Last Year’s Activity Laid A Solid Basis For 2001

Recording Vice-President's Report

Volume CI, No. 1January, 2001

In preparing this report I reviewed the past year’s issues of Allegro, so that I could highlight the most important currents of our activity in 2000, rather than simply reporting numbers and statistics. That look back confirmed my sense that Local 802 continues to be a vibrant, active, progressive and democratic labor union in the entertainment industry. While we have had both successes and defeats, the union always bounces back to continue its efforts to serve members and non-member musicians alike. Local 802’s activities include administering our current contracts and agreements, negotiating new agreements, organizing, legislative initiatives, member education, public relations and a host of other functions.

Our membership numbers remain fairly constant, in the 10,000 range. Any erosion by death, suspensions or terminations is usually made up by new and rejoining members. This past summer, the AFM Millennium Membership Drive brought in 330 new and returned members for the bargain initiation fee of $20. Of course, in order to retain them, Local 802 must fulfill its mandate as a union – by offering members the opportunity to work under a union contract and enjoy its wages, benefits and protections.

Off-Broadway has been a bright spot. Last year about 50 Off-Broadway shows signed agreements with Local 802. For the first time, our Theatre Department was able to offer a standard agreement to cover workshops. The Music Directors’ Committee has assisted in developing these agreements and has worked closely with the theatre business representatives and the Theatre Department.

Strategic planning by the officers and Executive Board is now at the front and center of board meeting agendas. We have had the first of several meetings entirely devoted to this initiative. The recurring motif of all the reports submitted by officers and supervisors was that education is all-important – educating our members as to what the union is all about; basic information about the labor movement and Local 802’s role; and education of bargaining unit committees, including negotiating committees.

The expression, “No man is an island unto himself,” has particular relevance for us. No committee can make a decision that stands alone without affecting other musicians, orchestras and bargaining units; the ripple effect is very pronounced. For just one example, various orchestras in the freelance concert field have varying agendas. Any unusual or offbeat proposal by one ensemble is bound to affect the other groups.

Education of our audiences is also crucial – through our public relations, and the Audience Awareness/Live Music campaign. Local 802 has budgeted more than $100,000 for radio announcements and a print campaign for 2001. Our presentation on the CD-ROM that SFX will be distributing to Broadway audiences advances that campaign, and can be utilized in many different formats to promote live music.

Ending dark dates: Another key element in our educational work during the coming year will be to make recording musicians aware of how destructive phonograph dark dates can be, not only in weakening the union but also in depriving the Special Payments Fund of contributions that will make it possible to continue making meaningful disbursements to recording musicians.

The Recording and New Organizing departments organized a meeting with 25 phono contractors to address the union’s concerns about the proliferation of dark phono dates. Meetings on the same subject are planned with rank-and-file recording musicians. The musicians’ response to phone calls about these meetings has been positive, and Local 802 looks forward to their cooperation in giving us timely notice, so that dark dates can be turned into union dates.

Club date contract: In October the Contract Administration/Field Services Department held a dinner meeting to involve members in the single engagement club date field in preparations for the upcoming negotiations. The response was excellent; many musicians attended. The questions they asked and concerns they expressed about the current contract and the pending negotiations made it clear that they will be deeply involved in this campaign. A steering committee is now planning a follow-up meeting to incorporate their questions and concerns in proposals for the negotiations, which will take place early this year. Another factor that will undoubtedly come into play is the notable success the New Organizing Department has had in bringing a number of important club-date offices under union agreements, since our last agreement was signed.

Negotiations with freelance concert orchestras are also scheduled for the coming year. The Concert Department will be challenged to reconcile the varying agendas of these orchestras, to come up with agreements acceptable to all.

802 elections: Meanwhile, the office of the Recording Vice-President/Secretary has had a busy time over the last few months preparing for the Local 802 elections, which will be conducted on Dec. 5 according to our bylaws and Department of Labor rules. The American Arbitration Association has supervised and monitored the entire process. This department received a flood of more than 1,200 mailed, faxed and e-mailed requests for absentee ballots. These requests were individually checked and certified before being sent to the A.A.A. so that ballots could be mailed out to members.

This report would not be complete without mentions of the many activist members who respond when called upon to serve on committees, attend labor demonstrations and become involved in union affairs. I also want to recognize our dedicated staff, who strive on a daily basis to help our members and who manage the union’s business in an exemplary fashion.