Labor History is Now

President's Report

Tino Gagliardi

Musicians for justice! Local 802 member, staff and supporters at an Occupy event last fall.
Photo: Peter Unterweger

Local 802 and New York City step up to May Day

May is Labor History Month, and what a year it’s been for labor history! On the heels of the “Arab Spring,” the Occupy movement wakened the nation from its stupor and gave hope to activists all over the world. Local 802 musicians were out in force at many Occupy events over the past 12 months, including an event on May Day that is occurring just as Allegro goes to press.

The Occupy movement also inspired some of our members to form the Musicians Solidarity Council (see, which has provided key support at Local 802 demonstrations, including the leafleting actions in our Justice for Jazz Artists campaign.

On this Labor History Month, I am reminded of the pioneers of labor history who gave their lives for justice. I am also reminded how the struggle for labor rights is still a life-or-death matter in many places across the world. For instance, the New York Times recently reported that a Bangladeshi labor activist named Aminul Islam was tortured and murdered there. This may seem like a tragedy with little connection to our own lives, but it isn’t. We are all connected. Mr. Islam was killed because he had protested the low wages in Bangladesh’s garment industry, which produces clothes for Walmart, Tommy Hilfiger and H&M, among others.

Even though our union’s focus is New York City, we must remember that we are part of a world struggle for justice. We cannot take our rights for granted, and we must not forget the bigger picture.

For more labor history coverage in this issue, please see John O’Connor’s story “Take Back May Day”  and Shane Gasteyer’s story “Occupy the Music.”


Solidarity among unions is not a thing of the past. In my March column, I wrote about how members of SAG and AFTRA were considering whether or not to merge their unions. On March 30, the vote tally on this question was announced and the result was overwhelmingly in favor of merger. This historic move had been supported by the boards of both unions. I, and many other labor leaders, believe that this was a great decision. Imagine the power of one union, where members support each others’ contracts and picket lines. The labor movement needs more of this kind of solidarity.


On the other hand, there is an unfortunate piece of garbage from the dustbin of labor history that is rearing its ugly head again. You may or may not be familiar with the term “yellow dog contract.” It refers to a contract under which employers can require workers to sign a statement agreeing not to join the union.

Incredibly, yellow dog contracts have turned up in the recording industry in 2012. Composers have been required to sign contracts stating that they will not hire any union musicians to record scores for videogames, movies or TV films. This is illegal and unethical. If any member is asked to sign such a contract, please contact my office immediately. In the latest issue of the International Musician, AFM President Ray Hair explains this situation in detail and the AFM’s response.

Speaking of bad employers, this may be an appropriate moment to mention that the New York City Opera – which recently gutted its contract and commitment to musicians – hired a nonunion band for its gala fundraiser. This may not be a big surprise, but it’s still insult to injury.


The New York Times recently ran a front-page story on the practice of Broadway producers who “hide” pit orchestras in remote locations. This is not new to Broadway musicians, but it may have been a surprise to many Broadway fans, who didn’t realize that the “pit” orchestra is no longer in the same performance space as the audience.

The need to relegate members of the orchestra to areas outside the pit is often a byproduct of theatres reducing the size of the pit in order to put more seats into the orchestra section of the house.

It’s not a practice I am particularly happy about. Some may remember some years back, a brand-new and innovative show opened that changed how pit orchestras were heard. When “A Chorus Line” opened on July 25th, 1975, the pit was completely covered and not in sight of the audience. Though the musicians weren’t performing from another room, covering the musicians took away the visual impact of the live orchestra. Audiences for the first time were introduced to the idea of music being piped in – the beginning of the slippery slope to canned music. Many theatergoers actually believed that there was no orchestra and that they were hearing recorded music.

This is one of the many reasons the Theatre Department, working with the Broadway Theatre Committee, is in the process of drafting “digital music bills.”

Some quick background. As you know, whenever you see a Broadway show, you’re handed a Playbill magazine, which contains the bios of the actors and producers in the show. In order to get the bios of the musicians in Playbill, we would have to negotiate it with the League. This would be a major hurdle, because it’s expensive to add pages to Playbill.

So we had the idea of doing the same thing electronically. Our idea – digital music bills – would be special Web sites that we set up with biographies of each Local 802 musician playing in a particular Broadway show. Theatre goers could use their smart phones to access these sites while sitting in a Broadway audience. I imagine that we could at least get a sentence inserted into the Playbill program, like this: “To read the bios of the musicians in this show, visit this site…”

The aim of this project is to promote the importance of live music and the musicians who actually provide live music day in and day out from all the pits on Broadway. I am looking forward to this project serving as a useful tool that will allow our musicians to build a strong connection with our audiences.


At our upcoming June 13 membership meeting, we’re going to ask members to vote on a package of four special proposals. You’ll see details of these proposals in this issue, but I’ll speak a little about them here.

Musicians know by now that my administration has set a specific goal of how Local 802 should be involved politically. Broadly speaking, the approach I’m most comfortable with is to use our political influence in ways that help our members directly. Therefore, it should go without saying that we want to have a strong relationship with the mayor of New York City. The mayor’s office can influence live music funding and other opportunities for our members.

To that end, we are proposing that Local 802 make donations of $2,500 each to the campaigns of three mayoral candidates, each of whom will be running in the New York City mayoral primary in 2013. One of them will most certainly be elected as mayor, and we want to be sure to show our commitment early.

We are also proposing to donate $3,000 to the political action fund of the AFM, to help elect arts-friendly candidates all over the country and to help pass musician-friendly legislation like intellectual performance rights and instrument carry-on rights when we travel.

I endorse all of these proposals and I hope that members vote for it.


In the printed issue, you can find the union’s audited financial statements for the period Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011. The statements will show you that Local 802 is in good financial health, but that we did experience a loss of $157,666 over this period.

While any loss is troubling, I am not especially concerned that it represents a trend or anything dire. I would like to suggest that 2011 was an unusual year for us, with large, one-time legal expenses for contract negotiations that converged at the same time.

(A partial list of the negotiations we handled in the past 12 months include Broadway, Radio City, the Met Opera, the New York City Ballet, the New School, the Apollo Theatre, Cirque du Soleil, the Winter Jazzfest, Westfield, the Stamford Symphony, the American Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, Opera Orchestra of New York, the New York City Opera and about a dozen Off Broadway productions.)

I believe our overall financial health to be good. As you will read in our controller Cathy Camiolo’s report, our net cash has increased in 2011 by $568,867 when compared to the decrease in 2010. Our total current assets remain much higher than current liabilities, which indicates Local 802’s ability to pay its obligations.

For more analysis, please read Financial Vice President Tom Olcott’s column.


As Allegro went to press, we had finalized our freelance concert scale. See Tom Olcott’s story on page 16 with all the details.

I’m happy to tell you that Metropolitan Opera Staff musicians have ratified their new agreement. The music staff were able to make gains in assignment notification and rehearsal conditions. Additionally, there was an increase in wage and music preparation payments.

We have a new contract with City Center/Encores. We were able to gain increases in health benefit contributions that brings the level of contribution on par with the Broadway agreement.

Our master club date agreement expired on April 14 and our club date committee is in negotiations.


In June, I will be going to Beijing wit AFM President Ray Hair and others a part of an AFM delegation to the conference of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The goal is to achieve a consensus on an international treaty for the protection of audiovisual performances.

Given the fact that the majority of film, television and audiovisual content distributed worldwide is performed by AFM members under AFM contracts, the AFM recently petitioned WIPO for status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) to attend, observe and have a voice at this historic conference.

The importance of AFM participation at the conference cannot be overstated. The treaty, if adopted, will give economic property rights to musicians working in audiovisual media, many whom are Local 802 members. This would be the first such victory at the international level.

Ultimately, the gains offered by this treaty could represent additional compensation for those musicians whose product is being heard in the foreign market for motion picture and theatrical television.

Our hope is that our attendance will have an influence to ensure that monies collected by the foreign collectives are distributed to all the musicians that deserve payment.


The future of live music depends on more music education in our schools. Americans for the Arts recently reported on a federal study that shows 1.3 million of our nation’s public elementary school students receive no specific instruction in music.

This report found that the nation’s poorest students – the ones who could benefit the most from arts education – are receiving it the least.

A decade ago, the data showed that 100 percent of high poverty schools offered music instruction, but currently, only 80 percent do.

For further details on this study, see

On a related note, April 17 was Arts Advocacy Day, when artists and arts organizations descended on Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for better arts funding. Local 802 was represented there by the AFM.