As many members may know by now, our pension fund lost a lot of money in the stock market declines over the past two years.
First, I want to remind you that everyone’s pension is protected by law and no one currently receiving a pension is going to see their pensions cut.
However, contributions earned beginning in 2010 will provide lower pension benefits than those earned in previous years.
Also, early retirement benefits based on pre-2004 contributions have been lowered to the actuarial equivalent of the $4.65 age 65 rate. (I know that may be confusing, but I want to be strictly accurate. Broadly speaking, it means that some early retirement benefits have been cut.)
We all hope that as the stock market recovers – which most analysts assume will happen – the pension payout formula will go back up in the future.
Former Local 802 president Bill Moriarity gave an extremely helpful overview of this matter at our Feb. 17 membership meeting. For those who weren’t there, a video of the entire presentation can be found on our Web site at www.Local802afm.org.
For further information in this issue of Allegro, see Mikael Elsila’s article and Harvey Mars’s legal analysis.
I want to let members know that Local 802’s officers are closely monitoring this situation and will keep you informed.
You should also realize that the pension fund is a separate legal entity from the union. We cannot tell the pension fund what to do; the trustees of the fund are in charge and they make all the decisions. Although AFM President Tom Lee is the co-chair of the fund, even he does not have absolute authority.
It is true that for many years, Local 802 had a seat on the fund’s board of trustees. Bill Moriarity, David Lennon and Mary Landolfi were all trustees. Although I have not been asked to be a trustee as of this moment, I am hopeful that I will soon be appointed, which will give Local 802 more direct involvement in the fund.
I should add that I believe the AFM itself is doing what it can. Tom Lee has recently signed off on a letter urging Congress to pass legislation that would give some relief to our pension plan and others like it. This kind of legislation wouldn’t add money to the fund, but it would give us some breathing room and allow us to wait out the recession a bit longer without having to make further cuts in pension benefits.
For the moment, we have to trust the expertise of the fund’s actuaries and trustees and we have to believe that they have the welfare of all of us in mind when they make their decisions.
Members who have any questions at all should e-mail me at Tgagliardi@Local802afm.org and I will get you answers.
New legal counsel
Almost immediately after the new Local 802 administration took office at the beginning of this year, the union’s previous legal counsel, Danny Engelstein, submitted his letter of resignation. This meant that we needed to search for new counsel immediately. I’m happy to report that we have retained Bruce Simon of Cohen, Weiss and Simon, to be our new general counsel.
Harvey Mars, who has been with Local 802 for almost 15 years, will continue to be our in-house counsel. Harvey’s expertise and his institutional memory of Local 802 contracts, negotiations and organizing campaigns are invaluable to us. He is also a former ERISA lawyer.
Although the union’s lawyers may appear to be behind-the-scene players, they are actually quite critical to our success. They are an important part of the union’s strategic team and can greatly influence the direction we take in any given situation. They are among my chief advisors.
But the buck ultimately stops with the officers – we won’t hide behind legal advice when we need to make important or controversial leadership decisions. And, of course, the true power of Local 802 comes from a collaboration between members, committees and officers, all working together. When you add good lawyers to the mix, it’s an unbeatable combination. We are delighted to welcome Bruce Simon to Local 802.
On March 8, Paul Molloy and I attended a meeting hosted by Mario Cilento, the chief of staff for the New York State AFL-CIO. In attendance were representatives of all the entertainment guilds.
The keynote speaker was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who discussed, among other things, her support of the health care bill with the public option via the budget reconciliation process.
AFTRA and Equity representatives spoke of the need to stop theft of product, such as the unauthorized videotaping of Broadway shows and the selling of them online.
Also discussed was the importance of the Performance Rights Act, which would pay royalties to backup musicians when their music is heard on AM/FM radio. Local 802’s strong support was made clear and Paul Molloy went into great detail on how the lack of such an act was unfair and hurtful to recording musicians in this country.
Senator Gillibrand has yet to commit her support to the Performance Rights Act, but I am hopeful after hearing from us, she will join Senator Schumer and the other 11 members of the New York congressional delegation and sign on as a co-sponsor.
Jazz Appreciation Month
Jazz is truly one of America’s national treasures. Many Local 802 members are jazz musicians and jazz is a critical part of the history of both Local 802 and New York City. Congress has even declared jazz to be a national treasure. In 2002, the Smithsonian designated the month of April as Jazz Appreciation Month. This issue of Allegro features interviews with jazz musicians Bob Cunningham and Peggy Stern.
Unfortunately, many jazz musicians have been exploited throughout the decades and the union hasn’t always been there for them. That’s changing. As you’ll see in John O’Connor’s article on page 9, the union is strengthening and pumping up our Justice for Jazz Artists campaign. As Allegro readers well know by now, the goal of the campaign is to win pension payments for jazz musicians when they play at clubs. The money for the pension would come from tax relief that Local 802 helped pass. This tax relief helped the club owners, who were supposed to redirect their savings back into musicians’ pension, much as the Turkus award does for Broadway musicians. It’s time to ramp up the campaign, and I am confident that John O’Connor, jazz rep Todd Weeks, and the union’s Jazz Advisory Committee will make progress.
Good-bye, dear friend
On Feb. 26, I lost a dear friend and Local 802 lost one of its strongest advocates. Rich Raffio, the principal trumpet player of the historic Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, passed away. Richie worked at “The Hall” for 37 years and was a common fixture in many Broadway pits. His knowledge of contracts, matter of fact logic, and strong commitment served his colleagues and this union in the music community for many years. I have personally lost a valued counsel and he will be sorely missed and never forgotten.
The statement regarding the Center for Contemporary Opera in last month’s Allegro was erroneous. While the Local 802 Executive Board approved the agreement, it had not yet been ratified by the musicians at the time of publication. The agreement was, in fact, rejected by the bargaining unit. Management has agreed to return to the table to discuss the issue.
Also in last month’s Allegro, the article by Marilyn Stroh was from a talk Ms. Stroh gave to the Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity, not the “Women’s Club of Philadelphia,” as we printed.