One of the AFM’s many important contracts is the Theatrical Motion Picture and Television Film agreement, which covers musicians who score and sideline for movie and television. The latest and last negotiation session for the successor agreement took place in Los Angeles, where I had the privilege of assisting AFM President Ray Hair along with Recording Vice President John O’Connor and Electronic Media Supervisor Steve Danenberg. Also on hand providing valuable input were John Acosta, the newly elected president of AFM Local 47 (Los Angeles); IEB member Vince Trombetta, who is also the former president of Local 47; Marc Sazer, president of the Recording Musicians Association; Phil Ayling, the rank-and file-representative; and several rank-and-file musicians as well. We owe a debt of gratitude for their help in these difficult negotiations. We did accomplish some economic gains in base scale wages, and we also established scale wages for sidelining musicians in big budget new media productions. However, there are now expanded clip use provisions that enable the use of more minutes of previously-scored music. President Hair will give an official report once musicians ratify the agreement.
In other AFM news, the International Executive Board recently met in Dallas. As always, there are a multitude of issues to deal with as a board, from finance to governance. The minutes of all IEB meetings are available online at www.afm.org.
As I have written before, a resolution was presented to the delegates at the 99th AFM convention to consolidate the various state AFM organizations (which are better known as local conferences) into a larger regional structure. The idea of a larger conference serving the northeast from D.C. to Maine was largely accepted as a positive direction for the AFM. I’m happy to report now that the New York Conference of Musicians will host what will be the inaugural meeting of the Eastern Conference of Musicians here at Local 802 headquarters, hopefully around the end of April. Delegates from D.C., Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New England will all be invited to attend and participate. This larger conference will bring much-needed officer training, a broader opportunity for sharing information among locals, and various speakers who will bring analysis and insight to our ever-changing industry.
And now – finally – for some good news coming out of Washington. The Department of Transportation officially enacted its long-awaited new rule that says airlines will be required to treat most musical instruments just like any other passenger’s carry-on bag, starting in March. The AFM helped accomplish this victory for musicians, which was made possible by many of our partners and allies acting together. The AFM’s press release reports that airlines are now required to allow small musical instruments, such as a violin or guitar, to be carried into the cabin and stowed under the seat or in overhead bins or anywhere else appropriate. AFM President Ray Hair said, “For many years, AFM members have been subject to very arbitrary and contradictory size and weight requirements imposed by each airline for musical instruments that are carried on board the airplane or checked as baggage. Airlines will now follow a consistent policy for all musicians traveling with instruments.” The airlines will be required to train their staff to comply with the new rule. The full ruling can be accessed at www.dot.gov/airconsumer/final-rule-musical-instruments. Any musician who still encounters difficulty with carrying on their instrument should contact my office.
WELCOME ABOARD, BRUCE
When Mary Whitaker was tragically taken from us last year, her death also created a vacancy on the Local 802 Trial Board. The Executive Board has voted to appoint trombonist Bruce Eidem to the Trial Board. Bruce has been a member of Local 802 since 1982. He’s performed with the American Symphony, the New York Pops and the New York City Opera Orchestra; he’s also played for over 60 Broadway shows and has recorded with Mario Bauza, Wayne Shorter, Paul Gemignani, Phil Collins and John Cage. He can be heard on numerous film soundtracks, jingles and hundreds of other recordings. “I consider it an honor to replace our dear friend Mary Whitaker on the Trial Board,” Bruce told Allegro. Welcome aboard, Bruce!
The new spending bill from Congress, nicknamed “Cromnibus,” includes a provision that applies to deeply-troubled pension plans that are near insolvency. As we have stated before, this provision does not apply to the AFM-EPF, since our pension fund is projected to be solvent until at least 2047, which is the longest period for which the actuaries have made projections. The new provision in the law will allow pension plans that are facing insolvency to reduce benefits for those who are already vested and receiving a pension. I want to emphasize again: our musicians should not be worried and our pension plan is solvent. For full details, see Harvey Mars’s story.
Also, in mid-January, I attended a meeting of the Investment Committee of the AFM-EPF to hear from our investment consultant as well as several of the fund’s investment managers. This is to review performance of the managers as well as to review current asset allocation and make adjustments where needed. The committee consists of both union and management trustees. For the union, I was joined by fund co-chair Ray Hair, Investment Committee co-chair Phil Yao and trustee Bill Moriarity.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
- February is African-American History Month, and please see a fascinating look back at Local 802 and black musicians during the age of the Harlem Renaissance.
- We’re pleased to feature an interview with tubist extraordinaire Howard Johnson.
- Our contact with WinterJazz festival paid off for musicians this year, when a French TV channel expressed its desire to videotape and broadcast part of the festival. Our contract provides recording protection for musicians, and musicians successfully won additional payments. This is actually quite an important victory for musicians. Think of how many times you’re playing a gig when someone from the audience records your performance without your knowledge; it happens all the time. Only with union contracts can musicians rely on recording protection. For more, see Maggie Russell-Brown’s story.
- John O’Connor gives an update on our campaign to make sure musicians are correctly classified as employees, not independent contractors. One important venue on our radar is the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The casino hires hundreds of musicians – all of them misclassified as independent contractors. Our job is to let the public – and the state government agencies – know that musicians are being treated unfairly. The Resorts World – and a few other casinos that are opening up with live music – are all important venues for musicians to work, and we need to make sure that our area standards are being respected.
- Tom Olcott gives an overview on the many ways Local 802 is reaching out to the next generation of union members. This kind of outreach is crucial to keeping the union strong now and in the future.
- Concert rep Karen Fisher reminds classical musicians of the benefits of playing under a union contract and provides a refresher in our classical freelance scales. This is important for every classical musician to read, especially our newer members. If you get called to play a job, you need to know what union standards are so you can protect scale for all of us. If you’re ever uncertain, please call us at (212) 245-4802 and ask for any union rep.
- Finally, we have two photo spreads in this issue showing our members at work in a variety of ways. You can see photos of the North/South Consonance, a performance that was funded in part by the MPTF, and also photos from the recent performances of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” which was notable this year because those musicians enjoyed the wages and benefits of the full Broadway agreement.
We recently achieved an agreement for musicians performing at Joe’s Pub for the production of “Rock Bottom.” We also reached an agreement covering musicians at the Irish Repertory Theatre and for the Off Broadway production of “Disenchanted.” Finally, we recently renewed our Off Broadway Area Standards. For more information on any of these agreements, contact the Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802.
Remember, any time you get called for a job and you’re not sure if it’s covered by a union contract or not, please call us at (212) 245-4802 and ask for a union rep or organizer. We have a great track recording in helping you get the pay and benefits you deserve while protecting your identity and your job.
- Please come to the next Local 802 membership meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 5 p.m. We’re going to answer all of your questions about the new changes to Local 802’s health fund. We know it’s been complicated, and we’re ready to give all the answers you need. In separate news, our health fund now accepts credit cards. Members must complete, sign and return the authorization form that can be found on our Health Benefits Fund page.
- In our interview with Vince Penzarella in our November issue, we misspelled the name of Carmine Fornarotto. We regret the error.
- Finally, as Allegro goes to press, a bankruptcy judge was set to auction off the assets of the New York City Opera. This means that NYCO may have a new owner – and a hopeful future. The musicians of the New York City Opera are pleased by the interest in reviving the opera shown by two bidders at the auction in court. We look forward to learning which bidder the New York City Opera’s board selects and to working with whichever bidder the court approves as the winner to provide audiences with grand opera once again. We’ll give you the complete report in the next issue. Have a great February, and stay warm!
Any musician who has been hired for any upcoming engagements with the Temptations and the Four Tops must contact Local 802 immediately. Please contact John O’Connor at (212) 245-4802, ext. 110 or Joconnor@Local802afm.org. Local 802 requires that these engagements be under an agreement so that musicians can receive the appropriate wages and benefits.
Other gig alerts by the AFM or its locals include the following:
- If you get called to play with Jackie Evancho, contact Pat Varriale at the New York office of the AFM at (917) 229-0234 or Pvarriale@afm.org
- If you get called to play with the Miami Symphony Orchestra or the South Florida Symphony (formerly the Key West Symphony), contact AFM Local 655 (South Florida) at (954) 527-4458 or see www.afm655.org.
Please share these alerts with your musician friends around the country.