Grievance Corner

Volume CI, No. 1January, 2001


A grievance between Local 802 and Niko Associates, producers of the Broadway musical Saturday Night Fever, arose when Local 802 visited a rehearsal in progress on Oct. 5, 1999, and discovered that a drum machine was being used in place of a live drummer. The collective bargaining agreement between Local 802 and the League of American Theatres and Producers clearly prohibits such activity. Article XIV a. (2) of the agreement states: Electronic instruments, except for rhythm/percussion synthesizers, may be used in rehearsals for musical shows.

The producers claimed that the drum machine was being used as a metronome to keep time for the rehearsal pianist, an accomplished 802 performer. What Local 802 observed, however, was a set-up that included a drum machine/synthesizer that was clearly audible to the stage performers and clearly provided the rhythmic basis for their rehearsal.

The parties were unable to resolve the dispute and a grievance meeting was held at the League. Because this work is commonly performed at cast rehearsals for most Broadway productions, drummers from several Broadway shows felt it important to attend the meeting. The producers presented a variety of interesting arguments, including the contention that the drum machine was being used as a metronome or a click track for a show they claimed did not center on many dance numbers. The union stood firm on the contract’s clearly prohibition on replacing a drummer by a rhythm/percussion synthesizer – to “perform the duties of a metronome” or, for that matter, any other emulation of a live drummer providing a steady beat. The parties ultimately reached a settlement in the amount of $3,700 to be paid to the show’s drummer for wages lost during the rehearsal period in question.


A grievance between Local 802 and the Long Island Philharmonic arose when the employer issued several incorrect W-2s for 1999. As a result, several musicians incurred costs due to amended filings or audits generated by the employer’s mistake. In March 2000, the L.I. Philharmonic brought in an auditor to send corrected W-2s and copies of 1999 pay stubs, but did not agree to assume financial responsibility for any additional costs to musicians caused by their mistake. The matter was scheduled to go before an arbitrator in October. However, shortly before the scheduled date the parties reached a settlement whereupon the LI Philharmonic agreed to reimburse any member of the orchestra for additional costs incurred to date or in the future, due to its issuing of incorrect W-2s.