This month, Local 802 will finally begin negotiations with the League for our upcoming Broadway agreement. Over the past year, we’ve been meeting with our Theatre Committee to come up with our basic proposals and strategy. Needless to say, this is one of our union’s most important contracts, with its high visibility and huge influence on our members’ livelihoods. We hope the negotiations will go smoothly, but if past history is our guide, the Broadway talks have the potential to become a very public fight and one in which we will need all of you to take part. As things progress, I will report back.
In other musical theatre news, I’d like to express my mixed feelings about the recent event called BroadwayCon, which debuted this year here in NYC. BroadwayCon was the first-ever conference for fans of musical theatre, and by all accounts it was a smashing success. On the one hand, we support any endeavor that raises the profile of our art. On the other hand, I have to express my disapproval in the strongest terms possible that the producers of the event didn’t reach out to us. Apparently, live musicians performed at the event but they may not have been paid up to our area standards. Recorded tracks may have also been used. For an event that is trying to be a top-tier musical theatre showcase, it’s a no-brainer that Local 802 should have been consulted to make sure that musicians were paid correctly. According to BroadwayCon’s web site, the event was produced in partnership with Playbill and was also sponsored by a host of organizations that we consider to be our natural allies. Please remember to consult your union when asked to provide services for engagements such as BroadwayCon. We expect to be a part of next year’s event to ensure that musicians are used and treated fairly with the appropriate scale wages and benefits.
LONG ISLAND NEWS
We have two pieces of news to report from Long Island. The first is that Local 802 is closing its Long Island office. Long Island is part of Local 802’s jurisdiction and for many years we have rented an office and employed one or two union reps to work there. As we continue to endeavor to adapt in the ever-changing environment that is live performance, we have determined that it will be more efficient and cost-effective to have all of our reps work in our Manhattan office. As needs arise, we will send out reps to Long Island as we do in the other areas of our jurisdiction. Rest assured that we will continue to represent all of our Long Island members to the best of our ability. If you are called to play music in Long Island, please make a confidential call to our Organizing Department at (212) 245-4802 so we can make sure that you’re paid the wages and benefits you deserve.
The other piece of Long Island news is more concerning. As Allegro was about to go to press, we learned that the Long Island Philharmonic is going out of business. This fine ensemble, which was founded by folk singer Harry Chapin and conductor Christopher Keene, has provided live music and educational programs for almost 40 years. The orchestra has also been a source of income to our musicians, who were covered under a Local 802 union contract. Newsday reported that the demise of the ensemble was due to the fact that the company was unable to get a bank loan restructured. We will provide a deeper analysis in the next issue. In the meantime, we acknowledge and share the sorrow of the Long Island Philharmonic musicians. It’s a sad day for all of us.
WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
March is Women’s History Month, which has its roots in the textile industry where women historically have endured terrible working conditions. It’s the month in which we remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which was the largest industrial disaster in the history of New York City. Most of the victims were immigrant women. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the textile workers’ union (the ILGWU). This year’s commemoration, which is the 105th anniversary of the tragedy, will take place on Wednesday, March 23 at 11:30 at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, the site of the original building. For more information, see www.RememberTheTriangleFire.org.
Our cover story this issue is an interview with the versatile percussionist Valerie Naranjo. Her story of becoming one of the first women to play the xylophone called the gyil in public in Ghana is truly incredible. We also have interviews with two other inspiring women: Local 802 members Laura Dreyer and Yael (Kat) Modiano. Also, see a photo spread of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, which is playing in the show “Tappin’ Thru Life.”
March is also the month in which Cesar Chavez, the founder of the farmworkers’ union and a defender of human rights, was born. He would have been 89 on March 31. For information about activities honoring this great labor hero, and how to get involved, see www.ChavezFoundation.org or www.ufw.org.
I’d like to welcome Julie Menin to her new role as commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, which works with producers to bring more entertainment industry jobs to NYC, including music work. The agency will be focusing on TV and film work as well as digital content, advertising and musical theatre (including Broadway and Off Broadway). “Julie has shown time and time again that she is a highly effective leader who has the skills and passion to get the job done for New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press release. Local 802 is looking forward to working with Julie to promote the finest musicians in the world in the greatest city in the world.
GOOD NEWS FOR NEW YORK UNIONS
According to the latest report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York remains the most unionized state in the country, with 24.7 percent of the workforce belonging to a union. The state also enjoyed an increase in union membership of 3 percent from a year earlier.
“We are proud to add nearly 60,000 new members to the labor movement, providing even more dedicated working people with good, solid, middle class jobs and an opportunity for a better life,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, in a press release. “The labor movement has a long and proud history in New York state, and that strength continues today. I’m pleased the latest numbers indicate our movement is growing.”
The total union membership in the state is 2 million. For 19 of the past 22 years, New York has had the highest rate of union membership in the nation.
The bureau also reported that the national union membership rate across the entire country was 11.1 percent in 2015. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million in 2015, was little different from 2014. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
The data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s population age 16 and over. The bureau’s report is available at www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/union2.pdf
UNION NEWS AND UPDATES
We’re about to open negotiations with Radio City Music Hall. We are still in the preliminary stages of talks and we have yet to schedule meeting dates with management. In order to address all facets of the agreement, I have also met with the split chair holders and with members of the bargaining team. It is important to hear from all the musicians that work under the RCMH agreement and we greatly appreciate their input.
We recently achieved a renewal agreement with the Big Apple Circus, new contracts for reading productions of shows called “A View Upstairs” and “Howard,” and a contract with the Manhattan Theatre Club for the Friedman Theatre.
The Executive Board has voted to appoint Bruce Eidem and Eugene Moye to the Trial Board. Welcome, Bruce and Gene.
I’m still assisting the AFM with the Sound Labor Recording Agreement negotiations and we will be meeting with management in the coming weeks. The AFM has also settled on a successor agreement for National Public Television. I will report back to you on details once the agreement is ratified.
CONGRATS TO GRAMMY WINNERS
Congratulations to Local 802 members Eliane Elias, Tim Kubart, Christian McBride, Arturo O’Farrill, Maria Schneider and John Scofield, all of whom won Grammy awards this year. Also, congratulations to the musicians of the Broadway show “Hamilton,” which won best musical theatre album.
Are you interested in playing softball? The Local 802 teams need you! Games take place in Central Park every Monday afternoon. Play is modified fast pitch, and the season runs April through August. If you are interested – or know anyone who might be – please contact Clint Sharman at (917) 440-5566 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Louis B. Crocco at (917) 319-2304 or email@example.com.
In last month’s article called “Black and White Together,” we reported that AFM Local 47 (Los Angeles) didn’t combine its black and white locals until 1966. Actually, Local 47 amalgamated the two locals in 1953 and was the first AFM local to do so. We’ve already made this correction in the online version of the article.