Music, Social Justice, and Diversity in the Union

President's Report

Volume 118, No. 3March, 2018

Tino Gagliardi

Tino Gagliardi

March is Women’s History Month, which has its roots in the textile industry, where women historically endured terrible working conditions. It’s the month when we remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the largest industrial disaster in the history of New York City. Most of the victims were immigrant women. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the ILGWU textile workers’ union. This year’s commemoration, on the 107th anniversary of the tragedy, will be on Friday, March 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, the site of the original building. For more information, see

March is also the month in which Cesar Chavez, the founder of the farmworkers’ union and a defender of human rights, was born. He would have been 91 on March 31. For information about activities and how to get involved, see or


Diversity is one of the labor movement’s greatest strengths. The Immigrant Arts Coalition, a new alliance of New York City cultural organizations, has unveiled an agenda aiming to recognize the important and ongoing contributions of immigrant artists and arts organizations representing America’s diverse cultural mosaic. Local 802 theatre rep Marlena Fitzpatrick García was elected president of this coalition and Local 802 has joined the group.

Social justice is also part of our mission. At our most recent Local 802 membership meeting, we discussed sexual harassment in the arts. Officials from the NYC Commission On Human Rights and experts from the Actors Fund led a discussion about sexual harassment in the workplace and in the arts and ways that our community can effectively address these issues. As Tom Olcott writes, the Actors Fund is playing a key role in helping unions deal appropriately with sexual harassment and other issues arising most recently from the #MeToo movement.

Lastly, this year musicians at the Winter Jazzfest (who are covered under a Local 802 union contract) organized several forums on music and social issues, including immigration, gender and activism. Shane Gasteyer gives us the details.


In mid-February, President Trump released his budget proposal for the next fiscal year. Americans for the Arts reports that the proposal unfortunately repeats many of the same, misguided ideas of his last budget proposal – ideas that were met with a resounding rejection from Congress last year. Trump’s proposed budget calls for the termination of the National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute of Museum and Library Services. Needless to say, we’ll be fighting this. For information on what we’re doing and how you can get involved, contact the Political Action Department (212) 245-4802, ext. 176. For more updates and to sign an online petition, visit (Separately, Harvey Mars reviews how President Trump’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board are rolling back protections for workers’ rights.)


In this issue, we’re thrilled to publish an inspirational story from a Local 802 member who is also a bandleader and an employer. Steven Behnke, the executive director of the Patriot Brass Ensemble, recently did the right thing and signed an agreement with Local 802 that will provide his musicians with union wages, benefits and protections. Steve did this enthusiastically, and in his article (with an accompanying article by Sarah Koshar), he urges other employers to sign with Local 802 as well. Bandleaders should know that providing a union contract for their musicians is an excellent way to offer benefits like healthcare, pension and more. Thanks for being one of our newest union employers, Steve, and we wish you success!

We have some great interviews with Local 802 members in this issue. First, read our feature interview with Sherrie Maricle, who has really done it all. Next, “The Phantom of the Opera” recently turned 30, and Karen Fisher went to the pit to talk to musicians and get their favorite reminiscences. Finally, the 60th Grammy Awards came back to NYC this year for the first time since 2003. Musicians performed under a union contract and the Broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen” won Best Musical Theatre Album. Allegro asked musicians how it felt to play at the Grammys (or win a Grammy!), and you’ll enjoy what they told us. Read insights from Alex Lacamoire and others.

As Sara Cutler reports, Local 802 is happy to report that the Emerging Artists Project continues to move toward selecting our first awardee of an initial $10,000 grant (with the possibility of $40,000 altogether). We’ll be sure to break the news in the next issue who the esteemed winner is.

Lastly, please see the Unclaimed Checks page on this site for a list of musicians who have recording money waiting for them at the union. We try to reach everyone we can, but sometimes our contact information is outdated. If you see your name on the list, be sure to contact us.


Local 802 recently hosted the most recent meeting of the Artist Rights Caucus. Recently, federal legislation aimed at updating copyright law has been introduced. In addition to supporting the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, Local 802 recently endorsed the Music Modernization Act and the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2017. Interested in getting involved in these issues? Send an e-mail to

Separately, Local 802 AFM is proud to endorse Harvey Epstein for Assembly in District 74. Harvey has made a career advocating and fighting for those who need the most support, and he fully understands the challenges that face musicians in New York City, including exploitation and misclassification.

In our new monthly series “If I Were a Musician,” we hear from elected officials about their musical tastes, the music in their district, and what instrument they wish they played. This month, we’re honored to hear from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Find out what instrument President Diaz wishes he played!

Also in this issue, you can read an op-ed by Laura McQuade, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City. Laura writes about the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and how the law must be strengthened in New York.


It has come to the attention of our union that numerous musical productions have been scheduled at New York University this academic year. New York University and Vice Dean Ted Magder are currently on the AFM International Unfair List for misclassifying individuals as independent contractors and failing to provide musicians with the fair wages and protections that they deserve.

The AFM has also placed Steve Trudell and Trudell Orchestras on the Unfair List at the request of 23 locals, including Local 802. The locals have a primary dispute with Trudell because he engages musicians within the locals’ service areas at rates of pay and under conditions that are substandard and therefore unacceptable. Trudell also refuses to provide pension and health contributions.

Joseph (Joe) McGinty remains on the Unfair List due to his engagement of musicians at rates of pay and under standards and conditions considered unfair and unacceptable in the industry. McGinty employed 15 musicians for a live concert sponsored by Lincoln Center and NPR held in Damrosch Park on July 25, 2017, paying them wages that are far below area standards and failing to uphold his obligation as an employer to pay state and federally mandated taxes and social security benefits.

Lastly, Carousel Studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn also remains on the AFM’s International Unfair list.

Members are reminded that, pursuant to Article 8, Section 3 of the AFM Bylaws, members shall not render musical services for organizations, establishments, or people who are listed on the International Unfair List. The full list is at Any members who are called to play with any of the employers listed above should contact Recording Vice President Andy Schwartz at (212) 245-4802, ext. 111. Members can also anonymously call the Local 802 hotline 24 hours a day at (212) 245-4802, ext. 260. Remember, when musicians stick together, we have power.


Recently, I sent a letter in support of the men and women who do the thankless job of reserving parking spots and locations for film and TV productions in NYC. I’m happy to report that they’ve voted unanimously to join CWA Local 1101. Parking production assistants are predominantly low-wage workers of color who arrive 12 to 24 hours prior to production and work through the night in their personal vehicles — usually without access to a bathroom. They are essential for the success of many of the same projects on which our members and musicians perform. It takes many dedicated, talented people to put together a large-scale production like a TV episode or a feature film, and each and every one of them deserves access to the powerful tool of collective action and bargaining. Besides Local 802, these workers also gained support from Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rev. Al Sharpton, the New York State NAACP, Martin Luther King III, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, and many others — a strong demonstration of New York City’s commitment to its labor force.


As I type these words, the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida had just occurred. Seventeen children were killed. Our country has more mass shootings than any other, and three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have come in the last five months. Many of us became musicians not only because we love music but because we believe in a higher ideal. So I challenge all of us to use our music – and our voices and bodies – to make the world a better place. Let’s turn our grief into action in any way that we can.