Happy New Year to you all, and what a past year it has been! Local 802 has a brand-new administration taking office this month after a hotly-contested election campaign that seemed to dominate all conversation and our members’ social networks. A bright line had been drawn between candidates and slates, with a face-off between ideologies that focused on experienced leadership versus those desiring a change in the local’s direction. We now know that change was what our membership wanted, and through a democratic process those voices were heard.
As the one candidate who ran without opposition, I am honored to be returning as your recording vice president and will now join with an entirely new Executive Board that begins its governance of the local. I welcome them and trust that we will work together as colleagues with a common purpose, to serve the membership with great care and push the local to evolve in positive directions.
I must pay tribute to the extraordinary members of the outgoing board. They were truly devoted to the membership and brought intelligence, diligence and passion to our meetings each week. The depth of the board’s collective knowledge about our union, employers and collective bargaining agreements was amazing, and the conversations each Tuesday were stimulating. We were unafraid to challenge each other, sometimes heatedly, to ensure that the decisions we made on your behalf were correct and beneficial. I am so proud to have been a part of that board and thank each of them from the bottom of my heart for their dedication and friendship.
To both of my outgoing fellow officers, Financial Vice President Tom Olcott and President Tino Gagliardi, thank you for your tireless service to the membership.
Tom devoted three decades to committee work, to negotiations in the concert field, as an Executive Board member, and ultimately as financial vice president His calm consideration and thoughtful responses led me to rely on him to work through problems I encountered at the local. I always came away with a better course of action after hearing his ideas. I hope Tom will remain a source of support for our union in the coming years. He is an invaluable resource.
As for Tino, I believe those who know him would agree that his passion for the job he held these last nine years was remarkable. In 2010 he brought a dynamic energy to our union that had not been seen in years. His work at the negotiating table led to advances and protections that have benefited every member in some way. His dedication to the local was undeniable and he spoke of our union with a pride that let everyone know he truly loved it, without reservation. I wish him well in this next phase of his career and I am quite sure he will remain active in the field. Thank you Tino.
To incoming President Adam Krauthamer, and to new Financial Vice President Karen Fisher, my congratulations. I pledge to work with you both to continue the progress made during the last administration and to serve as a resource if you call upon me. After completing 18 years of service to our membership, I too have ideas to offer that may point us in new directions and promote a further evolution here at 802. Fresh ideas should always be welcome in any organization, and my hope is that the changes sought by the new administration will result in happy members and more sustainable careers for all musicians.
LOOKING BACK AT 2018
Looking back now at the past year, much has been accomplished. The long road to a successor Single Engagement Club Date Agreement finally ended with important gains in wages and health benefit contributions, along with increases in cartage, waiting time wages, a more realistic compensation for overnight stays, and incrementally better mileage rates. We settled a grievance about certain non-union club date work and began the process of adding bands under contract. This effort will continue in the new year and we will be focusing energy on the club date field that is long overdue. Elsewhere, our organizing team rallied musicians in support of the AFM negotiations with the major TV networks and our solidarity was witnessed by the employers. We made inroads in music education, recently adding a new bargaining unit under agreement, the accompanists at Kaufman Music Center. The successor agreement with NYCB Theater at Westbury was signed, as was our agreement with the John Engeman Theater on Long Island. The 2019 American Songbook concert series will begin this month and we are reaching out to all employers to ensure all side musicians are covered under the terms of the Single Engagement Agreement. We have re-signed hotels to the Hotel Steady agreement. We welcomed the Patriot Brass and a host of new members from that roster. Building on this success, I am looking forward to a very productive 2019.
An important initiative has been to rebrand 322 West 48th Street as a welcoming hub for the entire NYC music community. We opened our doors to musicians who had never set foot inside a union hall, celebrated diversity, and developed programs to inform, educate and enhance careers. We revitalized the Jazz Committee with young active musicians, and I thank outgoing Executive Board member Alvester Garnett for his leadership. Speaking of Alvester, he was named by the New York City Council to serve as the sole working musician and union member on the new Nightlife Advisory Board and he took part in the Listening Tour that had stops in all five boroughs.
Also in 2018, the Emerging Artists Project completed its successful first year – spearheaded with great energy by outgoing Executive Board member Sara Cutler – and announced its grant recipient, the Roxy Coss Quintet. We supported the creation of the new Artist Rights Caucus to advocate for strong legislation aimed at reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to better protect musicians’ work online. We continued the highly successful Jazz Mentors panels hosted by Jazz Rep Todd Weeks and ushered in the Student Jazz Jams to engage with aspiring young musicians in the safe, supportive environment of the union’s clubroom. Speaking of the clubroom, we installed a new sound system and presented a full schedule of Jazz in the Afternoon performances by members’ ensembles to benefit the Emergency Relief Fund. We will continue to present great music each month. (Contact Bettina Covo at 212-245-4802, ext. 152 to reserve a performance date.)
The evolution of Local 802 got off to a very good start in 2018 with the creation of three very significant committees, all designed to address issues in need of attention. The Culture Team was formed to examine 802 from the inside. It was apparent to all that we had to look closely at the working culture at the Local and foster a healthier, more effective and collaborative environment for our staff and leadership – which directly impacts our relationships and interactions with our members.
The Strategy Team took on a mission of re-imagining the way forward for 802. The team is tasked with assessing the realities of today’s music business in relation to our union; developing a long-term plan for growth; engaging members in the planning and then, as initiatives are developed, fostering effective communications to connect the membership and the staff at the local. This envisioning of the future is vital to the growth of the union and will have to be informed by the input and expertise of musicians as we move into the new year.
The formation of a new Diversity Committee could not have been more timely. Our NYC community of working musicians has always been diverse, but we also know that getting the doors of opportunity to open is another story entirely. When we seriously focus on issues of diversity in our workplaces, and shine a light on the conditions facing some of our musicians, I believe we will find the answers that lead to greater inclusion. Without that effort at 802, we risk marginalizing a great many musicians whose talent is so important to our arts culture. When celebrated as members, they elevate our union in the eyes of the music industry and in the community at large.
Of course, no union officer makes all this happen without an experienced, dedicated team and I thank the staff of 802 for its service to our members. We have retooled our Organizing Department and provided special training for our talented staff. I joined 802 organizers Lily Paulina and Sarah Koshar in Chicago along with 3,000 attendees for the Labor Notes conference. We took part in seminars on best practices in organizing and heard inspiring stories of campaigns and initiatives. It was a truly memorable experience. Our new director of organizing and field services, Joy Winkler, came onboard in May. Joy brought with her many progressive ideas and her own vision of what 802 could do with the right resources and support. We clearly need to work smarter when we organize and be unafraid to examine the reasons some musicians have disconnected from our union. We must work diligently to return Local 802 to its position of relevance to the entire music community if there is to be a future for our collective.
Your union’s leadership will continue to work on improving the membership experience. It is just as important, however, that as members we come together to act like a labor union: organizing to develop the power we need to ensure more rewarding and sustainable careers. We will stand beside our activist members when you are ready to demand more, providing our skill and support to light the way forward.
So, 2019 has arrived and a new administration has been installed at your union. The membership has called for change. Are you ready, now, to participate in building the union you want? We need to hear from you!