AFM Negotiates Signing Bonus For New Children’s Program

"Between the Lions"

Volume C, No. 5May, 2000

Professional athletes get them. Auto workers and electrical workers get them. And, for the first time, the AFM has negotiated a signing bonus for musicians.

The musicians are five 802 members who play in the band for Between the Lions, an innovative new children’s show that has been drawing rave reviews since it debuted on April 3. Music is an important part of the show’s format; it uses songs, stories, skits and guest celebrities to make learning to read an entertaining adventure for children between the ages of four and seven. The show is a co-production of WGBH, the Boston public television station, and Sirius Thinking, a children’s educational entertainment company based in New York City.

Between the Lions will be covered by a side letter to the AFM’s public television agreement. It provides each of the band members – Paul Jacobs, Russ Traut, Joe Franco, Schuyler Deale and Danny Wilensky – with a $3,000 signing bonus immediately and another $3,000 payment on May 1, 2002, regardless of whether the show is still being aired.

The agreement guarantees the production of 30 shows in the first year, 25 in the second and 18 shows in the third, with three and one-quarter hours of rehearsal time required for each show.

The parties started out far apart, with the producers demanding lower scales and fewer rehearsal hours. The union refused to accept such changes to the PBS agreement, but it agreed to a concession that involves the number of broadcast periods allowed for each show. The side-letter allows seven such periods (rather than the four specified in the PBS agreement) in the first year of production, on a one-time, non-precedential basis. However, when a show produced in one season is broadcast in a subsequent season, a 100 percent payment will be due for its reuse for each four-broadcast period.

“This is a new program and it has to compete in the marketplace against shows that have been building audiences for decades, like Sesame Street, as well as against some of the new public TV shows, like Barney, that are being done non-union,” said Jay Schaffner, Assistant Supervisor of Local 802’s Recording Department. “We recognize that non-union work has eroded what was formerly union territory. So we came up with a novel idea, in the form of a signing bonus, to narrow the distance between the parties on total compensation for the musicians.”

Schaffner points out that earnings under this agreement are only part of the income the band members will likely receive for their work on Between the Lions. “The musicians will probably do a phonograph album this year, and there will also be the release of videocassettes.”

The AFM negotiating committee was led by Patrick Havey, Presidential Assistant and contract administrator of the videotape agreement, assisted by Patrick Varriale, contract administrator for the phono agreement. Local 802 was represented by Schaffner and Senior Business Rep Pedro Rodriguez. All five band members participated throughout. There were a number of near-impasses along the way, and Local 802 President Bill Moriarity took part in the final day of negotiations, helping to bring the bargaining to a successful conclusion.

On the other side of the table were WGBH Director of Labor Relations Barbara Ceccheni, Christopher Cerf of Sirius Thinking (co-producer of the show with WGBH), and lead negotiator Jerry Kauff , senior partner in the New York law firm of Kauff, McClain and McGuire.