Our union is about to celebrate a milestone: the 100th AFM Convention of Delegates will happen later this month. It’s worth getting a refresher on our history, which can also be found on the AFM’s web site. In the mid-1800s, musicians in the United States began exploring ways to improve their professional lives. They formed “mutual aid societies” to provide members with loans, financial assistance during illness or extended unemployment, and death benefits. A number of these organizations became early unions, but problems arose among them because of competition for members and representational authorization. In 1896, delegates from several of them gathered at the invitation of Samuel Gompers, the president of the American Federation of Labor, to organize and charter a musicians’ trade union. A majority of the delegates voted to form the American Federation of Musicians, whose initial ranks numbered 3,000 musicians nationally. They resolved “that any musician who receives pay for his musical services, shall be considered a professional musician.” Within its first ten years, the AFM expanded its reach to serve both the U.S. and Canada, organized 424 locals, and represented 45,000 musicians throughout North America. For more of our history, see www.afm.org/about/history.
At the upcoming AFM convention, our union’s international officers will be elected (or re-elected) and delegates will vote on a large number of resolutions and recommendations that could affect us for a long time to come. Local 802 will be represented by Andy Schwartz, Tom Olcott, Bud Burridge, Gail Kruvand, Clint Sharman and Bob Suttmann. Because I am a member of the AFM’s International Executive Board, I will be attending the convention in my capacity as a member of the Executive Committee. In the May issue of the International Musician (which you can find online at www.afm.org), you can study the nine recommendations proposed by the International Executive Board and the 22 resolutions proposed by various locals or members. In my opinion, some of these proposals are beneficial, some are benign, and at least one appears to be extremely divisive and unhelpful. There will be plenty of candid discussions and public debates at the convention, so I don’t want to stake out any detailed positions at this time. Suffice to say, we will represent our members to the best of our ability. What you will notice, however, is that the AFM’s first recommendation is that union dues should not be increased for the time being. This speaks to how hard the union is working to make sure that your dues dollars are spent as efficiently as possible and that union costs are kept low. I’m sure our members will find this a welcome proposal.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
June is Pride Month, chosen to remember the Stonewall Riots and the beginning of the modern Gay Rights Movement. In this issue, we are honored to publish a story by Local 802 member Chris Reza about his own personal journey as an activist as well as the positive outreach being done by the Broadway show “Fun Home,” where Chris plays reeds. We also present a story by Local 802’s organizing director Maggie Russell-Brown about the current state of LGBTQ activism and the AFL-CIO “Pride at Work” program. For more Pride Month events in NYC, see www.NYCpride.org.
Also in this issue, Tom Olcott has an important story about what he calls the “chamber music conundrum.” That is, our members are serious activists when they play orchestral work but when it comes to chamber music, some see this kind of playing as more about personal enjoyment or artistic expression and less about fair wages and benefits . How do we get more chamber music under contract? See Tom’s ideas here.
Finally, Local 802 and the Council for Living Music continue to present our Jazz Mentors series about how to succeed in the business side of music. Our May panel included bass legend Ron Carter along with Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes and Maria Schneider. Our next panel takes place on June 27. See our coverage here.
- I recently met in Chicago with members of the AFM Canadian Conference regarding the “Canadian Content Production Rules.” These are the guidelines set forth by the AFM for film work that is produced in Canada. As our industry changes, it is important to look at such guidelines and determine whether or not they remain useful.
- Andy Schwartz and I have met with the “Saturday Night Live” band to discuss the upcoming live TV negotiations that we will begin this month.
- As readers know, I have been honored to visit and consult with the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) several times over the past few years. Our talks have been valuable exchanges that have given us more knowledge and greater solidarity with our world musician colleagues. I will attend the FIM Congress in Reykjavik this month and give a report in the next issue.
- Local 802 recently signed contracts for the following engagements: the production of “Himself and Nora” at the Minetta Lane Theatre; the production of “Cagney” at the Westside Theatre; and a renewal contract with Jack Kleinsinger and his Highlights in Jazz concert series. Remember, any time you’re called to play a job, call us. We can help you make sure you’re getting paid the wages and benefits you deserve. This is becoming increasingly more important when musicians are asked to perform in theatrical readings, developmental labs, workshops and Off Broadway. These agreements are negotiated individually based on our promulgated area standards. It is unlike on Broadway, where all shows are covered by a single collective bargaining agreement. Musicians are more frequently being engaged for this work and begin performances before our union has an agreement in place. When this happens, it tends to weaken our position in getting the protections we need in these agreements. All too often we find ourselves in a position where the work is finished and we need an agreement to process health and pension benefits, which can lead to the bargaining out of certain important protections. We are left with no leverage to bargain the provisions that are important to us once the job is over. We need your help to ensure you are treated fairly when you are asked to do this work.
In the printed issue of Allegro, you can read the current financial statement of our Emergency Relief Fund, which helps musicians in need. Our accountants have written that the fund’s “significant decreases in net assets raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.” In other words, the fund is in a serious situation right now. We’ve already cut our in-house social worker, which will reduce annual expenses to the ERF by $94,000. We’re planning to rent out that space on our sixth floor, which will bring more income into the fund. We also plan to step up our fundraising, which includes our concert series called “Jazz in the Afternoon” (see calendar for our next fundraiser on June 30, and see photos from the previous concert). If you’re in a position to donate to the ERF, please do so at www.local802erf.org. In the meantime, the Musicians’ Assistance Program is now operating out of the Actors Fund at 729 Seventh Avenue, 10th floor. There is still counseling available – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on health insurance, housing, substance abuse, financial counseling, food stamps, grants and more. All services remain free to Local 802 members. Contact the Actors Fund at (212) 221-7300, ext. 119 or IntakeNY@ActorsFund.org, or see ActorsFund.org.
CONGRATS TO JIM CLAFFEY
Jim Claffey was recently re-elected as president of IATSE Local 1. Congratulations, Jim! President Claffey is a graduate of both the Cornell University Labor Studies Certificate Program and the Negotiation Program at Harvard Law School. He began his career as an officer of Local 1 in 1996, serving as the chair of the board of trustees and later as the union’s theatrical business manager. In 2004, Jim was first elected president of Local 1. We value our important relationship with Local 1 and wish Jim all the best.
MUSICIANS GET PAID
As many of you know, the French film company KIDAM recorded 27 bands at New York’s prestigious Winter Jazzfest in 2015 to appear on Mezzo TV throughout Europe. I’m pleased to announce that the AFM and the company arrived at a $10,000 settlement, which Local 802 has helped distribute to musicians.
YES TO LIVE MUSIC
When it comes to live music, Local 802 is front and center. We are continuing our sponsorship of both the Fringe and New York Musical festivals. This new musical theatre initiative is in its 11th year and is one of the very important organizing efforts that Local 802 engages in. It is an opportunity for musicians starting their careers in theatre to be introduced to the union by actual visits with Local 802 staff and Broadway Theatre Committee delegates. We are also once again co-sponsoring Piano in the Park this summer, which provides live music in Bryant Park for passersby to enjoy.
ALLEGRO WINS FIRST PLACE
I’m thrilled to report that our magazine Allegro recently won first prize in general excellence in the annual journalism contest of the Metro New York Labor Communications Council. We are proud of our award-winning journal.
REMEMBERING STEPHEN SPRAGUE
I am saddened to report the death of Stephen Sprague, AFM Secretary-Treasurer from 1991 to 1999, who died on April 25 at the age of 67. We send his family our sympathy and condolences.
I hope to write in detail about the Broadway contract in the next issue. Any negotiation requires a lot of cleanup work at the end, including reducing an agreement to writing and ratifying the contract, which can take weeks. As soon as we have an approved memorandum of agreement, I will be able to report on the details. We’ll definitely keep you posted.