New 802 Club Date Agreement Is Strongest Negotiated in Many Years

Volume CI, No. 7/8July, 2001

Jim Hannen

After one of the most contentious negotiations ever conducted in the club date field, Local 802 and club date employers reached agreement on a new three-year Single Engagement Club Date contract after a marathon negotiating session on May 30. The contract has been approved by the Local 802 Executive Board and was ratified by eligible members by a seven-to-one margin.

Negotiations began in early February to replace a contract that expired April 14, and affects more than 500 Local 802 members performing over 7,500 engagements each year. 802 President and lead negotiator Bill Moriarity characterized the agreement as “one of the most important contracts Local 802 negotiates.” He described the new agreement as “a quality contract, affecting all musicians performing single engagements, which would not have been possible without our members’ encouragement and involvement.”

After several meetings prior to negotiations, the Club Date Committee developed a short list of proposals focusing on wages, pension, health benefits and parking. The Committee, which represented all segments of the club date business, reasoned that a short list of proposals, combined with active rank-and-file support, would produce less confusion among employers about the union’s priorities.

By the second meeting with employers it was clear that they were puzzled by this approach. It also became clear early in the negotiations that the presence of newly organized employers at the table, especially Starlight Orchestras, would have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the talks.

The final agreement, hammered out in one ten-hour session, is the best club date contract achieved in many years.

Information gathered before negotiations began indicated that a few major employers were already paying significantly overscale to most of their musicians. It was also clear that most club date work takes place on Saturday night (about 50 percent), followed by Sunday (about 25 percent), and about 25 percent during the remainder of the week.

The strategy developed was to seek significant scale wage increases throughout the week, with an emphasis on the busier nights when more musicians work; to work toward increasing pension contributions to the levels paid in other areas of the music industry; and to win health benefit increases that would maintain coverage with the same number of engagements, in the event of plan eligibility increases.

The resulting agreement provides for an 18 percent wage increase over the life of the contract for Saturday night, between 10 percent and 12 percent over three years for the rest of the week, and a pension contribution which increases from the present level of 7.5 percent to 9 percent by the third year of the agreement. Health benefit contributions per engagement increase incrementally over the life of the contract, to a maximum of $4, to be used as needed in the event of plan eligibility increases – ensuring that eligibility will be maintained with the same number of engagements. Parking for eligible musicians rises to a cap of $31, except for three-hour weekday engagements, for which musicians may be reimbursed up to $35. Wage increases are effective June 1, 2001. Compensating for the fact that this increase is not retroactive to April 15, 2001, the second year increases will take effect on Feb. 1, 2002, ten weeks prior to the beginning of the second year.

The union negotiating team consisted of Bill Moriarity, Local 802 attorney Lenny Leibowitz, Club Date Committee Chair and Executive Board member Art Weiss, Executive Board member Bobby Shankin, Trial Board member Al Hood, several rank-and-file members, and the Contract Administration Department staff.

For the first time in club date negotiations, an email database of several hundred club date musicians was used to keep members informed and receive valuable feedback. Support among rank-and-file members ran higher than usual. “We never would have been able to achieve these unprecedented increases without the support and resolve of the membership,” said Committee Chair Weiss.

Any questions about the new contract should be directed to Jim Hannen or Richard Schilio in the New York office, and Peter Voccola in the Hicksville office.