Philly POPS musicians vote to strike if necessary, citing ‘decade of mismanagement’

Philly POPS musicians and Local 77 members addressed the collective bargaining issues the union's had with executives during a press conference on Dec. 13, 2022. (Cory Sharber)

Philly POPS musicians and Local 77 members addressed the collective bargaining issues the union's had with executives during a press conference on Dec. 13, 2022. (Cory Sharber)

Less than a month after it was announced The Philly POPS orchestra would end operations following the 2022-23 season, 95% of its union members have voted to strike if necessary.

Members of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 77, said in a release Tuesday that collective bargaining discussions with POPS executives have stalled for more than 90 days.  They say they’re still looking for answers regarding the POPS’ financial situation, arrangements with the Kimmel Center for taking over POPS concerts, and “whether the current or future employer plans to recognize the current roster of Union performers and their contract.”

In November, it was announced the Philly POPS would cease due to “a combination of circumstances, including the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” However, the union argues, “POPS management paid themselves quite well for over a decade, even though they ran-up losses for eight of the past 10 years.”

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During a press conference Tuesday, Local 77 President Ellen Trainer said this is the result of a “decade of mismanagement.”

“They drove our whole bus over a cliff and used their handsome savings to eject themselves out with a financial parachute until they pulled their own safety cords and announced to the public that they drove the bus over the cliff,” Trainer said.

Karen Corbin, chief operating officer for the Philly POPS said in a release Tuesday, “We are actively addressing the concerns expressed by the Local’s leadership weighed against the backdrop of the significant economic challenges the POPS has experienced during the pandemic and its aftermath,”

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When asked if operations could continue past the current season set to end in July 2023, Corbin told WHYY, “we’re always hopeful that we can find a better outcome. I can’t say today that there is one, but we remain hopeful and share with the union and their comments tonight as a  commitment to trying to find a path forward, if there is one to be had,” she said.

Cellist Brooke Beazley discussed the health complications she’s dealt with during her time with the Philly POPS at a press conference on Dec. 13, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The company and union leaders are scheduled to meet Wednesday.

In 2018, Philly POPS and Local 77 agreed to a five-year union contract.

POPS has been operating since 1979. The orchestra is scheduled to perform at Verizon Hall on Wednesday at 8 p.m., as part of their Christmas shows running until Dec. 17. The last shows scheduled for the orchestra take place from June 23 to June 25.

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