A Tale of Two Orchestras, and a Rebuttal to the WSJ

Pennsylvania is home to at least two major orchestras, one in Philadelphia, and another in Pittsburgh.  Both experienced (or are now experiencing) labor strife, but with two very difficult outcomes.  

The Philadelphia Orchestra musicians voted to strike immediately prior to the opening night concert in a public relations disaster for the entire organization.  The patrons were already in the building for the concert when the strike - and the cancellation of the opening night performance - was announced.  However, the dispute was quickly resolved and the season saved.  Good for the players, good for the institution, and good for the patrons and audience in Philly.  This town isn't only about sports.

In Pittsburgh, however, the opposite result has happened.  The strike continues.  Concerts are being cancelled.  Both sides - labor and management - are trading barbs via social media instead of through official channels.  A complete breakdown with no end in sight. 

The normally clear eyed Terry Teachout writes in today's Wall Street Journal that orchestral musicians should essentially count their lucky stars by looking backward to their historical earnings, adjusted for inflation, to see how far they have come from an economic standpoint. Respectfully, Mr. Teachout misses the point that you have to evaluate pricing and labor rates in the environment that we are in today, and taking into account some conservative projections for the future, what numbers are equitable for the musicians in today's economic climate.  

There is, at the top of any industry, tremendous competition about pay, whether its the legal profession, accounting, medicine, or orchestral performers.  That coupled with the fact that obtaining a position at one of the major orchestras is an insanely competitive endeavor to begin with, you have the seeds of the current situation.  World class players do not grow on trees, and with that scarcity comes a premium.