As 2015 draws to a close, I want to start by acknowledging the service of our outgoing Recording Vice President John O’Connor. John started his music career as a folksinger, songwriter and recording artist, a phase of his career that lasted for at least 20 years. (John is also a published poet: his book “Half the Truth” won this year’s Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award.)
John joined AFM Local 76 (Seattle) in 1981 and served for a term on that local’s Executive Board. He also became secretary of the Northwest Conference of Musicians. From there, his career in the AFM continued to climb. He was one of the chief innovators and founders of AFM Local 1000, the local for touring folk artists, and helped achieve its charter in 1993.
John left his touring career in 1996 to come to work as an organizer and jazz rep here at Local 802 under the direction of Marvin Moschel. In 2000, John followed Marvin to the New York State Nurses Association, where he served as the lead organizer on at least three successful campaigns at major hospitals on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley.
In 2009, I asked John to come back to Local 802 and join my slate as recording vice president, a position he has now served for two consecutive terms. Now he has decided to retire at the end of this term; his last day will be Dec. 31.
When I approached John back in 2009 to be part of the new team I was trying to put together to better serve our union – especially in organizing – I was specifically looking for an individual willing to think out of the box, and boy, did I find one. During his tenure here, John revitalized the union’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign, started a new hotel campaign and completely re-booted and re-energized the union’s Organizing Department. John and I have not always been able to see eye to eye, but in the end the union was better served for it. His passion for the musicians he represented was evident every time he spoke. I am proud to have served with John and I am a better president for it. I thank him for his commitment to this administration and his exemplary service to our union. Please read John’s goodbye column as well as Tom Olcott’s tribute to John in this issue. Lastly, we welcome Andy Schwartz as our incoming recording vice president. Andy will introduce himself in our January issue.
MUSICIANS’ ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
We have some additional transitions to announce at Local 802. First, our in-house social worker, Siena Shundi, is leaving Local 802 as she prepares to have a child at the end of 2015. We thank Siena for her service to our musicians and wish her the very best. (See Siena’s goodbye column.)
We also have to report that Siena’s office, the Musicians’ Assistance Program, is going through its own transition. As many of you know, the MAP office (located on the sixth floor of the Local 802 building) provides a host of free services to musicians, including short-term counseling, substance abuse help, referrals for housing and health insurance and more. But most members might not know that MAP is not funded through Local 802 itself. Instead, MAP is funded through the Local 802 Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund, an entirely separate organization that also provides emergency grants to our members in need. When we report on the union’s finances in Allegro, we always publish two reports: one for Local 802 itself and one for the Emergency Relief Fund. They are distinct entities.
Unfortunately, the Emergency Relief Fund may not have enough money on hand to continue funding our own in-house social worker. The good news is that the Actors Fund, which has been coordinating MAP all along for us, is an established social service agency that serves actors and all entertainers, including musicians. Therefore, all Local 802 members who are now being served by our MAP office – and any Local 802 members who need these kinds of services in the future – will instead be served by the Actors Fund, until further notice. All services that were free will remain free.
To make an appointment or ask any questions, members will still call the same number for MAP, which is (212) 397-4802. Our MAP administrative assistant, Anya Turner, will remain based here at Local 802 for the time being. Now she will refer members to the Actors Fund for all services.
The Actors Fund is located just down the street from us at 729 Seventh Avenue (between West 48th and West 49th). Its web site is www.ActorsFund.org and its direct number is (212) 221-7300, ext. 119. For those who have been seeing our social work intern Elaine Davenport for short-term counseling, Elaine will now be located at the Actors Fund.
Lastly, Local 802 remains committed to continuing two of our in-house programs: the Musicians’ Networking Group and the Pilates/Bodywork courses. Stay tuned – we are still working out all the details. I’m sorry if any of this change is inconvenient to you, but we have to make sure that the Emergency Relief Fund remains strong and viable. To that end, please attend a fundraiser for the Emergency Relief Fund on Dec. 8 here at Local 802.
REMEMBERING LESLIE WILKINS
It is with sadness that I report the passing of former Local 802 staff member Leslie Wilkins on Oct. 16 at the age of 63. Leslie was hired in 1987 as the secretary to the Organizing Department under Marvin Moschel. Later, she served as the contract administrator in the Club Date Department. She worked tirelessly for the Local 802 Gospel Committee. (Please see a tribute to Leslie written by Fran McIntyre.) We offer our condolences to Leslie’s sister Pam and to all her friends and family. Rest in peace.
JEWISH CLUB DATE AGREEMENT SETTLED
Most musicians who play weddings in New York know that there is a separate Orthodox Jewish wedding scene – especially in Brooklyn. And at these kinds of weddings, the bride, groom and guests want a specific type of music – not mainstream wedding music. Therefore, the Jewish single engagement scene is a distinct part of the club date industry. It’s actually so different that Local 802 has a separate contract covering Jewish single engagements.
(An example of one of the differences in our Jewish contract: many observant Jews – even many secular Jews – don’t get married from Friday sunset to Saturday night. Therefore, Sunday is the big wedding day in this field and it pays a premium in our contract. By contrast, in our standard club date contract, Saturday night scale is the premium payday. Since many musicians work in both fields, the union tries to maintain a close relationship between the “secular” club date contact and the Jewish single engagement contract.
The Jewish Single Engagement Contract had last expired in 2009, and I’m happy to report that we have finally achieved a renewal agreement. The new rates provide for a significant wage increase in the first year and 2 percent increases in the second and third years. These rates are available to members only on the member portal.
UNION BUSINESS ROUNDUP
- I will be attending a meeting in Tokyo of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) in mid-December. We’ll be discussing online music streaming and fair remuneration to the musicians when their tracks are streamed on the Internet.
- We did not achieve a quorum at the Local 802 membership meeting on Oct. 14, so an official vote on the four bylaw amendments did not take place. Instead, as per our bylaws, the Executive Board passed the amendments later.
- Local 802 recently achieved agreements with the Transport Group Theatre Company and the Irish Repertory Company. Musicians who play for these producers will enjoy union wages and benefits. If you get called to play a musical theatre job of any kind, please call our Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. We can help you make sure you’re earning the wages and benefits you deserve.
- The Theatre Department is currently in talks with the Paper Mill Playhouse for an agreement to cover musicians for cast rehearsals that take place in Local 802’s jurisdiction for its productions in New Jersey.
- The Broadway League is in the middle of negotiating with all of its unions and guilds. Local 802 begins its Broadway talks in anticipation of the expiration of the agreement next March. The Broadway Theatre Committee is in full swing as we prepare for this important negotiation. The committee has recently elected their rank-and-file negotiating team and I congratulate them and appreciate their willingness to be a part of this process.
HOLIDAY PARTY AND HOLIDAY WISHES
I hope to see members and their guests at the union’s annual holiday party, on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. here at Local 802. We will be starting the festivities with the official swearing-in of the newly-elected candidates by AFM International President Ray Hair. I’ll be back in these pages in January. I wish everyone happy holidays and a happy new year!