March is Women’s History Month and there are several features in this issue of Allegro that readers will find interesting, including an interview with Irene Breslaw on page 24. Ms. Breslaw will celebrate 37 years as Assistant Principal Violist with the New York Philharmonic this May. We are also proud to include an exclusive essay written for us by Prof. Martin Jarvis about how Anna Magdalena Bach – who was J.S. Bach’s second wife – may have actually written some of Bach’s music. Prof. Jarvis was the scholar who originally broke this story a few years ago. (March is also the anniversary of Bach’s birth, and we have a story on page 15 by Local 802 member John Thiessen, the contractor for music at Trinity Church, as an additional tribute to Bach.)
Women’s History Month has its roots in the textile industry, where women historically endured terrible working conditions. It’s the month in which we remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which was the largest industrial disaster in the history of New York City. Most of the victims were immigrant women. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the textile workers’ union (the ILGWU). This year’s commemoration, which is the 102nd anniversary of the tragedy, will be from noon to 1 on Wednesday, March 20 at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, the site of the original building. For more information, go to www.RememberTheTriangleFire.org.
In this issue, you can also read an extremely well-researched story by Martha Hyde about women’s health and insurance. This is part of our series about how the new health care law may affect you. See page 34.
This year is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic decision that ended back-alley abortions. We are proud to feature on page 14 an op-ed written for us by Joan Malin, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.
March is the month in which Cesar Chavez, the founder of the farm workers’ union and a defender of human rights, was born. He would have been 86 on March 31. For information about activities and how to get involved, see www.ChavezFoundation.org or www.ufw.org.
Lastly, I’d like to highlight three additional stories in this issue:
Financial Vice President Tom Olcott wrote our cover story about why the union matters to younger musicians. Please share this important story with any younger musicians in your life, especially those who haven’t joined the union yet. See page 8.
On page 20, we have a report of the Lou Donaldson concert and panel discussion we recently sponsored as part of our jazz campaign. Over 200 people came out for the event, which was arguably our strongest outreach effort to date.
We succeeded in achieving a union contract for musicians who performed with pop artist Josh Groban at the Allen Room. We were able to do this thanks to an anonymous tip from a member. The power of the union starts with a single phone call. See page 13 for the full story.
BIG RECORDING WIN
Our supervisor of electronic media services, Steve Danenberg, recently reported that musicians received $183,500 in wages and $16,500 in pension thanks to the union. As a result of a coordinated effort between us and the AFM, we resolved a grievance over a nine-volume DVD set released by Time Life. The set was a compilation of 25 years of performances for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, many by Local 802 musicians. The key to winning the grievance was that the original performances had been filed as union single engagement contracts, which gave musicians protection against future use of their work. (That’s another reason to work under union contracts.)
Separately, in other joint effort with the AFM, we resolved a situation that resulted in a $3,500 payment for musicians who were performing sideline work at 666 Park Avenue.
I recently participated in a panel at the NYC Bar Association Entertainment Law Committee. The title was “Hot Topics in the Music Business.” Included on the panel were representatives from the Writers’ Guild East, Actors’ Equity, IATSE, and the newly merged SAG-AFTRA. It was a real opportunity for me to be able to sit in a room full of lawyers (I was the only one who wasn’t a member of the bar) and tell them exactly how I feel about them. My statement was met with the appropriately good-humored response reminding me that I only had ten minutes…
Seriously, my assignment as I saw it was to highlight some of the hot button issues in the entertainment industry as it pertains to professional musicians, all of which inevitably have a heavy legal component.
To give it my spin as a union leader, I started with that I know best: live music.
As our members know, Local 802 represents approximately 9,000 musicians in the greater New York area, including the members of the New York Philharmonic, the Met Opera, the NYC Ballet, Radio City Music Hall and many other classical ensembles. We also represent musicians who perform at the 38 Broadway theatres and the many Off Broadway and other musical theatre venues around the city. We represent those who record for albums, movies, videogames, TV shows and jingles. We represent musicians who play weddings, hotels, corporate gigs and other single engagements. And we represent those who play jazz, R&B, rock and Latin in live venues all over the city.
Live music is a part of the fabric of New York City life. Are all of these venues safe from the “advancement” of technology? The simple answer is no.
Technologically, we are coming close to creating computer-driven sound that cheats unsuspecting audience members into thinking they’re getting live music. Some claim we are already there. We aren’t, but we’ve come perilously close. We know that nothing can replace live music, and our perpetual task is to remind audiences that if they’re paying for music, they should get live music..
At the collective bargaining table, we are repeatedly challenged to surrender our insistence on live music, and on the number of live musicians artistically necessary to play the music that is composed. We are routinely charged with featherbedding or worse. In the symphonic world, we are threatened with lockouts, bankruptcy and impasse – and now we have to wonder if we even have a National Labor Relations Board to enforce the labor laws.
In the sound recording industry, the union has made compromises. In the agreement we have with the record labels, for instance, there needed to be a change in how musicians are paid for the new use of previously recorded product in the area of non-traditional new media. This change represents a shift from “session payments” to “percentage payments” based on volume or bulk use. This adaptation created a revenue stream for musicians that hadn’t existed before.
There was extensive discussion on the organizing of new media productions such as made-for-Internet-only or streaming-only programs such as Netflix’s recent release of “House of Cards.” This represents a game changer for some of the guilds because a whole series is released at once, rather than week by week. For musicians, it seems less of a game changer given that the constructs of our agreements do not basically conflict with such a release either in work rules or compensation.
I brought up the impact of digital media on the recording industry but was slightly disappointed that there was no more time for discussion, particularly about the effect of piracy on all the guilds. The access to product via digital media has changed things drastically. The Recording Industry Association of America has reported that only 37 percent of music acquired by U.S. consumers in 2009 was actually paid for. Piracy remains a central issue in the recording industry.
Musicians used to have to worry about the recording industry being the death knell of live music. Now we have to worry whether the digital age is putting an end to the recording industry.
Where’s the hope in all of this? Our secret weapon is the one that workers have always had when they’ve been beaten down by bosses or technology: solidarity. As a union, we have some of the best minds in the industry. We can craft new strategies, act together and make sure the public hears our message loud and clear. Despair is not an option. Here at Local 802, we are on the front line in the war for live music. There’s no way we are going to lose.
l Local 802 recently achieved an agreement for a development production of a show called “Table.” Please remember that any time you’re called to play for a show of any size – even for a reading or workshop – call the Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. We have an excellent track record in helping you get the wages and benefits you deserve while protecting your identity and your job.
l We met with the management of the New York Philharmonic to discuss the most recent memorandum of agreement in respect to pension issues. The memorandum required that the New York Philharmonic and Local 802 engage in a study comparing defined benefit pension plans (where the employer bears the burden of funding status) vs. defined contribution pension plans (where the burden sits squarely on the shoulders of the participant). The meeting was informative; we talked about the New York Philharmonic’s defined benefit plan and the short-term cash relief that recent legislation has afforded the plan.
Local 802 has endorsed Scott Stringer for city comptroller; Corey Johnson for City Council (3rd district) and Letitia James for NYC public advocate. For more information on these endorsements or to get involved in the campaigns, please contact K.C. Boyle at Kboyle@Local802afm.org or (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.
CONGRATS TO GRAMMY WINNERS
Congrats to all of our members who recently won Grammys, including the Met Opera chorus and orchestra for their recent recording of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, for which they won Best Opera Recording. The following members of Local 802 also won Grammys this year, or played on Grammy-winning projects: Yo Yo Ma, Dr. John, Chris Botti, Chris Potter, Steve Khan and Gil Evans (awarded posthumously). (This list of winners, which was provided to us by the AFM, only includes those musicians whose work is recorded on labels that have signed AFM agreements.)
A memorial service and gathering will be held for clarinetist Charles Russo, a member of Local 802 since 1950, who passed away last Nov. 24 at the age of 86. (We printed an obituary for Mr. Russo in our January issue.) The service will be on Sunday, March 10 on the 10th floor of Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Dr., from 2 to 6 p.m. RSVPs are requested. For more information or to RSVP, call Dave Carey at (845) 358-1036.
NEW BROADWAY REP
I’m pleased to announce that Theresa Couture is our new Broadway rep. Theresa has been working at Local 802 for many years, most recently as a theatre rep. She can be reached at Tcouture@Local802afm.org or (212) 245-4802, ext. 115.