Local 802 Wins Associate Conductor Arbitration

Ends Two-Year Dispute With League of American Theater and Producers

Volume C, No. 11November, 2000

An arbitrator has ruled that payment of the Associate Conductor premium on Broadway is required for every performance, vindicating Local 802’s position in a dispute with the League of American Theatre and Producers that began almost two years earlier. The strongly-worded decision was issued on Sept. 14.

The dispute arose in October 1998, when the theatre manager at the Martin Beck Theatre withheld the AD premium for a musician performing in The Sound of Music whom he deemed to be “not trained” to conduct. Despite 802’s efforts to settle the dispute with this theatre and this production, the dispute escalated.

On April 8, 1999, the League officially notified all its members that they, too, should stop paying the AD premium when, in management’s view, “no one playing during that performance, due either to significant substitutions and/or vacation schedules, is qualified to conduct.” Local 802 immediately filed for arbitration and directed each house contractor to maintain a record of every show for which the AD premium was withheld, and to whom it should be paid.

In making its case to the arbitrator, Local 802 presented the following arguments. First, the Broadway contract language is both clear and unambiguous in requiring that “An Associate Conductor shall be employed for all musical shows.” Secondly, testimony was presented from several house contractors with a total of over 50 years experience on Broadway who all described the longstanding practice of paying this premium for every show and every performance. Thirdly, it was argued that it was management’s responsibility to ensure both that a sufficient number of musicians are trained to conduct, and that a trained AD is present for each show. And lastly, it was pointed out that management had made this very proposal – to waive the AD premium when a designated AD was not present for a performance – during the 1997 Broadway negotiations. That proposal was rejected and was not included in the contract.

Based on this preponderance of evidence and testimony, the arbitrator ruled not only that the premium should be paid for the disputed Oct. 25, 1998, performance of The Sound of Music, but also for every other show since that time for which the premium had been withheld. The ruling also directed that the League “make available all necessary records for the Union’s inspection” in order to implement the decision.

Local 802 has asked house contractor in all shows that were running during April 1998, or that opened after that time, to submit payroll reports to their house manager and to Local 802 indicating the performances for which no AD premium was paid, the premium owed, and the individual to be paid.

“I hope that this decision helps bring an end to the rash of grievances and arbitrations we have faced on Broadway over the last three years,” Local 802 President Moriarity told Allegro. “Our relationship with the League ought to be sound enough to resolve these kinds of disputes short of the arbitration process.”