The Knoxville Symphony Society’s notice on August 24, 2020 to furlough orchestra musicians without pay for five months violates the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) and the American Federation of Musicians, Local 546 (Knoxville Musicians Association). Musicians have filed grievances to fight the decision and secure contractually guaranteed pay.
“This decision by the KSO to strip away our livelihood and healthcare in the middle of a pandemic is cruel and unconscionable,” says Steve Benne, chair of the musicians’ orchestra committee and member of AFM Local 546. “We’ve been working with the KSO for several months to offer extra flexibility and innovative ideas for putting on safe performances that bring music into our community and schools at a time when everyone needs it most. In return, and without any advance warning, the KSO furloughed us a week before our season was about to begin.”
KSO is one of only a handful of symphony managements in the country who have chosen to furlough their musicians without pay. Many other orchestras have developed creative and safe plans to perform and keep musicians compensated and covered under their health plans. “We are ready, willing, and able to work,” says Benne. “That management would take this route during a national health crisis, especially without communicating with us, is a huge blow to Knoxville.”