Local 802 wins first major agreement with a NYC nightclub

Volume 115, No. 7July, 2015

Local 802 announced in early June that the union has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with New York venue 54 Below. The agreement, which is the first of its kind between Local 802 and a major NYC nightclub, formally ensures that the hundreds of musicians who play at 54 Below each year are compensated at area standards and given retirement security and contractual workplace protections, while taking into account the business model of the venue.

“Local 802 applauds 54 Below for ensuring through this agreement that musicians are given the contractual workplace protections befitting their dedication and skill,” said President Tino Gagliardi. “Historically, musicians playing in nightclubs in New York City have often been deprived of essential rights and protections, and a great many still are.”

Gagliardi added, “Other venues throughout New York should look to 54 Below for an example of how to do things right. That means putting measures in place to protect the hardworking musicians whose talent and hard work draw patrons. This agreement is evidence that it is possible for a well-known New York City club to both provide great music night after night, and cooperate with its musicians on an agreement that works for everyone. Agreements like this are the best way to make sure our city remains a place where talented musicians can continue to live, work and support their families.”

This new agreement marks an important step for musicians in New York City nightclubs. Located at 254 West 54th Street, the venue presents 16 musical acts weekly. Since opening in 2012, the club has presented more than 2,050 shows, which provided 8,100 jobs for musicians.

54 Below owner Tom Viertel said, “We were pleased to complete negotiations with Local 802 AFM that set area standards for the hundreds of musicians working at 54 Below each year regarding wages and access to pension and health benefits.”

Viertel added, “54 Below has led the way in providing opportunities for performers to express themselves in shows at our club and we hope that other nightclubs in New York follow our lead in setting standards for musician compensation.”

The new agreement will ensure that musicians, who are the backbone of New York’s thriving live music scene, will be guaranteed salaries, benefits and contractual protections consistent with their status as professionals in their field when they play at 54 Below.

Legendary jazz bassist and Local 802 member Ron Carter said, “As a musician who has played at many New York clubs, I applaud 54 Below for ensuring that their musicians are contractually protected when we go to work.”

Carter added, “Other clubs should also do the right thing, and make sure that the musicians who play there are afforded contracts that guarantee their rights to area standard wages, pensions and other workplace protections – rights that are sadly absent for many working musicians in clubs throughout the city.”

Local 802 member David Finck, a bassist, arranger and producer, agrees. “Having played at 54 Below and many of New York’s nightclubs, I want to thank 54 Below for working with Local 802 to ensure that the musicians who perform there are contractually entitled to area standard wages, pensions, and other basic protections,” said Finck.

Finck added, “This agreement shows that a top venue can make sure that its musicians are protected and still operate as a successful business that produces great music. Hopefully other clubs will follow their important lead and institute agreements that afford the New York musicians who perform at a high level the same kind of basic rights.”