling us now what the issues of the strike were, and what the settlement has accomplished.

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