IN DEFENSE OF LOCAL 16
To John Glasel:
I read the reprint of your letter to the New York Times in the February Allegro and agree about the ineffectiveness of many AFM locals and the venality they display when they only seek to act as a dues collection agency, but I’m disappointed that you chose to use Local 16 as an example. As a member of that local, I can attest to the improvements that have been accomplished under the new leadership of the local.
During the past two years, Local 16 has been much more proactive in protecting the rights of the musicians who work under collective bargaining agreements in the local and has begun efforts in organizing so that musicians will be able to bargain for higher wages, pension and health contributions. Only this week, the New Jersey Symphony has agreed to settle a grievance concerning pay to substitute musicians for a recent recording (the local had raised the issue because substitutes were not told that the recording would be done at limited pressing rates when they were hired). The local has organized informational leafleting at NJPAC against low-budget, nonunion road shows in that venue. The local also went to court and succeeded in having musicians at the Colonial
Symphony declared employees rather than independent contractors, removing a barrier to organizing at that orchestra and others in the jurisdiction.
Many years ago, you were instrumental in helping Local 802 to reform itself into a more progressive institution. I hope that you will agree that the above information indicates that a similar transformation is taking place in Local 16 and that your disapproval was misdirected in this case.
To Mary Landolfi:
Thanks for your letter. I am glad to hear that Local 16 is cleaning up its act. Unfortunately, that perception didn’t seem to have percolated down to the musicians interviewed by the Times’ reporter for the article to which I was replying. Perhaps the reporter was putting his own “spin” on the situation, perhaps not.
Local 16 was the only local named in the piece, which appeared in the New Jersey section of a Sunday Times. It’s too bad you, or, better yet an officer of that local, didn’t reply to the article. However, I note that the successes you cite involve the NJ Symphony and nonunion theatrical roadshows, all of whom are sitting ducks attached (at least for a time) to identifiable pieces of real estate. There are scads of single engagements out there that are much more difficult to organize. To do that efficiently involves the kind of grassroots education to which the NJ chamber musicians cited in the article obviously were never exposed.
Please express my apologies to the progressive-minded officers of Local 16 and extend my best wishes for success in their efforts. I still stand by my indictment of the AFM for their abysmal failure to understand the realities of the music business and their chronic inability to help local officers improve the situation.