On March 17 BaRock Orchestra, a club date agency in the Jewish field, became the latest office to sign a contract with Local 802. Unlike many employers who fight efforts to unionize, orchestra owner Ari Green voluntarily decided to join with the union because he felt it was the right thing to do.
The successful Starlight Campaign (see November Allegro) brought Local 802’s New Organizing Department into contact with many musicians in the club date field. Among them was alto sax player Mike Cohen, who played a key role in putting the union in touch with Mr. Green.
Cohen reluctantly turned down engagements from Green because he was receiving no health or pension contributions from them. He told Allegro, “Ari is one of the few guys who care as much about the musicians as the client. When he approached me with some dates, I explained how the union health plan has helped me and why I couldn’t hold his dates unless he paid in.” Largely as a result of Cohen’s efforts, BaRock Orchestra agreed to sign the Jewish Club Date Agreement.
To learn about the costs of doing business under a union contract, Green met several times with New Organizing Department staff over the course of several months. They explained the details of the agreement, including how the pension and health funds work. Because BaRock Orchestra already pays musicians scale wages, the only new costs will be pension and health, which average about $30 per musician. “I realized that this was a relatively affordable way to ensure that the musicians who work for me get health insurance and a pension,” Green told Allegro. “I know this is the right thing to do.”
BaRock Orchestras is a relatively new office, performing about 70 jobs per year. On April 4, the union’s Executive Board offered a special “organizing discount” to all musicians who work with Barock who join the union within 30 days.
President Bill Moriarity said, “I applaud BaRock Orchestra for taking a leap of faith and voluntarily signing a union contract. Their decision proves what we all know: even relatively small offices can afford to make pension and health payments on behalf of their hard working musicians.”