The first few months of our new administration have been both exciting and challenging. Although many of my new duties as vice president are a continuation of the same responsibilities I had as a business rep – albeit enhanced – my new position carries the added obligation of ensuring that your hard-earned dollars are utilized in a restrained, responsible and equitable manner.
As previously reported, our first order of business was to balance the budget for 2019. This was a daunting task, as the $600,000 deficit of 2018 forced us to make some painful decisions and cuts. With the invaluable help of our controller, Cathy Camiolo, and the business acumen of our new assistant executive director, Jonathan Kantor, I’m pleased to report that Local 802 has a balanced budget, delivered two months ahead of previous years. This was achieved by leaving some vacant positions open and eliminating some job titles. We have also been taking a hard look at how our organization functions and have been making incremental yet important changes that will result in a more efficient and professional organization.
This year’s first meeting of the Classical Musicians’ Forum was held on Jan. 30. The two major topics of discussion were the status of the freelance orchestra negotiations and various issues of concern regarding the Westchester Philharmonic. The classical single engagement contract expired on Sept. 11, 2018, and as of this writing, only the American Composers Orchestra and American Symphony Orchestra have settled new three-year contracts.
(The terms of the ASO agreement, which was ratified on Jan. 23, include 3 percent increases in all compensation categories in each of the three years of the contract, which has an expiration date of Sept. 10, 2021. There is a small bump in health contributions each year and some new language that clarifies overscale and premiums.)
Our progress towards achieving the new rates is slow but steady, and there are some potentially interesting developments on the horizon that will be announced when they come to fruition.
I reported that there is relatively good news on the health insurance front, in that very few freelance orchestra musicians have fallen off of Plan A in the last three years. This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that if you are a rostered member of any Local 802 orchestra, you may be able to avail yourself of money from the health benefits shortfall fund of that orchestra to keep yourself on either Plan A or Plan B. (However, the fund cannot be used to move from Plan A to A+.) The details vary slightly for each orchestra, but please refer to your CBA or call the Concert Department to find out if you are eligible.
Traditionally, the Forum was only open to members of our orchestra committees. I decided to try something a bit different this time, and opened it up to anyone from the orchestral community. As we have suspended 802 Notes for the time being while we reassess our communication strategy, we advertised on Facebook and through word of mouth. I’m happy to report that out of 25 people attending, there were at least eight musicians who were new and among the under 40-demographic. This was heartening, as the challenge of attracting younger musicians into our community has been an issue and topic of discussion for at least the past decade. I am hoping that this is a harbinger of more participation by the next generation, whose engagement is so crucial to our survival.
In our discussion, it became clear that there was a need to set some tangible goals for the group. Our next step will be to put together a survey for the classical freelance community to determine how people feel about a variety of issues. We touched on some of those issues at the meeting, but this subject demands a wider discussion. Over the next few weeks, I will be working with a smaller group to put that survey together, and will present it to the Forum at our next meeting. It is very important to me that we have that discussion before I send out the survey, and I invite all of you to attend.
The next meeting of the Classical Musician’s Forum will be on April 24 at 5 p.m. in the Local 802 club room, where we will discuss the contents of the survey.
I’m pleased to report that at long last Local 802 is replacing the ubiquitous plastic water bottles with a filtered water system that will be available on floors 2 through 5 of our building. Eliminating the plastic will provide cleaner water for our employees and members and a healthier environment for all of us. Special thanks to member Tom Monkell, who represents a group of members expressing concern for the environment, and to Andy Schwartz for doing the research and legwork to get this initiative off the ground.
Finally, in the spirit of solidarity and expanding my own horizons, I attended a meeting of indie musicians in an effort to get to know their specific issues and concerns. Our administration is keenly aware that the indie community has felt disenfranchised and discouraged from participating in Local 802 in the past, but we are committed to changing that dynamic, and desire to provide help and encouragement where possible. It is yet to be determined what that will look like, but watch for more updates from that community.
Karen Fisher is the financial vice president of Local 802 and the supervisor of the union’s concert department.