The letter below that seven prominent jazz artists sent to the owners and management teams at the Blue Note, the Jazz Standard and Birdland illustrate the commitment that musicians are making to the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign. This letter, unlike other letters that have been sent, was from the artists themselves, not their representatives at the union. The letter was sent last fall, and attempts to follow up have been met so far with silence by the club owners.
These influential artists, who represent different generations of jazz musicians, have been working with Local 802 to find effective ways to persuade the club owners to sit down with the union and to make it clear that the union speaks for them and other jazz musicians. Of course, the letter is only one of many ways the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign is trying to bring the clubs to the table.
The campaign continues to attract important artists, who have become more active with the campaign in recent months. In addition to headliners like those signed on to this letter, talented and busy side musicians have also lent their time, advice and support to the campaign. Allies of these musicians – including labor and community organizations, elected officials, religious community leaders and jazz audiences – are getting involved in increasing numbers. This year will be a year of action, as the campaign escalates. Dramatic actions are planned for the spring, summer and fall. To get involved and find out more, visit www.JusticeForJazzArtists.org.
J4JA Musicians Committee
322 West 48th Street
New York, NY 10036
Mr. Danny Meyer
116 East 27th St.
New York, NY 10016
November 7th, 2013
Our union, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, has requested that you sit down to discuss issues of fairness that affect performers who work in your club. So far that meeting has not happened.
The goals of the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign have been developed by musicians like us, and by our union. We believe them to be righteous, reasonable and affordable. Those goals need now only be considered in the spirit of good faith negotiations by both parties.
As you know, one of the most important issues to us is pension. The musicians union’s pension fund (AFM-EPF) is one of the best tools that working musicians have to assure their retirement security. Because nightclubs don’t currently participate in the fund, access is not available to most jazz performers. We believe the landscape for jazz musicians will change dramatically for the better once this issue is fully addressed, and when a plan is implemented by you and by other venues. It is clear to us that such a plan will eventually help to provide retirement security for thousands of musicians—for years to come.
We recognize the contributions that your club and other local venues have made, and continue to make to the music and to our community.
Likewise we understand that you have arrived at your position through hard work and sacrifice. But it is clear that you have also achieved your status as a result of the labor of thousands of jazz artists, our brothers and sisters, whom you have engaged and celebrated over the last decade. Given your leadership role in this community, we feel strongly that these issues merit your full attention, and we expect that you will respond accordingly.
We encourage you to meet with us as soon as is practicable so that we may ultimately find a way to work together[…]
Ron Carter, Jason Moran, Bob Cranshaw, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride and Jimmy Owens