Twice every year, a number of 802 members who feel sure they have earned enough credits over a six-month period to qualify for the Health Benefits Plan receive a troubling letter informing them that they have fallen off the plan. Their calls to the union trigger research that, in many cases, turns up the missing credits and makes them eligible for coverage.
However, one group of musicians often find that there is no record of their work — the audition and rehearsal musicians who play for many Broadway shows. The reason their records are missing is that the work was arranged, and paid for, by a casting office rather than by the show’s producers. The musicians are paid on 1099’s and receive neither health nor pension credits.
The union has no way of knowing about this work until the musicians involved bring it to our attention. But once members provide us with a list of the days and hours they worked, and the salary they earned, for any given production, we credit them for the health benefits they are due and write the producers to request payment. Our letter points out that “both audition and rehearsal work are clearly covered under the collective bargaining agreement between Local 802 and the League of American Theatres and Producers” — and the fact that the day’s work may have been paid for by a casting agency does not affect this contractual requirement. In the large majority of cases, the producers remit the HBP contribution promptly.
MUSICIANS CAN RECOVER CREDITS
Follow-up of this sort has enabled a number of audition musicians to qualify for HBP coverage. And, almost more importantly, it has ensured that their earnings from these gigs are included in the salary information we provide each quarter to the pension fund.
These wages can make a very substantial difference in their eventual pension benefit, and Local 802 is committed to seeing that all members who work on Broadway receive their fair share of the allocated funds.
After receiving a number of calls this summer regarding missing HBP credits, it became apparent that unreported audition work is a substantial problem. To ensure that all producers are aware of this contractual requirement, Joe Delia, assistant to the president, sent a letter to each production company in mid-September. He cited the contract language and noted that contributions for audition work “often enable a member to qualify for health coverage.”
Delia made an important point: “Many production companies are complying with the contractual requirement of including audition musicians on their weekly payrolls.” However, he said, the union has sent this letter to every company currently producing a show on Broadway, “to ensure that Local 802’s position on this issue is clear.”
The first requirement for following up on unreported work is that musicians keep accurate records of the days and hours worked for each production, and the salary earned for each session. Without this information, it is not possible for the union to generate a billing for benefits owed. It is also helpful to begin checking your contribution records early, so we can follow up shortages before a new coverage period begins. Right now, for example, three or four months’ worth of contributions for the second half of 2004 are recorded in the 802 database.
If you are an audition musician who has not received HBP credits for your work on Broadway productions, please contact Joy Portugal at (212) 245-4802, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.