Club Date Campaign Advances; Cal James Agrees to Pay Benefits

802 Preparing for Contract Negotiations

Volume CI, No. 2February, 2001

Joe Eisman

On Dec. 29 James Campagnola, the owner of Cal James Entertainment, signed with 802, agreeing to provide pension and health benefits for musicians who play for the agency. This is the latest achievement in the union’s ongoing campaign to win benefits for musicians in the club date field, which includes weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, corporate and charity events and private parties.

The agreement calls for health payments of $21 and pension payments of 7.5 percent per engagement, as well as other union benefits like cartage, mileage, parking and travel reimbursements. After a relatively low-level campaign lasting several months Mr. Campagnola agreed to sign with 802, in order to remain in good standing with the union.

While Cal James is a relatively small club date employer, generally operating with one major band, 802 views the campaign as an important victory because the agency hires talented and well-known musicians for high-end gigs.

“The timing of this agreement is also important,” said Jim Hannen, Supervisor of Contract Administration. “In the next few months we will begin negotiations for a new club date contract, and we really need to raise the scale. With more and more agencies paying pension and health, the playing field among employers is being leveled, and there is less downward pressure on wages and benefits for all musicians.”

The current club date contract expires on April 14. Traditionally, during negotiations some employers point to agencies that do not pay benefits and argue that only modest increases in scale are possible because the union employers have to compete with these agencies.

“The union agencies will not be able to make that argument this time around, because from Starlight to New York City Swing to Manhattan Swing and now Cal James, we have been successful in convincing employers to pay musicians the benefits they deserve,” Director of New Organizing Tim Dubnau told Allegro. “We still have some pockets in the industry, like in Long Island, where we need to open a dialogue with employers to insist they do the right thing – but now that more and more agencies are paying benefits, we can really focus on raising the scale.”

The union’s recent success at raising industry standards by convincing employers to pay pension and health benefits is due, in part, to 802’s policy of protecting musicians’ anonymity. Discussing a recent campaign with Allegro, one club date musician said, “I felt confident talking to organizers at 802 because, even though I’ve heard of musicians getting burned years ago, I know that the union’s policy now is to keep confidentiality and anonymity the top priority during campaigns. I think trust is developing in the field, and that’s why we are seeing these successes.”

If you work for a club date agency that does not pay pension and health benefits, please call the New Organizing Department at 212 245-4802, ext. 143 or 191. All calls are strictly confidential.