As 2004 comes to a close, it is important to look back on the initiatives we set out to accomplish and prepare for the road ahead.
At the beginning of the year we pledged:
- TO INCREASE OUR COMMITMENT TO ORGANIZING,
- TO LAUNCH AN AGGRESSIVE AND ONGOING PUBLIC RELATIONS EFFORT TO KEEP MUSIC LIVE,
- TO STRENGTHEN OUR SOLIDARITY WITH OTHER UNIONS,
- TO INCREASE OUR ROLE IN THE POLITICAL LIFE OF OUR CITY, STATE AND COUNTRY, AND
- TO TAKE A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN BRINGING ARTS AND LABOR EDUCATION TO OUR CITY’S SCHOOLS AND CONSERVATORIES.
- 802’s Organizing Department has been brought under the direct oversight of the President’s Office.
- Local 802 continues to maintain an aggressive organizing department that works with musicians to bring engagements under the protection of a collective bargaining agreement whenever possible, from chamber and orchestral musicians to rock musicians on tour.
- Our ongoing efforts to achieve fair compensation and working conditions for teaching artists have resulted in new victories and contracts that have increased the number of teaching artists protected under collective bargaining agreements to over 300 and counting.
- In addition, we successfully staved off a decertification drive at the Early Ear, one of our premier contracts in this field.
- Our ongoing efforts Off Broadway have culminated in new area standards for all commercial Off Broadway productions.
- A newly formed rank and file organizing committee has begun a campaign to increase the union’s presence in the club date field.
- 802’s campaign to “Shine a Light on Dark Dates” supported the AFM’s efforts that recently culminated in Zomba Recording LLC becoming signatory to the AFM Sound Recording Labor Agreement.
- 802 is currently working with Knitting Factory/Instinct recording artists who are seeking fair treatment from their label.
- As part of our work on the AFM Futures Committee, Local 802 is co-chairing a committee on organizing in the recording field. The committee, comprised of officers and staff of the major locals where recording work primarily occurs, will be working with the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Division to strategize a multi-union national organizing campaign.
- 802’s Organizing Department and the Local 802 Executive Board have been engaged in a process of review of the daily operation, deployment of staff and resources, and organizing challenges facing each Local 802 department representing a major field in our industry, in preparation for the union’s upcoming strategic analysis.
KEEPING THE MUSIC LIVE!
- Local 802 went on the offensive to protect the artistic integrity of live musical performance against the ongoing attempts to eliminate live music with the virtual orchestra machine.
- Our fervent resolve to fight the replacement, displacement and elimination of live musicians with the virtual orchestra machine has set a nationwide precedent in the achievement of numerous agreements banning the machine.
- This precedent not only impacts theatre musicians, but opera and ballet musicians as well.
- The federal National Labor Relations Board upheld the ban and ruled such bans to be legal and binding, thus opening the door for similar agreements to be made throughout the United States.
- Local 802 sponsored several high profile live music events, such as the Times Square Summer Solstice Celebration, the Washington Square Music Festival and the ongoing “Piano in the Park” series at Bryant Park.
- 802’s ongoing promotion of live music has also included radio and print ads that advocate for live music.
- We launched a new Web site, “SaveLiveMusic.com,” to increase public awareness of the ongoing threats to live music and how they can support our efforts to keep the music live! The site also provides live music links and resources and a live music referral service.
- The solidarity demonstrated by the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds for us during the Broadway musicians’ strike set the stage for how business needs to be done in an increasing anti-union environment. The coalition remains strong. 802, along with all COBUG affiliate unions, stood behind Actors’ Equity in their contract negotiations this year, ready and willing to do whatever necessary to help our Equity brothers and sisters achieve a fair contract. COBUG continues to meet regularly and is committed to strengthening our ties with one another.
- Local 802 members turned out in record numbers for this year’s Labor Day rally as we all braced for the fight for the White House. Regardless of the election outcome, member involvement will continue to be critical as we advance our fight for workers’ rights.
- Local 802, working with the Central Labor Council, has created a new program to offer free music for unions that are currently on strike.
THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
- Through our endorsement of the Hudson Yards Plan, and chairing the Hudson Yards Affordable Housing Committee, Local 802 is providing an official and formal capacity for the city’s labor movement to advocate for increased affordable housing opportunities on the Far West Side. The committee has brought together the largest collective of labor unions to advocate on this issue. The committee is working directly with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the mayor’s office to advance a collective and unified recommendation for increased affordable housing opportunities as the plan goes before the City Council for review and approval in late December.
- Local 802’s Hudson Yards endorsement also enabled us to directly intervene at the highest levels of city government on behalf of the tenant’s of Manhattan Plaza in their efforts to secure their affordable rent structure in negotiations with a new landlord.
- A coalition of entertainment unions — including Local 802 — recently succeeded in getting a new COBRA subsidy bill passed and signed into law. The law will help entertainers who fall off their health insurance plans, to keep their health insurance through state assistance for up to one year.
- While the 2004 national election remains the subject of much debate, one undeniably positive outcome of this year’s election was the record voter turn out. And the record turn out of union members. 802 members volunteered for our phone banks in droves. Regardless of the outcome of any particular election, we are only losers to the extent that we are apathetic. Involvement, and participation will always be the driving force behind meaningful change. And our members’ involvement was truly inspirational!
- Local 802 and the New York Jets will be partnering to create and develop an arts education program in the New York City public schools. We have begun to work with the Department of Education on a pilot program that will incorporate 802 members into a mentorship program with NYC music students.
- Initiatives to engage and educate the next generation of professional musicians have included ongoing outreach to NYC conservatories. This summer, Local 802 hosted a day of education and training for Juilliard students; 802 has brought the union directly to students through guest seminars at Juilliard; the power of musicians’ concerted action was the centerpiece of an article featuring Local 802 in the November issue of the Juilliard Journal; plans to expand our outreach to other colleges and conservatories throughout the city are well under way, including a labor education seminar at the Manhattan School of Music in the spring of 2005.
- 802 legal counsel Len Leibowitz and Peg Leibowitz, professor of labor relations, have been engaged in ongoing education and training of 802 staff and rank-and-file committees.
THE ROAD AHEAD
As you can see, it has been an exciting and busy year at Local 802. Our work, however, has only just begun. As this issue goes to press, 802 has initiated meetings with the Industrial Labor Relations department at Cornell for the purpose of engaging an outside skilled facilitator to help guide us as we build a concrete consensus on the future direction and vision of the union.
Ultimately the process must involve not only the elected officers and staff, but rank and file representatives from every area we represent: theatre; symphony; opera and ballet (Lincoln Center and freelance); club date; jazz and latin; teaching artists; musicians who work in the recording field, members working in the music prep community and finally, other various musicians in New York City who perform in areas not traditionally represented by the union.
The first step in creating a vision for the union as we move forward is to engage in a vigorous strategic planning analysis that encompasses both the external and internal challenges facing 802. The process has begun. Stay tuned and hold on for the ride!