Collections Topped $900,000 in First Six Months of Year

It Pays to Belong!

Volume C, No. 11November, 2000

Local 802 is well on the way to another banner year in the collection of wages and benefits that musicians would not have received without union intervention. In the first six months of 2000, the local had already collected a total of $911,684 in wages and benefits for musicians in the recording, club date and hotel fields.

The value of union membership is often measured in terms of the scale wages and benefits musicians earn when they work under collective bargaining agreements. But careful monitoring of those agreements is frequently required to guarantee that members receive everything they are entitled to. And in every year since 1995, Local 802’s intervention has produced more than one million dollars that musicians would otherwise not have received.

The recording field, with its large payrolls and frequent contract violations, has accounted for the largest share of collections since 802 stepped up its efforts in the mid-’90s. This year was no exception: more than $800,000 was collected in six months. If that rate is sustained, 2000 will see considerably larger collections than the approximately $1,300,000 collected for recording musicians in three previous years (1995, 1997 and 1999).

But it is also significant that fully 12 percent of this year’s collections were the result of energetic contract enforcement in the club date and hotel fields. And these six-month figures do not include substantial sums awarded by arbitrators in several Off-Broadway grievances earlier this year, which have not yet been paid.

Here are some highlights:

The Recording Department collected $801,006 in the first six months of this year – almost 10 percent more than in the same period of 1999. It was shared by 1,388 musicians working under 138 different contracts.

The largest portion – $292,882, or 36.6 percent of the total – involved violations of the phono agreement, and was collected on behalf of 303 musicians. This is similar to the amount collected for violations of the phono agreement in the first six months of ’99.

In a number of cases employers had misclassified recording projects as “low budget,” under the mistaken impression that this would exempt them from contributing to the Special Payments Fund, said Recording Department Supervisor Jay Schaffner. He pointed out that, in fact, recording companies are assessed for special payments based on how many units are sold, not on the scale wages indicated in the contract. “A number of our grievances increased pension contributions for the musicians to what they should have been as full freight sessions, which means that the musicians will earn larger pensions when they retire.”

Local 802 collected $247,300 (or 30.8 percent of the total) on behalf of musicians working under the basic cable and non-standard TV agreements. This is three times as much as was collected a year earlier, and was achieved in a largely nonunion segment of our industry.

In some cases, labels agreed to become signatory to the basic cable agreement for a particular show involving an artist who records for the label. “Of course we’d prefer to have cable networks like MTV, VH-1 and A&E sign the full basic cable agreement,” Schaffner said. “But if that is not possible we’re going to do everything we can to organize the shows, one show at a time.”

Violations of the jingle agreement contributed about 10 percent of the total: $79,374, shared by 404 musicians, virtually identical to last year’s collections at the six-month mark. Public TV collections amounted to $37,500 this year, compared to $63,984 a year earlier. And the union collected $16,445 under the theatrical and TV film agreement. While this is a modest sum, that segment of the industry had produced almost no collections a year earlier. Film production is up this year in New York, as are violations of the agreement.

In the aggregate, Local 802 has collected close to seven million dollars for recording musicians in the last five and a half years, and an additional $642,000 in late penalties in the five-year period between 1995 and 1999. “That is well over 4 percent of the overall scale wages earned by recording musicians in Local 802’s jurisdiction, or one dollar in every $25 earned by recording musicians,” Schaffner pointed out.

“The largest part of these collections were only possible because recording contracts had been filed for the initial sessions, and because of close cooperation between musicians and their union in monitoring that the contracts were observed.”

In the single-engagement club date field, the Contract Administration Department collected more than $80,000 in wages, pension, health contributions and work dues from club date signatories, member leaders, and miscellaneous single engagements. The largest components were pension payments, totalling $38,319, health benefits of $30,942, and $9,276 in unpaid work dues.

Contract Administration Supervisor Jim Hannen pointed out that when signatories do jobs without filing contracts, they usually pay scale wages but not the pension and health benefits required by the agreement. “In many cases, the contributions we collect make it possible for musicians to qualify for coverage under Plan A or Plan B.”

In the hotel field, more than $30,000 was collected: $12,370 in unpaid health benefits, $6,555 for pension, $6,508 in wages and $4,887 in work dues. Much of this resulted from a grievance settled between Local 802 and the Carlyle Hotel (see July/August Allegro).

Employers in many fields of music sometimes withhold work dues from musicians’ checks, but then fail to remit them to the union. Collecting unpaid work dues provides 802 with the revenue it needs to administer collective bargaining agreements and protect members’ rights under those contracts.