When striking members of SAG and AFTRA rallied in Bryant Park in June, Jason Appleton pulled together a band of Local 802 members to take part.
Their music was one of the highlights of the event – and the solidarity it represented can be an important factor in winning this battle, which has been going on since May 1.
Appleton has been working on commercials for the last four years, as a guitarist, vocalist and composer. Local 802 was the first union he joined, and he is now a member of SAG and AFTRA as well.
He is deeply involved in the strike, he told Allegro, “because I think what the advertising industry is doing is wrong. There’s an economic boom going on, but they’re trying to cut the pay of the actors, which includes singers. And then guess who’ll be next? The musicians – and not just in commercials. It’s going to be across the board.” He points out that cost-cutting pressures are already very evident in New York City’s theatre industry.
Performing with Appleton at Bryant Park were drummer Jason Pharr, bassist Cliff Schmitt and keyboard player Doug Katsaros. “They volunteered because they thought it was a good cause – and we ended up having a lot of fun,” he said. “There were a lot of people in the park who weren’t part of the rally and didn’t know anything about the issue. But as soon as they heard the music, they came over. It was a good way to publicize the strike and the issues.”
One of the most exciting parts of the rally, he said, was the sense he had of being part of a larger creative community. “All the theatre people were there, with picket signs of the shows they’re with, and I ran into people I knew from off-Broadway and other work. It was great – because the more people are involved, the more impact we’ll have.”
Appleton thinks that it’s important for musicians to be aware that they will be the next group directly affected, if the SAG/AFTRA strike doesn’t succeed in establishing a fair method of compensating the artists who work on commercials. And he encourages 802 members to help in every way possible. “Right now the actors’ unions have much more at stake – but eventually the industry is going to come to 802 and want to renegotiate our contracts. So by supporting SAG and AFTRA members now, you’re really supporting yourself.”
Local 802 representatives met with SAG leadership on May 26 to express complete and unequivocal support for the strike and to discuss concrete ways in which we can support it. See the President’s Report in the July 2000 issue of Allegro for specifics.