We have a new mayor here in NYC, and I’d like to thank all of the Local 802 members and staff who helped support Bill de Blasio. We were an early endorser of Bill’s campaign, and we did so because it is our strong belief that he will be the best mayor for the musicians, union members and working people of New York City. Local 802 looks forward to what promises to be a strong relationship with Mayor de Blasio.
Also on the Nov. 6 ballot was the New York Casino Gambling Amendment (Proposal 1). As you know, we had sent out an e-mail blast urging members to vote yes on this proposal. The measure will allow the legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in the state, specifically for stated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing funding to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes. The state AFL-CIO had also supported the measure, citing the fact that the casinos will create good jobs as well as support economic activity and revenue that will benefit every New Yorker. The proposed casinos are slated to first open upstate, then eventually in New York City.
Some members may not feel comfortable with the fact that we supported the authorization of new casinos. Others may argue in favor of jobs: casinos hire live musicians and union workers, and we should never say no to more jobs, especially at this time.
I am aware that casinos are a complex issue, and I want you to know that we respect the diversity of opinions of our members. We are completely comfortable listening to – and publishing – both sides of this debate. In fact, our own Recording Vice President John O’Connor has written a thoughtful opinion piece on why unions should not, in fact, support casino gambling.
Decisions of this kind are never easy for any administration. But for me, it was the obvious thing to do given that several of these new casinos will be built in our jurisdiction.
New York City already allows “racinos” (a combination racetrack/casino). These racinos – including the Resorts World Casino/Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and the Empire City Casino/Yonkers Raceway – hire live musicians between five and seven nights a week.
Let’s assume that the new, proposed casinos will also hire live musicians. The next question is: will these gigs be union jobs, under a Local 802 contract?
The New York State Federation of Labor supported the casino proposal and is leading efforts to make sure that all new jobs at the proposed casinos will be unionized. It was obvious to me that we had to be on board also. It’s simply our obligation to ensure that musicians who perform in our jurisdiction work under a union contract with fair wages and benefits.
It remains my opinion that we can do a lot more for musicians by being on the inside of this process – with a seat at the table – rather than on the outside, throwing rocks at it.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Our cover story is a report from the Future of Music Coalition summit, which focused heavily this year on copyright and streaming issues. This is a topic of great importance to all musicians, since it is our belief that streaming is the way most consumers will listen to (and purchase) recorded music in the future. (In his interview with us in the November issue, AFM President Ray Hair also spoke about streaming. This is something the union cannot ignore, and it is clear that the AFM is on top of it.)
We’re happy to report that lifelong activist and music legend Harry Belafonte has endorsed our Justice for Jazz Artists campaign. We are thrilled and honored that Mr. Belafonte is on board, and we highly respect his endorsement. Also, you can read about our creative new actions with the jazz campaign, including a “sip in” and a Facebook page blitz.
Please check out Bettina Covo’s report about a highly successful educational clinic that was presented at Local 802, featuring Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and Rob Paparozzi, and the York College big band under the direction of Local 802 member Tom Zlabinger. This was truly a community event and one we hope to repeat.
Also, you can read the tragic tale of what happens when musicians think that the key to their prosperity is to kick out their union. Warning: don’t try this at home! The results are disastrous for the musicians, and even orchestra management stands to lose big. There are no winners in this fiasco, but it’s crucial that we analyze exactly what occurred to make sure that no other orchestra makes the same mistake.
Local 802’s financial reports for the period Jan. 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013 appear in the printed issue on page 39. The numbers show that the union basically broke even, with a slight loss of just $746. The main source of this loss was a dip in dues revenue coupled with some non-recurring, unusual repairs to Local 802’s plumbing, and long-overdue air conditioning duct maintenance. We also experienced some unrealized losses in various investments. That last trend will most likely reverse because of the stock market rise over this year. For more details, the reports of Financial Vice President Tom Olcott and Controller Cathy Camiolo.
We are pleased to report that we have a new agreement with the Performing Arts Center of Suffolk County (aka Gateway Theatre). Please remember, any time you get called to play for a musical show of any kind (including a reading or a workshop), call our Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. We have an excellent track record of helping you win the wages and benefits you deserve, while protecting your job and your identity.
BIG RECORDING WIN
Our director of electronic media, Steve Danenberg, recently reported that we collected a settlement for musicians who played on the Disney cast album of the Broadway show “Newsies.” Musicians will share the settlement of $9,339.90 in wages, plus 11.99 percent pension, and health payments. Making sure that musicians win their fair share is one of our most important jobs. Anytime you’re called to play on a recording – or at a rehearsal that’s called for a recording – please make a confidential call to our Electronic Media Department, at (212) 245-4082. We can tell you if the job was filed with the union, and if not, what your options are.
Steve has also put together a very useful checklist for recording contractors.
Speaking of recording, we’re always focused on helping make NYC an attractive place for producers to do their post-production – which means work for musicians. There have been various post-production tax breaks offered in New York State, and now a new initiative may be in the works. I recently appointed Executive Board members Gail Kruvand and Andy Schwartz to a film post-production subcommittee. More to come: I’ll keep you posted.
ON A FINAL NOTE
As Allegro goes to press, I had wrapped up a week of meetings with the AFM International Executive Board, and was spending seven days in London to meet with the British Musicians’ Union to discuss theatre and other issues. I’ll report on both of these meetings in the next issue.
Finally, I hope to see you at the union’s annual holiday party, on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 5 p.m. in the Club Room. (The party is for members and their guests.)
I’ll be back in these pages in January. I wish everyone happy holidays and a happy new year!