I hope that everyone had a great summer. For me and Local 802, it was jam-packed with Broadway negotiations, the AFM convention and election endorsements. Those three topics are what I want to address in this month’s column.
First, you can see from this month’s cover that the Local 802 Executive Board has enthusiastically endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Before going any further, there are so many things I could write about her opponent Donald Trump…you fill in the blank. Instead, I think the best approach here in my column is to take the high road and give you concrete reasons why Local 802 is supporting Hillary Clinton.
Secretary Clinton has demonstrated an awareness of – and an ability to advocate for – the priorities and needs of America’s working class throughout her career in public service. She’s championed the importance of healthcare reform, raising the federal minimum wage, public education, and strengthening the rights and protections of America’s workers by protecting collective bargaining rights. She also supports immigrants, minorities and the diverse fabric of our community.
Hillary Clinton is not only the most experienced and qualified candidate running for president, she shares the ideals, vision and priorities that millions of working-class Americans and musicians hold dear. She’s demonstrated her ability to build upon our country’s greatest strengths. She wants to make sure hardworking Americans in every sector can afford to live and work while raising a family.
Prior to the Nov. 8 presidential election, there will be a primary election in New York on Sept. 13. You should know that Local 802 is endorsing Micah Lasher for New York State Senate in District 31, which covers the west side of Manhattan all the way up to Inwood. Throughout his career in public service at the municipal, state and federal levels, Mr. Lasher has established himself as a champion of tenants’ rights, ethics reform, environmental safety and the labor movement. His experience at all levels of government – as well as his expertise with the judicial and legislative processes – make him an exceptional candidate and will make him an exceptional representative for New York City’s musicians and working class New Yorkers. Micah has not only shown a keen awareness and appreciation for the challenges facing New York City’s musicians, he exhibits the creative thinking, vision and legislative skills necessary to dig into those challenges and find solutions. I’m sure that if we send Micah to Albany, musicians and artists throughout the city and state will have gained an important champion.
I know that endorsement of candidates is something that many members think is natural and appropriate for a union. Some, however, disagree, and I respect that everyone has their own opinions on this question. Local 802 made endorsements in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and we frequently make endorsements in federal, state and local elections. We work hard with our elected officials to ensure that legislation at all levels supports musicians and other workers. This includes advocating for the Transportation Security Administration to process instruments through airport security without difficulty, further supporting the National Endowment for the Arts, strengthening intellectual property protections, protecting performance rights in digital and AM/FM radio formats, leveraging economic tools to incentivize the creation of good jobs in the music industry, and protecting against the outsourcing of jobs that should be made available here to our world-class musicians and music industry professionals.
All of this means that we have to work within the political system, not outside of it. The general election for president is Nov. 8. The primary election is Sept. 13. Are you registered to vote? Contact Local 802 Political Director Christopher Carroll for any help with registering or voting. He can be reached at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.You can also contact him (or me) if you have any questions or concerns about any of our endorsements.
After more than a year of preparation and many months of negotiations, Broadway musicians ratified their new contract with the League in early August. The good news is that theatre minimums remain unchanged in the new agreement. The new contract also includes a raise for musicians, improves workplace health and safety, and ensures greater dialogue regarding orchestration to preserve the power of live music while also supporting new techniques and styles. Like all artists, musicians continue to struggle as the cost of living in our city rises. As we underscored during the negotiation of this contract – which included concessions as well – New York City will only remain a cultural and tourism capital if we value our musicians and arts workers, providing compensation and conditions that allow them to live, work and raise a family in this great city.
I want to thank the committee that worked so diligently to ensure that Broadway musicians received a fair deal. These were not easy negotiations and like all bargaining there is always a give and take. It takes the participation of those in the workplace to determine what positions we must hold fast to and what demands we can be reasonably flexible with. Broadway musicians were well represented by our rank-and-file committee.
We reached out to the two top musician negotiators for their thoughts on the agreement. I found their answers to be especially honest and compelling, and I’d like to quote them here in my report.
Wally Usiatynski, the chair of the Broadway Theatre Committee as well as the chair of the Broadway negotiating committee, told us, “With this contract we have maintained contract stability and have achieved financial growth for the next three years. This was not an easy negotiation, though. We spent many long hours battling an attack on job security that would have undermined one of the main pillars of our contract. The League may have underestimated our resolve in this area and eventually backed down, but not without demanding tradeoffs in other areas such as cast rehearsals and music prep. On the plus side we have extended current minimums for another term and we have opened the door for meaningful change in how both sides understand the influence of electronic music on Broadway. Recent shows using digital audio workstations were a wakeup call for both sides and, through these negotiations, have prompted regular meetings with the League and Local 802 to discuss how electronic usage affects live music. We have also strengthened our language in how we handle health and safety issues, such as smoke, fog and carbon dioxide. Shows will have to give notice of potential health issues earlier and more frequently than before. The result is that we have put the League on notice that we will not tolerate the proliferation of electronics to displace live musicians, and we will be relentless in handling health and safety issues as soon as they arise. For these reasons, I support this contract and look forward to another three years of stability and growth for all musicians on Broadway.”
Patrick Milando, the vice chair of the negotiating committee, said, “First, I would like to compliment Tino, the Theatre Department, our legal counsel, and the entire negotiation committee. The process was very complex – and, at times, frustrating. In the end, after months of work on our side and deliberations across the table from the producers, I definitely recommended this contract for approval to the Broadway musical community. We will have three years of stability with a 3 percent raise per year. Would I have liked to have achieved an 8 percent per year raise? The answer is unequivocally yes! What I learned though through this process was – as the Rolling Stones’ song goes – ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.’ This is a contract we needed. I found the producers genuinely interested in coming to an equitable agreement. There were, however, certain initial asks that we could not grant. I’m sure they had similar reactions. Thus is the negotiations process: arduous yet fulfilling at its conclusion.”
To Wally and Patrick as well as the rest of the team – Jan Mullen, Bill Rohdin, Allison Seidner, Chris Reza, Andy Jones, Larry Lelli, Greg Thymius, Bruce Eidem and Executive Board member Bud Burridge – I say congratulations and thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’d also like to thank Lynne Bond, Theresa Couture, our entire Theatre Department, and of course our superb legal counsel, Bruce Simon and Susan Davis, on a job well done.
Earlier this summer, I attended the 100th AFM convention. Here are some of the highlights I would like to report:
- Ray Hair was re-elected to another three-year term as president of the AFM. I was re-elected to the International Executive Board. We said goodbye to AFM Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, who was replaced by Jay Blumenthal, a name familiar to many Local 802 members. Jay served as financial vice president of Local 802 for many years as well as head of our Concert Department. Jay will be an asset to the AFM and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity. Other newly-elected AFM officers whom I would like to congratulate are the following: International Vice President Bruce Fife, Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, and IEB members Joe Parente, Tina Morrison, Dave Pomeroy and newly-elected John Acosta of Local 47.
- As I reported previously, the AFM chose not put a dues increase on the table, so AFM dues will remain the same. This is welcome news to all members.
- There were 9 official recommendations from the AFM and 22 resolutions put forward by locals or members. Of these, Local 802 publicly took an official position against one of them, resolution #4, which would have allowed buyouts in AFM contracts and removed the RMA from participation in AFM negotiations. This ludicrous resolution, which was proposed by AFM Local 300 (Lowell, Mass.), was defeated.
The convention went very well. Though it is an exercise in sleep deprivation, it is – more importantly – a vital component of how our union is democratically governed. It is important to also congratulate all the delegates who attended to serve our union and debate the issues.
OTHER UNION UPDATES
- Soon after the AFM convention, I attended the 2016 conference of Regional Orchestra Players Association in Madison. One of the featured speakers was Allison Beck, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Allison and the FMCS have proved to be very valuable over the last several years in helping us come to agreements with the New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera.
- Radio City talks have concluded and a ratification date has been set. I will report on those negotiations in the next issue.