Let me start my report this month with the topic that’s on everyone’s minds – our pension fund. At our recent Board of Trustees meeting, the AFM Pension Fund’s actuaries advised the board that better than expected investment returns will keep the plan in “critical” and not yet “critical and declining” status for another fiscal year. It remains likely that the plan will become critical and declining at some point in the future, perhaps as early as the next plan year (beginning April 1, 2018). Whether the plan will become critical and declining next year will depend on investment returns, contributions and other data. As a reminder, “critical” status means that, while the plan can pay benefits for the next 20 years, the funding status is low enough that the law requires the plan to have a rehabilitation plan (which the plan has had in place since 2010) to improve its funding status. Look for a more thorough explanation to be enclosed along with the required notices mailed to you in the next month or so. To learn more about the plan and what’s been happening, check out the FAQ page, which has some new updates. Here’s how to access it. Go to www.afm-epf.org. Click on “Participant Login” from the top right-hand corner. Once you’re logged in, your name will appear in the top right-hand corner. Click on your name. This opens up a page where you can click on the FAQ’s. Another good link on this page is called “5500 and Other Documents.” I want you to know that our goal is to be as transparent as possible. We are not afraid of publishing questions and criticism, and we’ve opened up the pages of Allegro to all points of view. E-mail your letters to the editor.
KEEPING THE ARTS STRONG
Budget season is well underway in New York City. Local 802 and the arts community are doing what we can to restore $10 million in city funding and an additional $30 million to help sustain and increase cultural opportunities for all New Yorkers. Please do your part and call your local city councilmember. On a related note, we are pleased to publish an op-ed by Julie Menin, the commissioner of the mayor’s office of media and entertainment. I recently met with Julie about the state of music employment in NYC. I also recently met with NYC Controller Scott Stringer, and also with Elizabeth Crowley, who is the NYC Council Member for the 30th District. Council Member Crowley and I talked about area standard wages for musicians in NYC and how that could help the entire NYC economy.
You’ll see in this issue of Allegro that we’re announcing two early endorsements for this fall’s primary election: Carlina Rivera (for City Council district 2) and Keith Powers (for City Council district 4).
In other political news, those in our country who value the arts recently won a small amount of breathing room when Congress made sure that the National Endowment for the Arts and other cultural organizations received funding in the national budget through Sept. 30. As you know, President Trump and his team had called for the elimination of the NEA and other arts organizations. Elected officials in Congress declined to cut off arts funding – for now. Thank you to all Local 802 members who showed up to the “Save the Arts” rally at City Hall earlier this spring. The NEA has released figures showing that the arts and cultural sector contributed $729.6 billion or 4.2 percent to the U.S. economy. Between 1998 and 2014, the contribution of arts and culture to the nation’s gross domestic product grew by 35.1 percent. Investing in the arts truly pays back to society. The fight is far from over, so please stay tuned.
I also want to remind members that Local 802 and the AFM are supporting the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1836) introduced earlier this spring by Rep. Jerrold Nadler. The bill would pay musicians when their work is heard on AM/FM radio, which is currently not the case. To help out and stay updated, visit www.afm.org/2017/03/make-it-fair.
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 present an interview with Local 802 member James Dobinson, the music supervisor and orchestrator of “The View UpStairs,” the Off Broadway show that is a tribute to queer culture, both past and present. We are also proud to publish a provocative essay called “How unions can protect LGBTQ rights in the age of Trump.” For more Pride Month events in NYC, see www.NYCpride.org.
Also in this issue, we feature an interview with the one and only Ray Chew, an inspiring report about the Met Orchestra Musicians’ public performance initative, a story about the skill sets needed to be a musician today, a report on a recent victory at the Kaufman Center, a story on our latest Jazz Mentors program, and finally a warning by Chris Carroll about the upcoming vote on New York’s constitutional convention.
LOCAL 802 FINANCES ARE STABLE
Our audited financial information was just released from last year, and I’m happy to report that Local 802 is stable. Our work dues income – which is the best indicator of how much employment our musicians are enjoying – is essentially the same as last year. Our combined realized and unrealized gain investments, which are managed by Morgan Stanley, increased by $84,000. Our total assets are stable. You can read the financial vice president’s report and the controller’s report online, and see the actual audited reports in the printed version of the June 2017 Allegro.
CELEBRATING LIVE MUSIC
When it comes to live music, Local 802 is front and center. The Times Square Alliance recently celebrated the opening of new “pedestrian plazas” in Times Square. Best of all, the Alliance will be featuring live Local 802 musicians (paid under a union contract) – outdoors and free of charge to the public! For more, see Julie Ferrara’s story in this issue.
We are also continuing our financial support of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, which runs this year from July 10 to Aug. 6. As part of our efforts, we try to visit as many shows as we can. This is a great 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. The season traditionally culminates with a meet-and-greet at Local 802, where musicians – both members and non-members – can get together for a dinner and a panel discussion. The event offers a rare opportunity for musicians in theatre to network with other musicians and learn more about what it takes to become a successful pit musician.
Local 802 is also once again co-sponsoring Piano in the Park this summer, which provides live music in Bryant Park for passersby to enjoy. See the schedule at www.bryantpark.org/programs/piano.
All of these efforts show that Local 802 is truly investing in live music.
I am pleased to welcome Marlena Fitzpatrick García as one of Local 802’s newest theatre reps. Marlena earned a master’s degree in labor relations from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. She worked as a radio host, programming assistant and production manager for various high-profile radio stations before being hired by SAG-AFTRA as their Spanish Language Industry Relations & Organizing Manager, where she worked to provide more job opportunities for Latino and Latina actors and Spanish-speaking performers. Marlena is a longtime activist who says her core values are to care about the human condition and take action for social justice. Welcome, Marlena!
CONGRATS TO ALLEGRO
Let me end by congratulating Allegro (and all the staff and members who contribute to it) for winning first place in the annual NYC labor journalism conference administered by the Metropolitan Labor Communications Council. We’re proud that we were recognized as number one in general excellence among all labor publications in NYC in our circulation class. Allegro is a group effort and I thank everyone who makes the union strong.