Looking Back, Looking Forward
Volume 114, No. 1January, 2014
I want to wish a Happy New Year to everyone. It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by and that so much has happened. As we reflect on our accomplishments and challenges, I’d like to offer a recap of some of the highlights of the past 12 months at Local 802.
First and foremost, we were proud to be an early endorser of Bill de Blasio’s successful mayoral campaign. And I was honored to be appointed to Mayor de Blasio’s honorary inauguration committee. We look forward to working with Bill on all matters that affect musicians and working people in NYC.
2013 was a truly a year of travel for me. In February, I flew to Montreal with AFM President Ray Hair to meet with officers of AFM Local 406 to prepare for negotiations with Cirque du Solei for its touring agreement. I also attended the Western Conference of Musicians in Portland, which included a continuation of the AFM and Local 802’s joint organizing summit. Of course, the AFM’s triennial convention in Las Vegas was a highlight of the year, where President Hair was re-elected for another term and I won another term on the International Executive Board. At the convention, delegates donated $70,000 to AFM Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul) to support the local that has been fighting so hard on behalf of the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
After the convention, I attended the player conferences of ROPA, TMA, ICSOM and OCSM. The sharing of experiences from all the delegates was enlightening and also revealed the commonality of difficulties that we are all facing since the economic downturn.
In late October, I attended the 59th Annual Employee Benefits Conference in Las Vegas, on behalf of the pension fund. I traveled twice to Los Angeles to help negotiate the AFM’s TV/film agreement. And in November, I traveled to London to meet with the British Musicians’ Union (MU). Both we and the MU are completely engaged in maintaining live musical theatre. The MU is also interested in other aspects of our work and our agreements, such as how our hotel contract works. They’re also interested in the techniques and details of our Justice for Jazz Artists Campaign.
Over the year, we ramped up our jazz campaign. We conducted several demonstrations with live music outside the major jazz clubs. We turned this into a comprehensive campaign, in that we’ve found ancillary targets to put pressure on the jazz club owners. For instance, we demonstrated outside the home of one of the owners of the Blue Note. Also, we marched outside the restaurant owned by the same company that owns the Jazz Standard. We’ve even done some unusual direct actions, such as a “sip in” and a Facebook page blitz. We’ve garnered the support of top elected officials and entertainers, including most recently Harry Belafonte. It’s safe to say that our campaign became much more sophisticated over the year.
Recording musicians won a number of important grievances and settlements in 2013. In February, our supervisor of electronic media services, Steve Danenberg, reported that musicians won back $183,500 in wages and $16,500 in pension for their work on a DVD of performances for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Musicians who worked on the “Electric Company” TV show also won a grievance worth over $37,000 in wages, $2,166 in health contributions, and over $4,000 in pension. Musicians who played on the Disney cast album of the Broadway show “Newsies” won back almost $10,000 in wages, plus pension and health. Finally, Steve worked with AFM President Ray Hair to resolve a situation where Local 802 music preparation musicians had been due payments for commercials recorded for the Broadway show “Big Fish.” The union was able to collect over $7,800 for musicians, in wages, health, pension and late fees. All of this is evidence that there’s power in the union. Without a union, musicians have to find their own lawyers and attempt to collect their own wages if there’s a misunderstanding or a violation. But with a union, we all stick together – and employers feel our strength.
In March, Executive Board Member Sara Cutler and I had the honor and privilege of being interviewed by Errol Louis for the NY1 show “Road to City Hall.” It was a terrific way to get exposure for Local 802 and to get our message of live music out to the public. It is gratifying to know that the local media are paying attention to both our Save Live Music on Broadway campaign and our Justice for Jazz Artists campaign. As part of the interview, we also brought up the unfortunate use of recorded music to accompany ballet performances at Lincoln Center. Here, both Sara and I were able to talk about the absolute deficiency of ballet accompanied by recorded music and how audiences are being cheated by these kinds of productions.
Last spring, I participated in a panel at the NYC Bar Association Entertainment Law Committee. The title was “Hot Topics in the Music Business.” Included on the panel were representatives from the Writers’ Guild East, Actors’ Equity, IATSE, and the newly merged SAG-AFTRA.
Also in the spring, I met with Senator Charles Schumer’s chief of staff in Washington, D.C. along with AFM President Ray Hair. We spoke about tax credits for movie studios. At issue is a federal tax credit for motion picture production and how it would benefit all AFM musicians in this country if the federal tax legislation more closely mirrored the tax incentive adopted by the New York State legislature. The good news is that we learned that the federal tax credit includes such post-production activities as music scoring. What is needed is a better way to ensure that movie producers do post-production work here at home.
A few weeks later, AFM President Ray Hair chaired a meeting for TV and theatrical film composers here at Local 802. Yanna Collins, executive director of the New York Post-Production Alliance, was a featured presenter. We talked about how the New York State tax incentive for post-production works for composers. Recording Vice President John O’Connor led a discussion about the union’s strategy to bring more New York film work under AFM agreements, and what this means for composers as well as for recording musicians. President Hair and I moderated a discussion about the AFM’s Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund. On a related note, Local 802 joined the New York Post-Production Alliance (see www.PostNewYork.org), which also hopes to increase work for artists through tax credits for employers. Lastly, I appointed a new subcommittee of the Executive Board to focus on post-production issues.
We celebrated a number of important anniversaries in 2013. In May, we marked the 100th anniversary of the premier of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and also the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, with excellent reminiscences and essays from our members in the pages of Allegro. We also celebrated the 30th anniversary of Bill Crow’s “The Band Room” column. We published an important story in Allegro about age discrimination in the music industry and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from members about how it’s important that we keep shining a light on this crucial topic. We also published major stories in Allegro this year on teaching music, digital piracy and streaming. In 2013, Allegro won a national prize for excellence by the International Labor Communications Association, continuing our recent trend of placing in the top-three winner’s circle for labor publications in our circulation class.
In legislative news in 2013, we were justifiably proud that Local 802 was able to revise the brand-new NYC sick pay law to ensure that musicians will be covered under it. The new law gives many employees in NYC the right to paid sick days for the first time. In an early draft of the law, the definition of “employees” wasn’t defined broadly enough to include musicians. Thanks to successful lobbying on our part, the language that we preferred made it into the law. This was truly a Local 802 success story: using our political influence, we were able to correct a deficiency in the law. This is another example of why politics really does matter to our members
Jingles were once a major component of union work in NYC, and the jingle agreement is currently up for renegotiation. In 2013, John O’Connor, Gail Kruvand and I met with local jingle producers. We continue to hope to find a way to promote increased use of live musicians in this field and the intent of the meeting was to listen to those in the industry who really have their finger on the pulse of the commercial announcement business and those who are involved in the production of jingles.
Last summer, I was honored to be asked to serve on the steering committee of a new organization called One Percent for Culture. This group has a simple mission, but one that could shake things up in a big way: getting New York City to invest one percent of its expense budget in culture, including live music.
Also in 2013, we achieved a new deal with the New York City Ballet. The new contract includes a 2.75 percent wage increase over the first 18 months with another increase of 3 percent in the last six months, as well as other benefits. It goes without saying that the past five years have been one of the worst climates in which to negotiate contracts, and yet we have consistently achieved fair deals for our members. Earlier in the year, we reached an agreement covering musicians who performed at the Jazz Foundation of America’s “Great Night in Harlem” concert and fundraiser. Also we came to an understanding with the owners of the cabaret venue “54 Below” that the musical performances there must be under a Local 802 contract. Both sides are working hard to come to an agreement.
Last September, we discovered two historic plaques that had been taken from our former headquarters at Roseland Ballroom. One plaque honored the musicians on the Titanic, and the other honored our members who lost their lives in World War II. The war memorial plaque has found its way back to our offices, thanks to Local 802 attorney Harvey Mars. We hope to schedule an official unveiling soon. The Titanic plaque is on loan to an exhibition in Florida, but we hope to eventually show it in our offices again.
Near the end of the year, I was asked to join the board of Inside Broadway, a wonderful organization that works to bring the magic of live musical theatre to the next generation of audiences. Inside Broadway sponsors “Behind the Magic,” which gives kids the chance to meet Broadway actors and musicians, and also “Summerstock Jr.” (formerly “Broadway Boot Camp”), a musical theatre camp that meets at Local 802. Nothing is more important than teaching our future audiences and artists that live music is special and irreplaceable, and this is a big part of the mission of Inside Broadway.
Finally in 2013, we said our last goodbyes to so many wonderful musicians and human beings, including Marian McPartland, Carline Ray, Frank Wess, Lou Reed, and unfortunately too many others, including the great Nelson Mandela.
To end on a high note, let me once again wish you all a happy and healthy 2014, and I look forward to working with you to keep the music live in NYC and everywhere.
FOUR BYLAW RESOLUTIONS ARE PROPOSED
The upcoming Feb. 19 membership meeting contains four bylaw proposals, which you can read on page 39. The Executive Board has reported all four of these resolutions favorably. Here is a quick overview:
- Bylaw resolution #1 has to do with the members’ legal services fund. It has become apparent to the Local 802 Executive Board that much time has passed since the last time the amount available for distribution was increased. With the considerable increase in lawyers’ fees and the increased difficulty and complication of negotiation, the time is appropriate to bring those numbers to a realistic level.
- Bylaw resolution #2 would allow members who are terminated or suspended for less than 6 months to re-join Local 802 without paying a penalty. Members would still have to pay their back dues, but the previous late fine of $5 per quarter would be eliminated. Also, members who resign in good standing may rejoin Local 802 without having to pay a $25 reinstatement fee. We are proposing this bylaw change to make it easier for members who have left the union to come back.
- Bylaw resolution #3 concerns a very specific situation. Our bylaws currently state that every Executive Board member who is present at a board meeting must vote in all matters unless they have a “direct or pecuniary interest therein.” In other words, Executive Board members can’t abstain: they must vote “yes” or “no” under most circumstances. The bylaws go on to state that if an Executive Board member refuses to vote, he or she is immediately dismissed from the board. This resolution would remove that penalty. Under the proposed bylaw resolution, Executive Board members are still required to vote in all matters, but if they don’t, they will be allowed due process under our bylaws just as any other violator of the bylaws would have.
- Bylaw resolution #4 concerns donations authorized by the Executive Board. Currently, the Executive Board is generally barred from authorizing donations on behalf of the Local 802 general fund in excess of $500 in any one year. The proposed bylaw resolution codifies that this cap does not apply to donations from Local 802’s TEMPO fund, which are earmarked for political purposes and are not a part of Local 802’s general fund.
The membership meeting takes place at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19 here at Local 802. Admission by paid-up membership card only. See back cover for the official announcement of this meeting.
A NEW CONTRACT FOR THE NY PHIL
Local 802 and the New York Philharmonic management have reached agreement on a new contract for musicians. The agreement contains modest increases over the course of the next four years with the fourth year contingent on an increase in the pension fund benefit. There is also an additional burden on the musicians for health care in the shape of new premiums for single, couple, and family coverage.
In other Lincoln Center news, we want to welcome former Broadway League president Jed Bernstein as the new president of Lincoln Center. We look forward to a respectful and productive relationship with Jed.