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Striking Chicago Symphony Orchestra Musicians And Management Accept Mayor's Offer To Assist In Contract Talks

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians and management have accepted Mayor Rahm Emanuel's offer to help them try to negotiate a deal to end a nearly seven-week strike.

The Chicago Federation of Musicians on Wednesday called on the orchestra's management to return to the bargaining table. Later in the day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered to assist.

"For more than 125 years, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been a crown jewel within Chicago's rich cultural landscape. None of us want to see that jewel tarnished. After speaking with both parties, it appears that we should be able to achieve an end to this seven-week strike," the mayor said in a statement Wednesday evening.

With CSO music director Riccardo Muti scheduled to return to the podium next month, the striking musicians said they are eager to begin performing at Symphony Center again.

"We want to avoid jeopardizing any more concerts and disappointing the CSO's patrons and fans," Chicago Federation of Musicians spokesman Brian Berg said in a statement. "Hopefully Mayor Emanuel will bring the CSO Management back to the negotiating table and help us achieve a satisfactory resolution for everyone involved – most especially the people who fill the seats at Symphony Center."

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association announced Thursday morning that it also had accepted the mayor's offer to help with negotiations.

"The Association appreciates Mayor Emanuel's offer, and we look forward to working with him and the Chicago Federation of Musicians toward a mutually acceptable contract for the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra," spokeswoman Eileen Chambers stated in an email.

The musicians have been on strike since March 10, and the CSO has cancelled several scheduled concerts over the past seven weeks. The musicians, however, have held several free performances around the city.

Management has sought to switch from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan.

The musicians have said management's latest contract offer would leave their salaries behind other major orchestras in Los Angeles and San Francisco and would deny most musicians any guaranteed increases in pension benefits.

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