Local 802 has collected more than $40,000 in wages, pension and late penalties on behalf of the 23 musicians who performed on a phonograph track that was used on last year’s VH-1 Divas 2001 show. Aretha Franklin sang to an open track of “Nessum Dorma,” which Arista had recorded in 1998.
If an open track is used, all videotape agreements require the musicians who performed on it to be paid as if they were in the studio. While VH-1 is not a signatory to the Basic Cable Agreement, the show;s producer was a signatory. He contended that the track had been supplied by the record label, and Arista ultimately agreed that they were responsible for its use. However, so much time passed before contract reports, which were prepared by Local 802, were in fact filed and musicians were paid that an additional 60 percent in late penalties was incurred.
The grievance collection totaled $40,674.50. It included wages for the 23 musicians (including music prep) of $23,695.92 and pension of $2,369.59. Since it was a new use of a previous recording, health benefits were not required. The late penalty alone came to $14,608.99 – which represents nearly 20 percent of all the late penalties that Local 802 collected under all recording agreements in 2001.
Jay Schaffner, Assistant Supervisor of the Recording Department, pointed out that very few VH-1 programs are done under a union agreement. “But when people are called for these programs, if they notify Local 802 ahead of time and we are able to work on it, we can turn it into a union job,” he told Allegro. “The benefits are very clear. Doing the job under a union agreement is not just about getting wages and benefits up front: it’s also about making sure that everybody whose work is used on the program is protected.”