Happy birthday to us all! As you read these words, Local 802 is just about to celebrate its 90th birthday in style at the Roseland Ballroom on Dec. 4. This isn’t just a party; it’s also a special fundraiser for our Emergency Relief Fund. We are proud to honor and celebrate music legend Pete Seeger, who has been a Local 802 member for almost seven decades! We’re so glad that Steve Earle, Ray Chew, Rosanne Cash, Paquito D’Rivera, Darlene Love, Bebe Neuwirth, Nellie McKay, Elmar Oliveira and Paul Shaffer are all sharing their talent with us. I know it will be a truly special evening.
It’s an awesome and profound fact that our union has been around for 90 years. To begin with, I should pay tribute to you, the members. It is you who make this union great. Thank you for the trust you have in us and for sustaining this organization over nine decades.
Also, thank you for being so welcoming, gracious and helpful to me personally over the two years I have been in office. (Where did the time go?)
I would like to review some of the accomplishments and challenges that we went through together this year:
We won a new, five-year Broadway agreement with increases in every year of the cycle. Theatre minimums will remain locked into place through 2016.
We won new agreements with the Met Opera, Radio City Music Hall, NYC Ballet, Stamford Symphony, New School and Apollo Theatre, plus many others.
We became the first AFM local within the United States to reach an agreement with Cirque du Soleil.
We won a groundbreaking agreement with producers of the Winter Jazzfest, our biggest jazz festival contract yet.
We expanded our jurisdiction to cover the members of AFM Local 809 (Middletown, NY) and AFM Local 52-626 (Norwalk, Conn.)
We challenged the producers of “Priscilla” over the use of canned music. (More on that below.) In the process, we developed a high-profile campaign to save live music on Broadway and a state-of-the-art Web site, www.SaveLiveMusicOnBroadway.com.
We revitalized and joined forces with the Council for Living Music, which commissioned a survey of Broadway audiences. We now have hard data to support our position that the public wants more live music, not less.
In the past 12 months, we won contracts for dozens of Off Broadway and developmental theatre productions, which means all of the musicians involved enjoyed the protection of Local 802 agreements.
We supported the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during its grueling six-month strike.
As Allegro went to press, we had just won a successor agreement with the Westfield Symphony. The symphony is in the jurisdiction of AFM Local 151 (Elizabeth, N.J.), but since 90 percent of the musicians belong to Local 802, they almost always rehearse in New York City. In 2000, Local 151 allowed us to seek recognition and bargain with management.
THE HEAT IS ON
As you will read in John O’Connor’s story, we are ramping up our Justice for Jazz Artists campaign with new energy. Union musicians, staff and supporters will have a presence outside jazz clubs beginning on Dec. 8. Our ultimate goal is to assure that jazz artists can retire in dignity, with a real pension.
Although some might feel that it is too confrontational to approach the clubs in this way, I believe that we have tried the quiet, conciliatory, back-channel method for the past 15 years in this campaign, and it has mostly gone nowhere. It’s time to make this real.
Please join us in this effort. The Justice for Jazz Artists campaign is going to be a top priority of my administration in 2012 and beyond.
NEW EDUCATION INITIATIVE
Young people are literally our future and we must make sure that students care about live music from the very beginning of their musical education. There’s no other way that the culture of live music will flourish. To that end, I am pleased to let members know about Music for a Sound Future, a new initiative from the Council for Living Music.
This project consists of a Web site (www.MusicForASoundFuture.org), which helps young students in NYC find out about live music concerts, especially those that are free for audiences. Local 802 members and other musicians may upload information about their gigs to this site.
The campaign also includes a series of free, live concert/seminars aimed at young audiences, to take place at Local 802. For more information, see the story by K.C. Boyle and Bettina Covo in this issue.
LOCAL 802 IS IN THE BLACK
In this issue, you will see the audited financial reports for Local 802 covering the period Jan. 1, 2011 to June 30, 2011. You will also read columns by Financial Vice President Tom Olcott and Controller Cathy Camiolo on page 10. I’ll let them give you the details, but the good news is that despite the recession, Local 802 was in the black in the first six months of this year, and our assets remain strong. This is due to smart investing and smart spending. I’m very pleased with the union’s financial team and with everyone at Local 802; we are doing everything possible to conserve the union’s resources and spend your money as wisely and as effectively as possible.
We have some big news to share with members who do recording dates: We have a new master agreement with the record labels. The new Sound Recording Labor Agreement was finalized in late October and will be voted on by musicians soon. Here are some of the key components:
Recording session wages will go up each year. Health payments will also increase.
The experimental ultra low budget scale in the previous agreement has been eliminated.
There is a new provision for low budget informal location recordings that may be used for recording events such as performances at an Apple Store.
In order to use a recording in a toy or greeting card or in some low-budget video games, the record labels will now contribute a percentage of the revenue they receive from the toymaker for the use of the recording rather than making a full new use payment to each musician. These payments will be allocated to the AFM Pension fund and the MPTF. Remember that the MPTF funds live gigs for musicians.
These negotiations represented a style of rank-and-file inclusion like nothing we have seen at our union in a very long time. All of us at the table, representing our different constituencies, were encouraged to be vocal about our issues and participate as members of a real union of professional musicians.
I want to personally thank all of the participants in these talks and acknowledge the expertise represented by all of them. A special tip-of-the hat to AFM President Ray Hair, who has shown the insight to utilize our strongest resource – our fellow members working in the field – and to make use of the leverage that they represent.
Our campaign to stop canned music at “Priscilla” was expected to conclude this winter with a formal arbitration hearing. Instead, that hearing has been repeatedly delayed. Now we are looking at a date in April or May.
The delays were caused by the producers and their inability to make their key witness, Spud Murphy, available.
This long delay is a big problem. Originally, our goal was simply to get the producers of “Priscilla” to stop the use of canned music and use live musicians. We were willing to be flexible to address some of their “artistic” claims but now we believe we need to take the gloves off.
Please stay tuned for updates and how you can help. Check www.SaveLiveMusicOnBroadway.com for the very latest.
Earlier this fall, “Priscilla” musicians were scheduled to play five recording sessions to create tracks to be used in conjunction with the live show. In view of the AFM bylaws, which forbid members to record music intended to replace musicians in live shows, the AFM refused to sanction the dates as union sessions and we directed the musicians not to play them. They complied. The Local 802 Executive Board agreed to offer the musicians a little relief from the strike fund until we can get them paid in full after the arbitration is finally settled.
In other news in our live music campaign, we hope you’ve noticed that Local 802 has invested in advertisements on NY1 that promote the importance of live music on Broadway.
We are still battling it out with the management of the New York City Opera. Our ultimate goal is to make sure that NYCO remains a Lincoln Center orchestra. NYCO management has made some onerous demands during the present negotiations. Last year, musicians earned about $40,000. Management wants to reduce that amount by 90 percent and only pay musicians $4,000! In addition, they want to stop providing for the musicians’ health insurance.
In response, musicians offered to play for free for the upcoming season in exchange for health benefits and some control over the future of the opera. Even that wasn’t enough to move management.
It seems to be a current trend in orchestra negotiations across the country that musicians are being treated as an impediment or just some incidental expense. “If it weren’t for the musicians, we could have a balanced budget,” is the underlying message. We have to remind the public that the musicians are the whole point! We’re not an incidental cost of doing business: we are the business. It’s our job to get that message out.
Please go to www.SaveNYCO.org and sign our petition.
MUSICAL THEATRE SUMMIT
I recently had the honor and pleasure to host a summit with the following union officials:
Dave Webster, the regional organizer of the London branch of the British Musicians Union
Rick Finlay, member of the Executive Board of the same London branch
Jim Biros, executive director of AFM Local 149 (Toronto)
Among the many things that were discussed at the meeting was the use of recorded tracks in conjunction with live performance.
For instance, a producer may tell our counterparts in London or Toronto one thing about why he “needs” to use tracks instead of live musicians – but then offer a completely different story to Local 802.
The most important thing that came out of this meeting was a commitment of all three unions to go forward together hand in hand as we encounter, address, and solve the very similar problems we face in the theatre industry.
When I introduced them to the Broadway Theatre Committee, Dave, Rick and Jim were absolutely thrilled to talk with and answer questions from theatre musicians themselves.
After the meeting, I was able to show off a little by treating my fellow union leaders to a performance of “Follies” with its 28-piece orchestra.
Needless to say, it was the perfect ending to an important day. I would like to offer a very special thanks to Jim Biros for being so instrumental in making this happen. Our intent is to continue these meetings on a yearly basis. We hope to meet next year in London.
LOCAL 802 REPRESENTED ON PANEL
Several months ago I was contacted by Ylana Kellar of New York Women in Film and Television. Ylana asked me to participate in a panel discussion on unions and the importance of our electronic media agreements in the production of film and television.
The event was moderated by songwriter and producer Shellen Lubin, who is also a director of numerous plays, musicals and cabaret acts.
Besides myself, included on the panel were:
Nashville songwriter Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America
Deborah Allton Maher, Eastern Counsel to the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents opera and concert singers, ballet dancers, stage managers and stage directors.
The main topic of discussion was non-traditional new media and how the Internet has replaced television and movies in some contexts.
As we described how each of our unions protects the members whose product is being used, we learned how the different contractual mechanisms can help support each other and how it is important that all the unions work together to ensure that whether you are a singer, songwriter or session musician, your best interests are being protected. This allows for a higher level of protection of your product and prevention of unauthorized exploitation.
For about 18 months now, I have been writing about the number of negotiations in which Local 802 has been involved. It has been a long and difficult journey, and it remains unfinished. There are outstanding issues surrounding the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Opera and the remaining freelance orchestras that have yet to reach a deal with the union.
This work has been and continues to be very hard on the staff and the officers leading the various negotiations. Additionally it has been very time consuming for our general counsel, Cohen, Weiss and Simon. Although we have a retainer agreement with the firm, because of the extraordinary level of service required of our counsel by all of these protracted negotiations, it has become necessary to work out a temporary adjustment to that retainer.
You will read later in our Executive Board minutes about the approval of this adjustment but I felt it important that you hear from me exactly what it involves. It will require that we pay an additional $6,250 a month for the next two years starting on Jan. 1.
It was not without difficulty that I recommended this adjustment to the Executive Board. However, after reflecting on the kind of representation and level of service that we have received, it became clear to me and to the board that the expertise of counsel is integral to our ability to get the best deals we can for our musicians.
Fortunately, Local 802 can look forward to a few quiet years after the current round of negotiations has concluded. This should allow for our overall legal costs to return to significantly lower levels.
We are the 99 percent! On Nov. 15, the Executive Board unanimously voted to join the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee, giving us a voice in the movement.
Photo: Aurora Manuel
OCCUPY WALL STREET
Now let me address some Local 802 members who have voiced their frustration about our union’s involvement with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
Local 802, which is made up of nearly 9,000 members, consists of a membership with varied political perspectives. As president, it is my job to ensure that the concerns of all members are addressed.
After witnessing the large number of Local 802 members turning out for the Labor Community March at Occupy Wall Street on Oct. 5, it became evident to me that a significant portion of our membership supports the underlying message of the movement.
On Nov. 15, the Executive Board unanimously voted to join the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee. This committee, which consists of over 20 local unions, serves as an independent body separate from Occupy Wall Street. The primary goal of the joint committee is to ensure organized labor plays a part in shaping the trajectory of the movement.
Moreover, the committee will provide an organized outlet for members of our union who wish to become more involved with Occupy Wall Street.
If you would like more information regarding the Labor Outreach Committee, please contact Leon Bell, our director of organizing, at (212) 245-4802, ext. 141 or Lbell@Local802afm.org.
A GOOD NOTE
I’d like to end with a special thank you to voters in Ohio, who stood by their unions and rescinded a law that would have taken away collective bargaining rights for public employees. In this significant victory, I see a sign of hope out there in America for the labor movement. Good news has been hard to come by, so let’s celebrate every union victory we can.
Finally, there’s one more good note to end on. In addition to our 90th anniversary gala event on Dec. 4, we are also holding our annual holiday party on Dec. 15 at 5 p.m. at Local 802. Please join us for some holiday cheer.
Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy and wonderful New Year. See you in 2012!