‘Are You Ready for Us?’

Organizing Matters

Volume 111, No. 5May, 2011

Michael Donovan

Employers who scoff at the rights of musicians may find they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. The union is here to fight! 
Photo: Walter Karling

We enjoy paying our musicians well above what unions tell musicians they are to be paid. We enjoy treating them right! Wisconsin agrees!”

That was a recent text message sent by Chaim Rosenblatt, owner of the EvanAl Orchestra, to Local 802 Representative Peter Voccola.

As we demonstrate and protest against EvanAl Orchestra and Chaim Rosenblatt Productions in order to get the Jewish club date field in order, it is interesting to note Rosenblatt’s choice of words.

While claiming to be paying above scale to his musicians, a claim that we know is a lie, Rosenblatt cited the recent upheaval in Wisconsin in order to press home a point that should not be lost on Local 802 members.

For informed union people, this particular method of attack from an employer who exploits his workers in order to undercut scales is both insulting and ridiculous at the same time.

Rosenblatt has, at least twice, used Wisconsin as an indicator of “good things” to come. (I’m sure he means for himself and not for his musicians.)

Rosenblatt does pay some of his musicians above the scales set by Local 802. We believe he does this because Local 802 is very much on his tail these days and he wishes to show himself in a good light to those to whom he has contracted.

He also wants to paint the union as an organization that does not represent musicians but represents the Jewish club date offices who hire Local 802 musicians and who do the right thing and pay into the health and pension funds.

The truth is that the members themselves are calling us and asking us to please do something about Rosenblatt. By undercutting scales and not paying pension and health benefits, Rosenblatt’s ability to undercut bids from legitimate offices that hire union musicians is greatly increased.

As Rosenblatt’s orchestras are not signatories to the Jewish Single Engagement Agreement, he is not required to pay all his musicians at the union scales. Those jobs he wins are lost to offices who hire only union employees. Yet he continues the lie that we are representing employers and not our own members.

Let’s also point out something else to Rosenblatt as long as he’s on the end of this fork.

Rosenblatt may pay some players “scale” or even more – that’s fine with us. But we feel that Rosenblatt’s intention is to destroy the union in the Jewish club date field. Let’s say that Local 802 was forced to withdraw completely from this field. If that happened, does anyone think for one moment that Rosenblatt would continue to pay an amount greater than “union scale” if this scale didn’t exist anymore? And then, guess what would happen next? Another unscrupulous employer out there might then undercut Rosenblatt. More and more undercutting would lead to a race to the bottom. The union exists to prevent this scenario. We provide a minimum scale, a line in the sand that may not be crossed. That is why the grassroots musicians in this field are fundamentally on the union’s side – not Rosenblatt’s.

Now let’s turn to Wisconsin. Why does Rosenblatt mention Wisconsin? It appears that Rosenblatt has aligned himself with the anti-union elements of the Republican Party of that state. He feels that the decimation of police, fire, teacher, sanitation and every other public sector union is equivalent to the destruction of the musicians’ union. Does Rosenblatt really feel this way? It appears so. It was not a big leap for Rosenblatt to associate himself with the destruction of the labor movement.

I am sure right now he is reveling in the “victory” of the Wisconsin governor over police officers, fire fighters, and teachers whose pensions and health benefits are seen as examples of unions stealing money from the pockets of Wisconsin taxpayers. I feel that Rosenblatt holds you – the Local 802 musician – in contempt because you want a pension. He holds you in contempt because you want health care. He holds you in contempt because you want all musicians who have struggled to learn their craft to have a decent life. Isn’t it a shame that music has fallen into the hands of someone who – in my opinion – has such contempt for the art of music? What kind of person is Chaim Rosenblatt? I think he’s a young businessman who exploits his employees and, because of that, undercuts his competition. He is apparently not a musician and does not understand or appreciate what it means to be a musician. I feel he is the kind of person who should not be allowed around art in any of its forms.

If you want to help out your profession, if you’re sick and tired of the Chaim Rosenblatts of the world who we feel are contemptuous of your musical skills, if you want to stand up for the rights of musicians and teachers and police and fire officials, or if you just want to make a statement about the fact that you are happy unions are out there protecting the rights of workers in public and private sectors, then join us! We need your help and you need the union!

To get involved in this campaign or to learn more, contact my office. My information is in the photo box at the top of this column.

One more thing. Local 802 is considering reinstating the “Unfair List.” This is a list of employers who union members may not play for. Employers who aren’t returning our phone calls or who aren’t doing the right thing may find themselves on this list soon.

Michael Donovan is the director of organizing and supervisor of the union’s single engagement department. If you’re playing a job where you feel disrespected or know that you aren’t being paid fairly, contact Michael at (212) 245-4802, ext. 141 or You can also call the Local 802 hotline anonymously at (212) 245-4802, ext. 260 to report a job or working situation.