802 Enlists Contractors In A Campaign To End Nonunion Recording Dates

Volume C, No. 12December, 2000

Mikael Elsila

Under a banner that read, “Shine a light on dark dates! Justice for all recording musicians!” more than 25 of the busiest and most influential contractors of phono recording and film dates met with union staff in late October to discuss the problem of dark dates. The meeting unveiled the Local 802’s new recording campaign, and sought input from contractors on how best to tackle the problem.

In attendance were President Bill Moriarity, Recording Supervisor Jay Schaffner, Director of New Organizing Tim Dubnau, AFM President Steve Young, AFM General Counsel George Cohen and Associate Counsel Anne Mayerson, officials from the Recording Musicians Association, including Steve Gibson from Nashville, representing the International RMA, and members of the New York RMA Executive Board.

As reported last month, the campaign’s goal is to reduce the number of “dark” recording and film dates by focusing on high-impact dates, dates with many musicians, sessions for major signatories or their subsidiaries, and dates for best-selling artists. Dark dates reduce all musicians’ special payments, and do not contribute health or pension benefits. They weaken musicians’ leverage at the negotiating table and ultimately undermine the union itself.

President Moriarity asked the contractors to notify the union whenever they are approached to contract nonunion dates. “Our message is, tell us about your dates. The union will protect your anonymity and will try to bring the date under union contract.”

The campaign’s strategy is for film and recording contractors and musicians to accept all the dates they normally would, but then to report them to a union rep or, anonymously, to the Local 802 hotline (ext. 260). This will allow the organizing and recording departments to evaluate the best way to respond.

The union will hold similar meetings on Dec. 11 and 14 for the local’s busiest recording musicians. Organizers and reps are calling members to invite them to attend, and to sound them out on the problem of dark dates.

All musicians who perform work in the recording field are being requested to attend one of the meetings – on Monday, Dec. 11, from 1 until 4 p.m., or on Thursday, Dec. 14, from 5 until 7:30 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the 802 Club Room.

The union is also developing brochures and handouts highlighting the plague of dark dates and how they eat into special payments and deprive musicians of health and pension benefits.

“This is not only aimed at shining a light on dark dates,” said Recording Supervisor Schaffner. “It is also about educating members – many of whom don’t know that their special payments and other benefits are being threatened by a host of labels who don’t pay into the funds. These labels are dragging us all down, in the field and at the bargaining table.”

Tying together the education and organizing components is field work, the front line of the campaign. Union reps and organizers are stepping up their normal rounds of area recording studios. The rounds allow reps to meet musicians and to discover where and when dates are taking place. Regular rounds also allow the union to discover dark dates, and turn them into union ones.

“Random studio rounds are the best way we have to protect musicians,” said David Sheldon, senior recording representative, who is scheduling the rounds. “Union representatives belong where musicians work – even if the issues that come up that day have nothing to do with that day’s session.”

All recording musicians and contractors are asked to report all of their recording and film dates to Local 802. Call the union at (212) 245-4802 and speak to Jay Schaffner (ext. 161), David Sheldon (ext. 194). Or call the Local 802 hotline anonymously, at ext. 260.