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Originally published Monday, October 15, 2012 at 8:25 PM

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Symphony, opera musicians authorize strike

After months of contract negotiations with the managements of the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera, the musicians of the Seattle Symphony and Opera Players' Organization have authorized a strike.

Seattle Times arts writer

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@Mike Smith: In this case the musicians ARE the union. Seattle Symphony members broke... MORE
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The musicians of the Seattle Symphony and Opera Players' Organization (SSOPO) have authorized a strike.

After months of contract negotiations with the managements of the Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera, the vote is in response to a contract offer Wednesday that called for musicians to take a 15 percent reduction in compensation in the 2012-13 season.

The reduction would come on top of earlier concessions topping $9.6 million that symphony and opera musicians have made in recent years, a SSOPO news release stated. That doesn't include "significant increases" in musicians' contribution toward health-care costs, the release said.

Seattle Symphony cellist David Sabee, quoted in the SSOPO news release, said that the symphony had a balanced annual budget in 2011-12 and is expected to balance its budget in the 2012-13 season as well. (The budget for each season was about $24 million.) But it's carrying an $11 million debt from the past season, and its endowment — at $25 million — is seriously underfunded.

In June, the Seattle Opera announced a $1 million shortfall in its $21.4 million annual budget for its 2010-2011 season.

Sabee said, "The musicians have always been invested in the success of the symphony and opera, lending a hand in times of financial difficulty."

Alluding to recent changes at the symphony, with a new music director (Ludovic Morlot), a new executive director (Simon Woods) and an expanded board, Sabee added, "We are entering a new era at the Seattle Symphony and need to develop a compensation package reflective of this new period in order to uphold the artistic integrity of the symphony and attract and retain the highest quality musicians."

SSOPO members meet again Tuesday.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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