DCINY Orchestra ramps up campaign for a fair contract

Volume 123, No. 5May, 2023

Photo: Boris Shpitalnik

Photo: Boris Shpitalnik

“No contract, no peace!” That was the rallying cry outside of Carnegie Hall on April 29 as the DCINY Orchestra and their allies ramped up their campaign for a fair contract with DCINY.

“We’d rather be playing music for the public than walking a picket line,” said DCINY percussionist Andy Blanco and violinist Tallie Brunfelt in a joint statement. “As long as DCINY continues to reject the fundamental aspects of a union contract, we have no choice but to strike.”

Blanco and Brunfelt both serve on the musicians’ negotiating committee. Their fellow union members in the DCINY orchestra voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike almost two months ago in a secret-ballot vote after the employer refused to budge at the bargaining table, even face-to-face with a federal mediator.

Carnegie Hall itself is not the musicians’ target and not the employer, says Local 802. However, the union maintains that Carnegie Hall has the power to settle the dispute by creating “labor standards” in its lease agreements. These labor standards could prevent employers like DCINY from renting Carnegie Hall if they can’t settle fair contracts with their musicians. The union says that local elected leaders have put this idea on their radar.

To make its point, Local 802 has released a graphic and video showing what it calls the “DCINY Scam,” showing how the company promises a professional experience to choirs but instead supplies low-paid scabs or unpaid student musicians.


The orchestra’s journey towards a union contract began in 2019, when musicians won the first step of union recognition. But the company retaliated by immediately replacing the full orchestra with just a handful of musicians, including an unpaid amateur high school ensemble. Musicians are fighting back with high-profile musical protests and picket lines at DCINY performances outside of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.

To date, DCINY management still refuses to sign an agreement that offers meaningful job security and hiring provisions, professional wages, pension and health contributions, recording payments, and more.

DCINY built up its reputation for over a decade using its professional orchestra, says the union. Now management is retaliating against the orchestra, leaving musicians no other option but to strike. Musicians have tried to negotiate a fair contract for the past three years, and even submitted to federal mediation. The company has not budged, despite losing two federal Unfair Labor Practice charges. The union has placed the company on its International Unfair List.


Elected leaders have expressed their support. “DCINY can’t get away with creating beautiful music and not paying the musicians the wages, job security and benefits they deserve,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, head of the state labor committee, at the musicians’ February 20 rally outside Carnegie Hall. “Musicians should be afforded a life of dignity for bringing us so much joy and beauty to all of our lives, especially right now, at a time when we’re so desperately trying to recover from the past few years. We want good jobs for every single worker, including our musicians. DCINY: do the right thing!”

At the musicians’ 2022 rally outside Lincoln Center, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, “I’m here to stand with you in your fight for a decent contract,” said Levine. “You deserve the security of a pension and retirement. You deserve health care like every American. You deserve a salary that allows you to pay for housing and other needs for your family. This is not too much to ask. I am here to stand with you as long as it takes to get a fair contract!”

“An injury to one is an injury to all,” said Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi. “If our standards fall at Carnegie Hall, they can fall anywhere. If DCINY can afford to rent out Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, they shouldn’t need to rely on exploitative practices like paying well below industry standards for performances at such iconic venues. As New York City continues its recovery from the pandemic, a true cultural revival is possible with professional opportunities and standards for our world-class artists, who are the backbone of the NYC tourism economy.”

“Musicians are on strike for fair treatment and professional standards,” said Local 802 Recording Vice President Harvey Mars, who is leading the negotiations on behalf of musicians and the union. “The orchestra has attempted to negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement for over three years. Now they’re saying enough is enough.”

Musicians are asking the public to sign their letter of support.

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Photo: Boris Shpitalnik