Help Us Move the Club Date Campaign Forward


Volume C, No. 9September, 2000

Tim Dubnau

The union needs your help.

Over the last eight months, Local 802’s New Organizing Department has helped musicians gain power on the job, mainly in the single-engagement field. The department, along with a silent army of 802 members who know the value of pension and health insurance, have convinced (or, in some cases, pressured) nonunion club date employers to do the right thing by providing benefits to the musicians who help their businesses turn a profit.

What kind of profit? Our research indicates that most club date offices charge their clients between $800 and $1,200 per musician! We invite you to do the math.

Our message to club date employers is clear: When you hire professional musicians, you have an ethical responsibility to live up to professional standards by providing pension and health contributions. The union will always try a friendly approach first, by appealing to employers’ sense of morality. And we are happy to be able to report that several employers have voluntarily agreed to live up to our standards. But when they refuse, we insist they do the right thing.

Some of the union’s successes so far include the busy Starlight Orchestras, New York City Swing, BaRock Orchestras and the Tony Corbiscello Orchestra. And just last month Manhattan Swing Orchestras was the latest office to voluntarily agree to become a signatory employer and provide benefits to its musicians (click here for “Area Standards Campaign Advances” article).

We want to make it easy for employers to do the right thing. As you read this, the union’s data processing department is putting the finishing touches on a program that will allow signatory employers to file their jobs on a computer with just a few keystrokes. Filing a job will soon take less than five minutes.

Musicians who work for these new union offices will now get pension contributions every time they play. Once these professional musicians get vested in our pension fund, they will be guaranteed a monthly pension check when they retire. More and more musicians will now have employer-provided health insurance too, both for themselves and their family. This is obviously good for the individual musicians, but it is also good for the entire club date field.

When more employers live up to area standards our union’s power increases, thus enabling us to negotiate higher scales. This is especially important now, since our single engagement contract is up for renegotiation next spring. Conversely, when employers undercut our standards, there is a severe downward pressure on wages. Nonunion employers hurt us all.

Although we have begun to see success in the club date field, we must continue to raise standards so that we are in as strong a bargaining position as possible next spring. Here is where your help is essential. If you work for a nonunion club date office, we urge you to call the New Organizing Department and tell us about it. We invite all 802 members to play a role in strengthening the union. Give us advice on which employers can best afford to pay benefits. Tell us which employers you think are competing with our signatory employers. Help us create a more even playing field, where club date offices compete fairly. We will keep your comments in the strictest of confidence.

Tim Dubnau is the director of Local 802’s New Organizing Department