Recently, the musicians of the world-renowned Chicago Symphony went out on strike. As music is rarely a front-page issue, I had not heard about this until reading of it today at the site linked here.
Evidently, local press in Chicago printed many comments critical of the musicians' union. As a former and to-be member of the American Federation of Musicians I can attest to the fact that the musicians' union helps to provide a minimum level of support for musicians.
And as the author says here, it is all about power. Anyone who has been employed, especially in a large corporation knows what it means to be in the loop or out of the loop regarding such issues as how the corporation's money is spent, for example. A union, then, restores some sense of balance in the relationship, helps assure a minimum salary, and supports contributions to pension plans.
Working in a major symphony orchestra is very rewarding, but it is very much a job. Musicians at this level must practice at home, usually balancing this with teaching, and family duties. Like anyone else who has a degree, younger musicians must re-pay loans. If you think "sawing away" at a string instrument for several hours a day isn't work, I don't know what is. And to be able to keep feeling the music no matter what is going on in one's personal life is an absolute triumph!
As a fellow musician, I can speak for the physical wear and tear on the part of the musician. And I can speak for the other stresses musicians endure. Yes, the rewards of music are wonderful, but high-level musicians deserve fair pay just like any major professional sports athlete.
Debating a Symphony Strike