Local 802’s campaign to raise area standards in the club date field took an important step forward on May 5, when New York City Swing became a signatory to the Single Engagement Club Date Agreement. The agency signed on after over two months of often intense negotiations. The agreement that resulted addresses the needs of both parties.
New York City Swing is a busy office that plays standard club date engagements: weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, corporate and charity events and private parties. However, it differs from many other agencies in paying many musicians significantly over scale.
Most musicians who work for the office are satisfied with their salaries, but want to receive pension and health benefits. While proprietors Dore DeQuattro and Steve Shane agreed that the musicians should receive benefits, they pointed out that they would need to adjust their cost structure to make this possible, and that it would take some time to phase in the benefits. Many clients are already booked for this year for a fee that does not reflect benefit costs.
In an effort to reach an amicable agreement, Local 802 agreed to phase in the benefits to give the employer time to pass along some of the new costs to clients. Health contributions will start on July 1, 2000, and pension contributions will start on March 21, 2001. In response, the employer has agreed to pay benefits while maintaining musicians’ current salaries, including their overscale.
Under the agreement a musician will receive health insurance if he or she does more than 19 single engagements (46 for Plan A), or does other union work so that the health benefits contributions total at least $400 ($975 for Plan A), during a six-month period. New York City Swing signed on as a program employer under the Club Date Agreement, which means that a musician who works 20 or more gigs for New York City Swing in one half of the year will be guaranteed health coverage for an entire year.
The employer will pay the full 7.5 percent pension, as mandated by the Club Date Agreement, when pension contributions begin in March of 2001. “I would have preferred to begin receiving contributions immediately, but I’m glad that New York City Swing eventually will provide a good pension,” one musician told Allegro. “As a freelancer, it has been difficult for me to save on my own, so it’s important for all my employers to pay into my pension.”
The union initially attempted to extend the area standards campaign to cover all bands affiliated with New York City Swing, including New York City Swing, Dream Team, Uptown Swing, Big City Swing and 52nd Street Swing. During negotiations, however, Shane and DeQuattro insisted that they were not the employer of musicians in Big City Swing and 52nd Street Swing, and presented evidence to support their claim. After considering the specific facts, and with input from 802’s attorney, the union decided to reach agreement with the agency for New York City Swing, Dream Team and Uptown Swing.
This latest campaign is part of Local 802’s overall strategy to maintain a level playing field among single engagement club date employers. If every employer contributed toward musicians’ benefits, not only would more members be able to see a doctor when they are sick and to retire with dignity, but Local 802’s position when negotiating the next Club Date Agreement in April 2001 would be much improved.
“New York City Swing should be congratulated for doing the right thing,” Local 802 President Bill Moriarity told Allegro. “They have always provided excellent wages, which allows them to attract some of the most talented musicians in the city. Now that they are paying pension and health benefits, I believe they will have an even better relationship with their musicians and their clients.”
The New Organizing Department worked on this campaign, with the help of 802 attorneys Bob Archer and John Byington. Musicians who work without benefits in the single-engagement club date field are encouraged to call the union. All calls are strictly confidential.