A Letter to Musicians and the Broadway Community from Local 802

Dear Musicians and Members of the Broadway Community,

Thank you for your outreach about the recent situation with Charlie Rosen at Be More Chill. We received your emails and calls and are grateful that there is such a vocal community of people committed to fighting for the fair treatment of musicians in this city and on Broadway. We share Charlie’s frustration that the situation developed as it did and have been working diligently with Charlie, the Producers, and the Broadway League to resolve the issue and protect all musicians who play under the Broadway Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

On Tuesday, February 12, the producers of Be More Chill removed Charlie from his position of second guitarist on the show – a position that did not exist before the show transferred to Broadway. Yesterday, the producers reversed their decision and reinstated Charlie. We have informed the producers that the Union will institute a grievance procedure because in our view the CBA prohibits Orchestrators from playing as instrumentalists in Broadway productions. Under the grievance process, an arbitrator will decide whether the producers have violated the CBA in this instance.

In the spirit of resolving the issues presented and ensuring that the protections of the Broadway CBA are widely understood among our membership, we should clarify a few important pieces of information.

  • The Union and its President do not have the power to hire or fire. That power is held by the producers with the expectation that they comply with the CBA. One responsibility of the union is to protect all musicians by ensuring that producers are abiding by the terms they are bound to in the CBA and not picking-and-choosing what provisions to abide by.
  • This situation played out as it did because the producers and contractor of Be More Chill intentionally chose to withhold information from the union for four months before finally submitting the hiring forms the week that rehearsals started. The contractor first notified the producers of the CBA violation in October 2018. The union only found out about the CBA violation when the contractor finally submitted written hiring slips to 802 on February 6, 2019. Once the union received the forms, we immediately contacted the Broadway League about the issue. The League notified the producers and advised them to come into compliance with the agreement. The producers then acted to comply with the agreement and notified Charlie that being an orchestrator and instrumentalist on the same production is in violation of the agreement.
  • The CBA says that an Orchestrator of a given production cannot serve as Instrumentalist on that production. The only exception in the language of the CBA is made for a Conductor who orchestrated an Off Broadway show and will be transferring to Conduct and orchestrate the show on Broadway “provided any orchestration work required in connection with the Broadway presentation must be performed by another orchestrator.” This aspect of the contract has been an important piece in ensuring jobs for hundreds of orchestrators on Broadway over the past six decades. In practice, the provision stating that an Orchestrator of a given production cannot serve as Instrumentalist on that production guarantees the hiring of two musicians, not just one.
  • The Bylaws of 802 specifically prohibit the granting of waivers of any provision of any CBA. Officers and Executive Board members took an oath to uphold all of our Bylaws.

Both the Broadway CBA provision and referenced 802 Bylaw can be found here. 

One of the benefits of our union is that if we feel the language in our contract needs to be examined and updated, we have a mechanism to address it through collective bargaining. As a union, big changes in our contract can only be driven by the membership, not be left to one person deciding unilaterally what is right or wrong. We are about to enter contract negotiations on February 27th, and this is the perfect time to get involved in making the contract what we want it to be.

The silver lining of this situation is that you, the musicians of Broadway, have demonstrated the strength of our community. You have shown that when a single musician in our community is in trouble, Broadway musicians are ready and willing to take action to make things right. Going into Broadway contract negotiations, this unity and commitment to each other is exactly what we’ll need to support our negotiating committee at the bargaining table.