Our jazz campaign got a major boost in mid-October, when New York’s City Council passed a resolution in support of our efforts. In recognizing Justice for Jazz Artists, members of City Council joined a growing number of voices calling for New York City’s major jazz clubs to do right by the jazz musicians who play regularly in these venues. The top jazz artists in the world live and work in New York City – yet many older jazz musicians are forced to retire in poverty. Even those musicians who play frequently in the most prestigious and profitable jazz clubs are denied basic benefits and pensions. Though the top jazz clubs in New York City profit greatly from the musicians that bring in their customers, they have refused to work with musicians in a productive way to address pensions or any other work-related issues.
After the vote, musicians and supporters rallied on the steps of City Hall. Present were Council Members Van Bramer, Laurie Cumbo and Corey Johnson; bass player Bob Cranshaw; trumpet player and educator Jimmy Owens; jazz singer and bandleader Keisha St. Joan and others.
“Today the Justice for Jazz Campaign has taken an important step toward ensuring jazz artists are afforded the respect they are due and can retire with dignity,” said Council Member Van Bramer, chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee. “This campaign is about achieving equity by taking a stand against the inequalities that currently plague New York’s jazz industry. Jazz musicians should not be denied their employees’ rights as their hard work contributes to enriching the lives of New Yorkers, stimulating the economy and maintaining our city as the preeminent international destination to experience culture and the arts. The passage of this resolution sends a strong message that momentum is building and we will not stop fighting until justice for jazz artists is realized.”
I’m proud of all of the musicians and staff who got our campaign to this point, especially our jazz department, headed by Recording Vice President John O’Connor. Over the past several years, our campaign has built up more and more momentum. Club owners know that we’re not going away – it’s time for them to pick up the phone and negotiate with us. For the latest in the campaign, see www.JusticeForJazzArtists.org. There, you’ll find a growing list of endorsers, including Dr. Cornel West and Terence Blanchard, both of whom we were recently honored to add. Thank you!
One additional note: this City Council vote in favor of our campaign is more proof that it’s crucial that we stay involved in politics. When you see the union make political endorsements, it’s for specific reasons. We always pick the candidates who we feel will represent the interests of musicians, live culture and working people. By the time you read these words, the midterm elections will be over, but our political work will continue. In other political news, Mayor de Blasio recently signed an executive order expanding the living wage policy for New York City vendors and contractors. That’s an example of the kind of pro-worker policy that we endorse.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
In this issue, we have two important stories on nonprofit management. The first is our cover story by Harvey Mars, “Stop the Invasion.” Harvey breaks down a new law that allows nonprofits to effectively raid their own endowments to pay for operating expenses, which is exactly what happened with the New York City Opera. It’s not a good development, and what it means is that musicians need to keep an eagle eye on the finances of their ensembles. Once again, musicians have to do the heavy lifting when incompetent boards fail us. It’s on all of us to be vigilant.
Next, Tom Olcott writes about a recent fundraising conference he attended and how it hammered home to him that boards – including orchestra boards – are the point people for how a nonprofit succeeds or fails. It’s so easy for mainstream media to blame “the extravagant salaries of musicians” whenever an orchestra or opera is threatened, but the truth is that it’s the board of directors who must be passionately committed to an ensemble and do the hard work of fundraising to make it succeed. Board members cannot be passive people and too often organizations fail because of this. I urge you to read Tom’s article “Orchestra Board Members Need to Step Up.”
The latest numbers are in and we are cautiously optimistic. For the six-month period from Jan. 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014, Local 802 realized a gain of $251,330. The audited financial statements for the six-month period appear in the printed issue of Allegro on page 39. Compared to 2013, our dues revenues are up by $115,000, including increases in both work dues and membership dues. This is significant because when our dues income goes up, it means that more musicians are working union jobs. We don’t want to say that the slump is over, but any improvement is something to notice. As always, we are very serious about how we spend your money, and we run the union as efficiently as possible while providing the best service that we can. For more details, please see articles by Financial Vice President Tom Olcott and Controller Cathy Camiolo in this issue.
LIVE MUSIC TAKES A HIT
The Plaza Hotel recently announced that it will discontinue live piano music for its afternoon tea in the Palm Court. That has historically been a union gig covered under our hotel contract. This short-sighted decision is bad for live music, bad for the hotel patrons, and bad for culture in general. Allegro published a major story on hotel music (“A Touch of Class“) where we reported that hotel patrons prefer live music, and it’s better for business. I urge Plaza management to reconsider this decision. Removing the live human element from what is historically a special event offered to patrons will surely diminish the stature and prestige of the Plaza. To pay $60 (plus an additional $20 for the “privilege” of sharing your plate) for cucumber sandwiches, savories and pastries without the appropriate atmosphere that live piano music provides is just not worth it.
Some of you have heard or even seen “Google Glass,” which is a pair of high-tech glasses that lets you browse the internet or capture audio and video. Disney recently allowed a conductor to wear a pair of Google Glass during a performance of “Aladdin” at the New Amsterdam Theatre in order to tape the show from the conductor’s point of view. This was for novelty or promotional usage, and musicians will be compensated or covered under our Broadway agreement if the footage is used. But there is a larger story here. What if audience members start using Google Glass to make unauthorized videos of Broadway productions? Google Glass is much less noticeable than holding up a smartphone to shoot video. This is a larger issue that is far from settled. I urge all of us to begin thinking about how Google Glass may affect musicians’ rights. Our position is always that the artistry of our musicians should not be recorded or captured without fair compensation.
NEGOTIATIONS & GRIEVANCES
Local 802 recently achieved agreements covering musicians when they perform at five Off Broadway theatres: Second Stage Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Atlantic Theatre Company, New York Shakespeare Festival and the New York Theatre Workshop. We also achieved a developmental production agreement with Reach Out Entertainment covering musicians who are playing for “Mozart: The Rock Opera.” Additionally, we have an agreement with Joe’s Pub covering musicians in the production of “Rock Bottom.” If you get called to play a musical theatre production (including a reading or a show that’s still in development), please call our Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. We can let you know confidentially if the show is covered by a union contract. If it’s not, we can advise you on the best way to proceed.
MEETINGS & UPDATES
In mid-October, I attended the conference of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans on behalf of the AFM pension fund. The conference is a four-day event where union and management trustees have an opportunity to sit with fund professionals for valuable updates on the status of both pension and health benefit funds. It also offers sessions regarding the governance of the various funds as well as sessions that offer tools for trustees to be more equipped to provide informed and efficient service to the funds on which we sit. This is a yearly event and I am always grateful for the opportunity to be trained and educated to better serve the participants of both the AFM pension fund and the Local 802 health fund.
Later this month, I will be once again visiting our colleagues in London as part of Local 802’s ongoing commitment to have an open and collaborative relationship with the leadership and musicians of the British Musicians’ Union (MU). Once again we will be taking stock of the status of London’s West End theatres as well as the current status of Broadway. Our troubles and issues are remarkably similar and it is important for both unions to address our problems as a global collective. Many of the same producers on Broadway also produce in London, so it serves theatre musicians on both sides of the “pond” to be in sync.
Coupled with this trip, I will be joining AFM International President Ray Hair and representing NYC musicians at an international conference on music streaming that will be held in Budapest, organized by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), of which the AFM is a member. We continue to fight for the distribution of revenue by foreign collectives to session musicians in New York and the rest of the AFM. Some of you may have already received additional monies recently because of agreements the AFM has successfully bargained with foreign collectives. On the agenda will be streaming, digital download rights and the effective collection of revenue owed to musicians. This is one area where the AFM/SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund is leading the way. Through our continuing relationship with FIM, our goal is that musicians will benefit from equitable distribution of revenue collected on behalf of AFM musicians.
We are pleased to welcome Maggie Russell-Brown as our new director of organizing and field services. Maggie has shown herself to be a dedicated and passionate labor organizer. Before coming on board with Local 802, she worked on the Fast Food Forward campaign, where she mobilized workers to expose the realities of low-wage work. She spent years representing workers in Connecticut in various professions and has experience in both labor and political organizing. Maggie can be reached at Mrussell@Local802afm.org or (212) 245-4802, ext. 157.
Finally, three quick notes to end my report this month:
- In the October issue, we misspelled the last name of violinist Katie Jacoby in our monthly list of new members. We apologize for the typo.
- Local 802’s annual holiday party will take place this year on Wednesday, Dec. 17. Save the date! More details to follow.
- I wish all members a healthy and joyous Thanksgiving. I’ll see you in these pages in December.