Manhattan Swing Orchestras Signs Voluntary Agreement with Local 802

Area Standards Campaign Advances

Volume C, No. 9September, 2000

Joe Eisman

On July 10, Manhattan Swing Orchestras voluntarily signed Local 802’s Single Engagement Club Date contract, after deciding it was the right thing to do. Under the agreement, musicians who work for the office will begin receiving full health and pension contributions next Jan. 1.

The agreement was the latest victory in Local 802’s campaign to create an industry standard that includes pension and health benefits for all musicians in the single engagement field. It follows recent successful organizing drives with Starlight Orchestras, New York City Swing and several smaller offices.

But it differs from those campaigns in one crucial way. Local 802 never launched a visible campaign because Joe Bonacci, the agency’s proprietor, agreed in principle to the concept of providing pension and health benefits for musicians. After several months of discussing the details, the parties reached an amicable agreement. “I’ve always put music first, and that includes providing for musician’s welfare,” Bonacci told Allegro.

Many of the Manhattan Swing musicians were satisfied with the work environment the agency provided, but felt that professional musicians should be able to see a doctor when they were sick and retire with a decent pension. Their nearly unanimous support for 802’s organizing drive resulted in a contract that covers almost every Manhattan Swing musician, including the vocalists.

“Manhattan Swing has always been a classy and professionally run scene, but now the package is complete,” Dan Levine, a trombone player, told Allegro. “An engagement that pays into our pension is a better engagement.”

Local 802 responded to Manhattan Swing’s willingness to sign the contract voluntarily by allowing benefit contributions to begin on Jan. 1, giving the agency time to adjust its finances. The union also agreed to reduce the paperwork required to file union jobs.

During discussions, a key concern Bonacci expressed was the added paperwork that would be required by 802 contracts. To address this issue, the union developed a computer program that will dramatically reduce the amount of time required to file jobs, and will be available to all Local 802 signatories.

“Employers will be able to file contracts with just a few key strokes,” said Jennifer Cronin, the director of 802’s computer department. “After the employer answers a few simple questions and inputs the first couple of letters of the musician’s last name, the program automatically displays relevant information about the musician, as well as the scale wages, pension and health benefits, and other premiums required for the job.”

“We try our best to cooperate with employers who voluntarily choose to do the right thing,” said 802 President Bill Moriarity. “We want all employers to pay musicians what they deserve. There should be a level playing field among all employers, so that these benefits are viewed as a simple cost of doing business in the New York area.”

“We believe that professional musicians deserve benefits,” said Director of New Organizing Tim Dubnau. “These musicians have spent years perfecting their craft and they should compensated as professionals, which includes pension and health benefits.”

If you want to help with Local 802’s campaign to win pension and health benefits for musicians in the single engagement field, please call the Organizing Department. All messages and calls are strictly confidential.