If you’ve ever grumbled about paying union dues, consider this. Part of 802’s job is to assist and represent members when they feel they were mistreated. Most recently, percussionist Ed Uribe won a $23,000 grievance because an employer failed to live up to the terms of a union contract.
Uribe’s grievance had to do with what’s called “identity with the product.” This dry-sounding phrase is actually quite important, and it’s a clause that we try to achieve in every theatre contract we negotiate. In a nutshell, it means that if you perform in a workshop or Off Broadway musical and it goes to Broadway, you get the chair.
In Uribe’s case, he had been hired for the workshop version of “Mambo Kings.” The Theatre Department keeps a close lookout for announcements of any workshops. Very often the information for a workshop is discovered through the trade papers. In the case of “Mambo Kings” Local 802 caught the casting notice in “Backstage,” which read, “There will be a six-week, fully-staged workshop with a subsequent Broadway production.”
Eventually, the union heard from a few members who had been contacted to do the work. We approached the employer — Allan Wasser Associates — who agreed to negotiate for the workshop.
However, the Wasser office didn’t want to grant musicians identity with the product. The employer told us that musicians were not only an artistic part of the production, but a visual part as well and he didn’t want to get stuck with musicians who didn’t work out on stage when the show went to Broadway.
Eventually, the union and the employer agreed to altered language. The new language gave the musicians full identity of product rights only if they successfully completed the workshop production (according to the judgment of the artistic director).
The workshop came and went and the musicians performed to expectations.
However, six months later, Ed Uribe found out that other musicians were being called to begin the Broadway rehearsals and he hadn’t. Shortly thereafter he received a notification from the employer that he would not be hired for the Broadway production.
802 filed a grievance, which was ignored by the employer, prompting us to file for arbitration. This got the employer’s attention, who offered to settle.
Our position was that Uribe should be offered the chair. But another musician had already been offered the job, and Uribe himself was willing to discuss a compromise. After several weeks the parties reached an agreement for $23,000.
If you get an offer of work at a workshop or other developmental project, call Principal Theatre Rep Mary Donovan at (212) 245-4802, ext. 156.