Apollo musicians make gains

Volume 117, No. 5May, 2017

Musicians who play at Amateur Night at the Apollo recently won wage increases and more in their contract. The band includes Michael O. Mitchell (keyboards and music director); Matt Oestreicher (guitar and keyboards); Reggie Young (bass) and Nathaniel Townsley (drums).

The Apollo Theater Foundation and Local 802 recently reached a successor collective bargaining agreement for the Apollo Theater Amateur Night Band. The three-year contract, which covers four musicians who perform weekly on Amateur Night at the Apollo, has been in place since January 2001. The Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night shows have been running almost continuously since 1934, and the theater has been widely acknowledged as one of the most significant venues in the history of African American culture. Just some of the performers whose earliest public appearances included stints at the Apollo are Ella Fitzgerald (who made her singing debut there at the age of 17 in 1934), Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ruth Brown, Otis Redding, Dionne Warwick, Joe Tex, James Brown and many others.

The new CBA, which became effective on Jan. 23, provides for wage increases of eight percent over three years. The band also saw wage increases of over 21 percent over the life of the agreement for B-roll and web site capture and usage of clips by the Apollo. Music prep payments increased by 11 percent over the life of the agreement.

Per performance health benefits contributions will now be made for core band members who do not meet the 15-show eligibility threshold. Additionally, the core band members who meet that work requirement will receive comprehensive health benefits contributions, so that by 2019 the Apollo will cover the full cost of Plan A for the entire unit, inclusive of participant premiums.

Pension remained steady at 12 percent for the life of the agreement.

The negotiations, which began in October 2016, resulted in a two percent increase in additional compensation for late payments made to musicians by the employer. The successor CBA also includes more generous language around wardrobe cleaning.

Amateur Night Band Music Director Michael O. Mitchell, who has been with the show since 2015, praised the new agreement: “I’m grateful to Organizing Director Maggie Russell-Brown, lead negotiator Andy Schwartz, Business Rep Todd Weeks, counsel Harvey Mars and the entire staff of the local for negotiating a little more peace of mind with our new contract.”

The Amateur Night Band musicians are Michael O. Mitchell (keyboards and music director), Matt Oestreicher (guitar and keyboards), Reggie Young (bass) and Nathaniel Townsley (drums).