Classical musicians are looking forward

Financial vice president's report

Volume 121, No. 9October, 2021

Karen Fisher

I’m glad to start this column with some good news. NYC venues continue to reopen and many of our members are working again. The New York City Ballet, NY Philharmonic, and Metropolitan Opera have returned to live performances. The musicians of the American Ballet Theatre orchestra will soon be back to work and for the first time in a decade, will see a substantive increase in salary in the third year of their contract. While we had made small gains in some parts of the contract over the years, salaries have been nearly frozen since 2001. Our negotiations this time took on quite a different tone. After a thorough financial analysis, it was clear to us that ABT had the means to break the pattern of zeros and ones and contribute more towards musicians’ health insurance as well as wages. After a challenging negotiation which began with management proposals of substantial cuts, we were able to achieve a three-year contract with a 26.67 percent increase in health benefits in year 2 and a 3.5 percent increase in wages in year three. Other features of the deal include a 10 percent premium for musicians playing assistant principal chairs in the string sections and principal pay for musicians playing the piccolo and English horn chairs.

Separately, Local 802 and the Bronx Arts Ensemble recently settled a two-year contract. BAE will pay 7 percent over Local 802 Single Engagement chamber music rates for chamber music concerts and 19 percent higher than Single Engagement chamber music rates for rehearsals. Rates for larger ensembles increased 3 percent, following Local 802 Single Engagement rates. When performing MPTF or public service engagements, BAE pays substantially higher health benefits than mandated by those agreements and instead has followed the Single Engagement rates. Health benefits will increase nearly 2 percent for concerts and 5 percent for rehearsals over the current single engagement rates in year one and 4 percent for concert and 4.5 percent for rehearsals in year two. (The Single Engagement chamber music rates can be viewed at Click on “Classical, Ballet and Opera Agreements” then “Single Engagement Classical Wage Scales.”)

Vaccine mandates

As part of our reopening, vaccination mandates as well as health and safety guidelines are being discussed everywhere musicians are gathering in person. Local 802’s own health and safety guidelines are posted here. On Sept. 29, ICSOM attorney Kevin Case spoke to the Classical Musicians’ Forum to help answer all our questions regarding vaccine mandates and the law. It was an excellent, informative presentation that will help us understand our responsibilities as a union and as committee members.

No musician left behind

Congratulations to all of our members who are back to work on Broadway, at Lincoln Center, and concert halls! It has been wonderful to see musicians finding renewed joy and satisfaction in making music again with colleagues and friends. Thanks to vaccinations and the work of our scientific and medical community, we are much further along in our recovery than we could have hoped to be at this time last year. We have not forgotten, however, that there are still many of us suffering the ravages of the pandemic, either grappling with ongoing health issues or financial distress. In March of 2020, when it became clear that the pandemic shutdown would be extended indefinitely, the Local 802 administration, Executive Board and our extended network of brilliant, generous colleagues began fundraising initiatives to raise money for the Emergency Relief Fund. So many people contributed so much that it’s impossible to recognize everyone here, but big shout out to Reva Youngstein who came to us with the creative idea of putting together a cookbook, the proceeds of which are being donated to the fund. All of these initiatives were so effective that we raised a substantial amount of money and now we want to give it away! If you are in financial distress, please apply for financial aid. The application has been simplified to facilitate moving funds quickly to get help where it is most needed. Our new financial program is called #802Strong: NO MUSICIAN LEFT BEHIND. Click here to apply.

Moving forward

While we are slowly going back to in person meetings and negotiations, I suspect that the convenience of Zoom means that remote meetings are with us for good. The same can be said of ElectionBuddy, an online voting system. Prior to the pandemic, the best rate of return for snail mail ballots was 30 to 60 percent participation and required a two week turnaround time. Online voting has yielded 75 to 95 percent participation and can be accomplished in two days. Certainly in-person ratification meetings are optimal — but that happened rarely, even before 2020.

Finally, it’s been wonderful seeing so many of you again in person throughout the past month. If you haven’t yet gotten vaccinated, please attend to that today and continue to mask up indoors to protect yourself and your colleagues. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back at work very soon and hope you can attend Local 802’s next virtual membership meeting on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 3pm on Zoom. Register and get the Zoom code here.

Local 802 turns 100

Please mark your calendar for the Local 802 centennial celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 12 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, featuring live music (of course!) Details are here.