Elected Officials, Labor Leaders Speak in Support of Locked-Out Musicians

Volume C, No. 1January, 2000

Following are excerpts from the speeches given at the Dec. 2 rally supporting the locked out New York City Ballet Orchestra musicians:

Local 802 Vice-President Mary Landolfi: We are here to protest the arrogance of Lincoln Center, an institution that has its buildings sitting on a piece of public property, but which refuses to allow its citizens to exercise their free speech rights across the street. We’re here to protest the management of the New York City Ballet, who hide behind a smokescreen of “artistic integrity” while they single handedly have brought the spectre of taped music to The Nutcracker in Lincoln Center. The musicians of the New York City Ballet want to be in the theatre playing The Nutcracker. All we are asking is a fair contract – and with your support, we’ll get it.

Bill Dennison, Assistant to Local 802 President Bill Moriarity: For musicians, for Local 802, the ultimate insult is the presentation of ballet at the New York State Theater with canned music. The other day, a reporter asked what I meant by canned music. I said, “Well, you’ve heard of canned food. You’ve certainly opened a can of limp, stale vegetables that have lost all their taste and texture -a poor and tasteless imitation of the real thing. If you’ve done that, you know what canned music is. That’s what they are presenting across the street: a limp, stale, lifeless imitation of the real music of The Nutcracker.”

New York City is the live music capital of the world. Millions of people visit our city each year because of this wonderful product we offer – live music. We have to do everything we can to preserve it.

Orchestra Member Donald MacCourt: The management of the New York City Ballet has decided that they want to restrict the members of the orchestra from being able to take other engagements. The problem with that is that the ballet is only half a year’s job, and we all have to do other things in order to make a living. They don’t seem to care about that. In effect, they’ve put us in a position where we can’t make a living if we do what they want. We’ve told them that we want to keep on negotiating so we can reach an attendance requirement that works for us and for them, but they won’t have it.

AFM President Steve Young: All across the United States tonight, there are Nutcrackers being performed with a live orchestra – in Boston, San Francisco, St. Louis, Kansas City, there’s a live orchestra. And here we are in New York City, Lincoln Center, beacon of the arts, with taped music and no live orchestra. The New York City Ballet is just plain wrong in locking the musicians out. This is an issue to be dealt with at the bargaining table – not by kicking the musicians out and depriving the public of the Nutcracker they paid to see. They expect to see an orchestra there.

Jeremy Hoffman, Research Analyst, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100: We represent the food service workers in two out of the three buildings we’re looking at, and they stand by you. At Lincoln Center, the floodgates seem to be opening on labor troubles. We’re trying to organize the 95 food service workers at the Metropolitan Opera, and they’re being resisted by the same folks who are resisting you. Mr. Howard Solomon, the chairman of the board of the Ballet, is a managing director of the Metropolitan Opera. He’s not helping you guys; he’s refusing to meet with us. We need to stand up in solidarity.

Charlie Kernaghan, Executive Director, National Labor Committee: I just came back from Seattle. 40,000 labor people marching with students, marching with solidarity groups, marching with environmentalists, shut the World Trade Organization down. Lincoln Center management has the same agenda: nothing but the bottom line. Nothing gets in the way of corporate profits. No family values. No human values. No labor rights. Nothing gets in the way of the bottom line. Well, they shut the WTO down – and Lincoln Center may be next.

Ray Markey, president of AFSCME Local 1930, the Library Workers union: We have a lot of members who work in Lincoln Center, too, and they don’t get treated any better than you. The Nutcracker without live music is like a library without books: it’s all a shell. You can rest assured that those of us who work for the New York Public Library support you. We feel culturally attuned to you. And we know that New York City without you playing live music is not a city worth living in.

Pam Scott, Organizer, HERE Local 6: We know what it feels like to be locked out. Every day of the week, five days a week, from 12 to 6, the workers of the Stratford Arms Hotel have been picketing at 73rd and Broadway. The American Musical and Dramatic Academy threw them out after 30 years of work – with no severance pay, no notice, nothing. We’re here to support Local 802.

Linda Mays, President, American Guild of Musical Artists: It’s our dancers who are being forced to dance to canned music. I think it’s unconscionable. We miss our orchestra. We want them back so that we can give the kind of performances New York should be used to having.

NYS Assemblymember Ed Sullivan: Here we are, less than a month away from the 21st century, and some people haven’t entered the 20th century yet. We’ve got to give them a message that the people who work at playing music – who are involved in the most important industry in this city – have got to be treated with the respect that they deserve. I hope that this rally and other pressure on them will make them understand that unions are here to stay.

Ed Ott, representing Brian McLaughlin, President of the NYC Central Labor Council: Artists get disrespected in a lot of ways in this city. It takes years of training to develop the skills of people who work in the cultural industries. And, as much as they love the art, it’s their living. When managements behave in the way that this one has, they disrespect the arts, they disrespect the people who support the arts, and they disrespect the working people of this city. What’s going on here is totally unreasonable and totally unfair. [The Ballet management] needs to understand that what they are doing is not just a fight between them and their employees. It’s a fight between them and all the working people of this city and this Labor Council intends to make it a citywide fight.

Rep Jerry Nadler: It’s not right for management of the ballet to say, “We’re not going to permit you to work while we talk about a contract.” There should not be a condition for returning to work. People who paid for tickets to The Nutcracker have a right to have a live orchestra. The musicians have a right to play. There are some real issues in this conflict. The issues are somewhat complicated. But American labor relations are premised on the assumption that management can talk with the representatives of the musicians, without locking them out. A lockout is wrong. There’s no excuse for it, and it should not be allowed.