Getting creative with new actions

Volume 113, No. 11December, 2013

Adam Witkowski and Shane Gasteyer

They’ve played, marched, picketed and demonstrated, but recently, musicians and activists have taken the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign to some creative new places.

On Oct. 25, jazz campaign supporters visited Blue Smoke, the upstairs barbeque restaurant that shares a kitchen with Jazz Standard, one of the jazz clubs that doesn’t pay benefits for musicians.

Both the club and the restaurant are owned by Danny Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group has more than enough money to pay pension benefits for musicians.

Around 15 supporters reserved tables on a busy Friday night, and ordered nothing but water for about 45 minutes, a demonstration technique known as a “sip-in.” When the signal was given, everyone stood up and demonstrated inside the restaurant, giving a call-and-response speech in the style of Occupy Wall Street’s “mic checks.” The group then handed out leaflets as they slowly walked out the door. It didn’t end there, though, as the “sippers” were then met outside the club by the talented J4JA brass band, where chanting and music continued for another half-hour. Patrons of the Jazz Standard and dinner guests at Blue Smoke entered the building and gladly accepted leaflets.

(In case you were wondering, the helpful wait staff were tipped generously, even though nothing was purchased.)

Then, a few days later, dozens of supporters took to Facebook to send a message to Danny Meyer and the other managers of the Jazz Standard. Over the course of the day, the Jazz Standard’s Facebook page was inundated with comments calling on the club owners to meet with Local 802 and honor the jazz campaign. In the words of one Facebook poster, the Jazz Standard should heed the musicians’ call and “step up to the plate and collaborate with Local 802 on a workable solution to assure the continuation of a healthy and vibrant live jazz music industry in New York and beyond.”

Be sure to look out for future online actions, and stay up to date on the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign by “liking” our Facebook page (