When it comes to improving the lives of musicians, one of the many tools at our disposal is engaging in the political process. Our union has strong members, excellent leadership and powerful allies to get good laws passed. In that spirit, I’d like to go over some of our current legislative priorities. One thing to keep in mind: Local 802’s focus is on laws at the city and state level. The AFM lobbies for federal legislation on our behalf, such as the American Music Fairness Act, which is currently on their priority list.
(NOTE: Some of the items below have been on our radar in the past, and I’m borrowing some language from previous political directors and our political committee.)
A vast majority of our members are renters, and tenants are always at a huge disadvantage when they go up against their landlords in court. I’m pleased to announce that Local 802 has officially signed on as a supporter of the “Right to Counsel” bill that has already been introduced in the New York legislature (A7570/S6678). If passed, the law would guarantee every tenant across New York State the right to a lawyer if facing eviction. For more on this campaign, see https://www.righttocounselnyc.org/. Related to this topic, it’s worth mentioning that Governor Hochul has set a goal of creating 800,000 new affordable housing units across the state. The New York State AFL-CIO is keeping an eye on this potential construction to ensure that it will be performed in accordance with the public works law and labor standards.
FAIR WAGES FOR MUSICIANS
Public funding is frequently used to support projects, initiatives, and events that encourage cultural performances and increase access to the power and beauty of art. This is incredibly important, as our arts and culture are vital to driving healthy, vibrant and inclusive neighborhoods and communities. However, project developers, promoters, organizers, venue operators and organizations that receive public funding or access to public property frequently sub-contract to entities that fail to ensure that musicians and performers are paid, treated and protected fairly. We must get a law passed that says that festivals, events, and projects that receive public funding are required to ensure that musicians who are employed are treated fairly, thereby ensuring that New York City remains a cultural capital of the world where musicians can afford to live, work and raise a family.
NO OUTSOURCING OF MUSICIANS
New York State currently gives tax credits to television and motion picture productions that film in the state, the majority of which shoot and edit here in New York City. However, when it comes to adding music to their projects, producers often outsource recording scores to nonunion musicians overseas. State tax credits for TV and film producers must include the provision that the music work of a production must take place in NYC under union contracts or area standards.
MUSICIANS ARE EMPLOYEES
Often, musicians are misclassified as independent contractors. This has serious implications in New York State employment law, resulting in the loss of state tax revenue and vital statutory benefits for the musicians — including benefits such as Medicare, Social Security and worker’s compensation. Venues or organizations that receive public money must be legally obligated to classify their musicians as employees.
DON’T BAN LIVE MUSIC
Community boards and the New York State Liquor Authority together determine whether or not nightlife establishments are able to attain liquor licenses. Concern for neighborhood quality of life often determines whether or not these bodies will allow live music in specific venues, regardless of the fact that live music is rarely louder than recorded music. Today, it is common for live music to be banned in return for the ability to serve alcohol. We must prevent community boards and the SLA from adopting policies that prevent musicians from performing in bars, restaurants, and nightlife venues.
RECORDING STUDIOS MUST BE UNION
Performance and recording spaces that receive public funding must be built and staffed by union labor, and any musician who performs on the premises must be employed under a collective bargaining agreement.
CASINOS MUST TREAT MUSICIANS FAIRLY
We’ve already made some headway with casinos. There is a New York state law on the books that says that any new casino developments must offer “labor peace” to its contractors, including musicians. As previously reported in Allegro by my colleague Mikael Elsila, there will be new casino licenses available in New York, and one developer has already done the right thing. Our goal is to make sure that all casino developers follow the law and offer labor peace to us and other unions. But labor peace is just the first step. The next stage will be making sure that all musicians are covered by a proper union agreement. More on that to come.
PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT
The labor movement must continue to keep strong ties to environmental activism, including for the obvious reason that climate change affects everyone. On that note, I’d like to share with you an update from New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. The union movement has rallied around the need for New York to lead the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions so that we can begin the process of slowing down climate change and its devastating effects. New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires reducing emissions levels to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and to 85 percent of those levels by 2050. The CLCPA also requires electricity generation to be zero emission by 2040. President Cilento was recently appointed to the state Climate Leadership Panel to ensure labor’s voice is heard.
INDEX THE MINIMUM WAGE
Also from New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento: “We applaud Governor Hochul for recognizing how critically important it is to index the minimum wage. This is an opportunity for New York to break the cycle of infrequent increases that lead to the minimum wage being insufficient. Indexing the minimum wage to inflation will allow workers and employers to have predictable and reliable increases in the future. We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature to pass legislation that will allow more New Yorkers to be paid wages they can live on.”
CITY COUNCIL ENDORSEMENTS
Lastly, I just wanted to let you know that Local 802 will be working on endorsements in the upcoming NYC City Council race. For transparency, here is our current candidate questionnaire. Our endorsement process includes an initial vetting followed by an in-person appearance by the candidate in front of our Executive Board, which culminates in a vote by the board. The primary is June 27, and the general election is Nov. 7. Due to redistricting and the recent changes to the New York City Charter, councilmembers elected this year will serve a two-year term, with full four-year terms resuming in the 2025 election. Party nominees will be chosen using ranked-choice voting. Now is the time to register to vote or to review your polling site. There are many online tools to help, including https://vote.gov/. If you need help with voting or volunteering, or if you have any suggestions about Local 802’s legislative goals (or anything else), please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 245-4802, ext. 235.