As our administration took office on Jan. 2, we knew there would be a certain amount of disarray at 802, given the way it has been managed in the past nine years. The prior administration left us with a budget deficit of over $600,000 for calendar year 2018 alone. Legal bills in 2018 topped $600,000, and PR cost us over $200,000.
In late 2018, in order to pay for these legal fees, Local 802 was forced to liquidate part of its investment portfolio. This was done at a time when the markets were depressed, and resulted in permanent capital losses on its balance sheet. The damage will be lasting, and will impair our ability to do many of the things we want to do. Many unfunded programs, like the Emerging Artists initiative, have been put on hold, simply because we cannot afford to pay for them. We will continue to reduce all unnecessary expenses, and have already brought the Executive Board a balanced budget for the upcoming year. We are well aware that we are stewards of members’ money, and that it must never be wasted. We are ever mindful that we were elected as a grassroots insurgency with a mandate for change. We are questioning everything, whether it’s wasteful expenses or a collective bargaining agreement that no longer reflects reality. We are committed to doing things in a better, smarter and more efficient way, and will not be guided by outdated practices that do not serve musicians’ interests.
I am happy to report that morale and engagement among musicians is high. This is important, because our power as a union comes directly from you, the members, being engaged. Since taking office on Jan. 2, Director of Organizing Joy Winkler, members of the Negotiating Committee and I have visited every single Broadway pit in order to further our internal organizing effort. There’s a new spirit in the membership, a spirit of anticipation and hope. Musicians are more enthusiastic and engaged than I’ve ever seen them. That is essential as we head into negotiations with the Broadway League for a new CBA.
In order to streamline, modernize and professionalize the way 802 is managed day to day, I have taken on the additional title of executive director. I have also named Jonathan Kantor as managing director and senior advisor. Jon brings to 802 decades of experience in business and law. He had a notable career with CNA Financial Corporation, which is the eighth largest commercial insurer in the United States. At CNA, Jon served as general counsel and was responsible for overseeing all of CNA’s legal and governmental affairs. In addition, he was a member of CNA’s executive leadership team responsible for strategy, results and oversight for all business units of the company. Most important, Jon is also a cellist and is deeply concerned for the welfare of 802 musicians.
I want to thank our outgoing Health Fund trustees Tino Gagliardi, Tom Olcott, Andy Schwartz, Martha Hyde and Sara Cutler for their years of service. Health care is a hard issue for unions, and the challenges we face are not unique to our union. As you know, one of my highest priorities will be to take a fresh look at the Health Plan and to ask some tough questions about its finances and the way its benefits are designed. The new Health Fund trustees representing Local 802 will be Caryl Paisner, Catherine Camiolo, Morris Kainuma, Jonathan Kantor and myself.
Many of you are aware that following more than two years of attempts to negotiate a new Lab Agreement with the Broadway League, Actors’ Equity has authorized a strike for all show development. Simply put, Actors’ Equity has been struggling to secure fair and just compensation for its members. Broadway is booming. Grosses and attendance are at all-time highs. This is made possible by the creative and performing artists who do the hard work of developing and performing in these productions. The work done in developmental labs is essential to the success of any Broadway production. This has been recognized by several producers such as Disney, Lorne Michaels and the producers of “Hamilton,” who have decided to share profits with actors who play a role in the development of productions. It is time the Broadway League get in line with these producers and do the right thing.
Finally, I want to personally welcome the new music director of the Metropolitan Opera, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, to New York and Local 802. Maestro Nezet-Seguin took the rare step of bringing the entire orchestra on stage for curtain calls following his first performance as just the third music director in the Metropolitan Opera’s 135-year-history. That kind of leadership, support and acknowledgement of what musicians contribute to culture and society day in and day out will lead to a brighter future for the arts.