It has been a busy time at Local 802 and as always, there is plenty to report. First of all, I’d like to give you an update on the Local 802 elections. This year, there were no opposing candidates in any race. In situations like this, all eligible candidates are deemed elected without the need to spend thousands of our members’ dollars on a formal election process. Therefore, the Local 802 General Election of Officers scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, will not need to take place and has been called off. I want to personally thank Local 802 members for their support of this administration and myself in our efforts to guide and strengthen this union as we begin another three-year term starting in January. We are fully aware of the responsibility you’ve given us, but we also know that you have our backs. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and congratulations to all of my fellow candidates. Please read the biographies of each candidate.
Something important to mention: you’ll see that Recording Vice President John O’Connor is retiring and Andy Schwartz has stepped forward to serve in his place. Additionally, we welcome Bob Suttmann to the Executive Board after serving on the Trial Board for two terms, and we also welcome Marvin Moschel, who has agreed to serve on the Trial Board in addition to his duties as our delegate to the New York Central Labor Council. I will offer John O’Connor a more comprehensive expression of our gratitude for his invaluable service to 802 and its members in my next column, which will be the last column of the year.
I’ve often spoken in these pages about our goal to create an eastern conference of AFM locals, which would consolidate local AFM conferences all the way from Washington, D.C. to Maine. This was an idea that came to the AFM national convention in 2013 as a resolution and was subsequently referred to the International Executive Board, which agreed with the concept. I’m happy to let you know that we have finally established this organization. Its inaugural meeting took place in Greenwich, Connecticut in early October. This first meeting took care of basic housekeeping, such as adopting bylaws and establishing an operational structure. We also had some time to hear AFM presentations on several topics. The opening presentation was given by AFM President Ray Hair, who outlined the history of the AFM as well as its current structure and governing bodies. Also very interesting and useful was his look to the future, especially in the realm of electronic media and digital rights for streaming performance as well as our ongoing efforts for performance rights for terrestrial broadcasts. Following President Hair were Sam Folio, who spoke on the financial well-being of our union, and Jay Blumenthal, the director of the AFM’s Symphonic Services Division, who gave us an update on the issues facing symphonic, opera and ballet musicians.
Pat Varriale from the Electronic Media Services Division reported on various negotiations; he was followed by International Representatives Barbara Owens and Gene Tournour, who gave an important presentation on local union officer basics, a precursor to what we hope to develop as a comprehensive officer training program. We also had the benefit of having AFM Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard update us on the AFM’s legislative initiatives. We heard reports from the five player conferences: ICSOM, ROPA, RMA and TMA. The closing presentation was given by our own in-house counsel, Harvey S. Mars, Esq., on recent NLRB decisions that are pertinent and extremely important to how we conduct the business of collective bargaining. Needless to say, it was a very full, informative and valuable day for all in attendance. Subsequent meetings could include other weighty issues, such as organizing in today’s environment for all locals, regardless of size, as well as how we attract more recording to our various jurisdictions as more and more municipalities offer richer and richer tax incentives. Financial Vice President Tom Olcott, in his capacity as president of the New York State Conference of Musicians, was the host for the conference, and you can learn more about this groundbreaking meeting in Tom’s report.
On a similar note, the Midwest Conference of Musicians recently met in Des Moines, Iowa. It was a well-attended and productive conference centered on the issues facing the musicians in the midwest. It ended on a positive note with a commitment to pursue the idea of a midwest regional conference at the AFM’s 100th convention in 2016.
Finally, in other AFM news, I have been assisting the AFM in the Sound Recording Labor Agreement negotiations. This is one of the union’s extremely important flagship contracts that establishes wage scales, terms and conditions when musicians record on a union signatory record label. As I have reported previously, the ongoing lawsuits against some signatory labels by the AFM Pension Fund will make these negotiations challenging. However, I know that our union is up for the challenge, and I’ll report to you as these and other AFM negotiations progress.
Two opera updates: First, the saga of New York City Opera has taken some confusing turns in the past two years, but the basic situation is that the company is now trying to revive itself through the bankruptcy process rather than sell its assets to another entity. If the company starts up again, it will have access to millions of dollars in bequests that are still available. The very latest news is that a committee of NYCO creditors (including the AFM Pension Fund) has voted to accept a reorganization plan submitted by Michael Capasso and Roy G. Niederhoffer and their company NYCO Renaissance. According to one source, this proposal would mean that NYCO would start up again in January 2016 and perform at Rose Hall (which is technically part of Lincoln Center but located at Columbus Circle) as well as the church of St. Jean Baptiste on the Upper East Side. There may still be a counterproposal by an opposing entity, and a bankruptcy judge will make a final determination. Local 802’s position remains that musicians need to be paid any back wages and benefits due to them, and that whoever ends up running NYCO needs to have a continued relationship with the NYCO orchestra as it now, as prescribed in the legacy agreement of the former NYCO.
The second update is a little more bizarre. Gotham Chamber Orchestra – which for years had covered musicians under Local 802 contracts for its performances – abruptly shut down in late September. The New York Times was so surprised by this that it reported, “The rapid demise of Gotham was stunning – the operatic equivalent of the sudden death of an outwardly healthy person.” It also reported that the company was brought down by unrecorded invoices and contracted fees that had never been put on the books, which resulted in a deficit in the mid-six figures. Obviously, we are saddened by the closing of Gotham, which will deprive audiences of live music and also deprive our musicians of jobs. This once again points to how important it is to have good management at our orchestras, operas and ensembles. Local 802 and our musicians will do all we can, but a lot of the financial health of ensembles has to do with making sure that competent and inspired managers and board members are at the top of their game and really know what’s going on. Our art and our livelihood depend a lot on them.
NOTES FOR RELIEF
Throughout September, we publicized our campaign called NOTES FOR RELIEF on our Facebook page and elsewhere in social media. The idea was to tell the stories of our members who had utilized the Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund and therefore inspire others to donate to the fund. The next phase of the campaign is to ask our big-name supporters to sign on publicly. You can view the campaign or make a donation at www.local802erf.org. I encourage each member of Local 802 to donate. The Emergency Relief Fund helps fellow Local 802 members in need. Let’s look out for each other.
PAY THE MUSICIANS
As I reported last month, earlier this year French film company KIDAM recorded 27 bands at New York’s prestigious Winter Jazzfest to appear on Mezzo TV throughout Europe. To date, those bands have not been paid their full wages and benefits. The AFM has filed a lawsuit, and musicians rallied in early October in front of Mezzo’s corporate owners (the Lagardere company) on Madison Avenue. More than 500 people have already sent letters to Kidam’s CEO urging him to pay the musicians. To learn more and to help, visit www.JusticeForJazzArtists.org.
In this issue, Harvey Mars has written an in-depth look at how new NLRB rules can possibly help union organizing. One rule has to do with making it easier and faster for workers to schedule NLRB union representation elections. This is how workers at Avatar recording studio won a union election and chose Local 802 as their bargaining representative. Other recent labor board decisions (that relate to organizing student workers and the subject of joint employers) may help our current situation at Bard College, where a student ensemble called The Orchestra Now appears to be undercutting and replacing jobs previously performed by the American Symphony Orchestra. The NLRB ruling may allow us to unionize those student musicians and possibly even cover them under our current ASO agreement. We’re in early the stages here, but the good news is the NLRB appears to be in a pro-worker state of mind these days.
In the printed issue of Allegro, you’ll see the financial reports for Local 802 for the period Jan. 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015. As you will see, Local 802 realized a gain of $42,945 during this period. This represents a real stability in our union and I am proud of the efforts of my administration in safeguarding our members’ resources. For more, see columns by Tom Olcott and Cathy Camiolo.
Musicians at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor recently achieved a Local 802 union agreement. Any time you’re called to play in a musical theatre production of any kind (including readings and developmental productions), please make a confidential call to our theatre department at (212) 245-4802. We’ll help you make sure you’re being paid the wages and benefits you deserve.
CONGRATS TO ROBERTA REARDON
I’d like to congratulate Roberta Reardon on her nomination by Governor Cuomo as the new commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor. Roberta was the founding co-president of SAG-AFTRA, starting with its overwhelmingly successful merger vote on March 30, 2012. Previously, she served three terms as national president of AFTRA and as president of the New York AFTRA local. She also served as a vice president of the AFL-CIO from 2009 to 2013. We look forward to working with Roberta and we know she’ll do a great job on behalf of the workers of New York.
FREE FLU SHOTS
The Actors Fund is offering free flu shots for musicians and other professional artists at the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic/Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence, 475 West 57th Street (off 10th Avenue) on the second floor. Please bring your union card. Appointments are not necessary: just show up at a date and time below. For more, call (212) 489-1939 and press option 3.
Wednesday, Nov. 18 – 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 30 – 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon
Tuesday, Dec. 1 – 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 16 – 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon