No one will ever forget the summer of 2020. Many of us experienced the loss or illness of loved ones, the savage lack of justice in our country, the hope that change is possible, and the pain of not being able to perform. At the same time, we’re all doing the very best we can to make the world a better place, keep our union strong and pull through this crisis together. Here’s some of what Local 802 has been doing this summer:
- We actively and creatively worked to sustain the Local 802 Health Fund. For the latest update, please see this letter about a “buydown option” that we sent out in late July. We also posted important information regarding extensions of certain health fund timeframes due to COVID-19. We’ve been brainstorming ways to fundraise for the Health Fund and I’ve appointed a committee to organize this effort.
- On a related note, we’re thrilled to let you know that Local 802, the Actors Fund, and a coalition of union leaders and advocates worked with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to relaunch an important campaign called EVERY ARTIST INSURED with substantial new funding. The first project of this campaign was a series of educational webinars designed directly for Local 802 members. For more information, click here.
- Our main political effort has been pressuring Congress to do the right thing and support workers until the economy and the country can get back on its feet. We launched a powerful campaign on all of our social media channels called #SaveTheArts featuring Local 802 member voices; check out some of the testimonials here. This campaign was our most successful political campaigns ever; Local 802 musicians sent over 4,000 letters to Congress.
- Our Songs of Support campaign, featuring Local 802 musicians performing under an AFM contract on our new YouTube channel, helped add to the over $250,000 raised since March for the 802 Emergency Relief Fund.
- Our Local 802 Re-Opening Task Force is meeting behind the scenes and preparing for the day when Broadway, Lincoln Center and indoor venues resume operations. But for the moment, we’re thrilled to announce that live outdoor music under an 802 contract has resumed, with the first engagements by the Patriot Brass and the annual Piano in the Park series in Bryant Park.
- We appreciate the outstanding effort of Local 802 Executive Board members Monica Davis and Elise Frawley, who helped organize “Pass the Mic,” a series of three webinars that took place in July. Hosted by Maestra Music and Women of 802, it was an opportunity to create community and focus on the individual perspectives of diverse women in a broader discussion of identity, access and inclusion, social responsibility, and accountability in the music industry.
- On a related note, we began an effort to listen better to our Black members and members of color. We sent out a survey called A Time to Listen, and we issued a strong statement condemning police brutality and white supremacy, which has caused immeasurable pain to the Black community throughout our painful history. This is just the beginning of our efforts to bring more diversity, equity and inclusivity to the union.
- We co-produced a tremendous Facebook Live series called “Music For the Soul” with the NYC hospital system and the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment. For 50 performances in a row, from May 18 to July 3, an incredible variety of Local 802 members each performed one-hour solo shows from their homes. Each performance was streamed to the public and also to the 11 public hospitals in NYC. Health workers and patients were able to enjoy each performance. We featured celebrities like Tony Bennett, Rosanne Cash & John Leventhal, Norah Jones, Questlove and Suzanne Vega, as well as many top working Local 802 members. Musicians were paid on a Local 802/AFM contract; total wages paid out were over $10,000, plus almost $5,000 in health and pension benefits. Our staff worked very hard behind the scenes to make this program a success, and it was one of our best success stories during the pandemic. One of our musicians who performed in the program said, “I am in awe of the courage and generosity and perseverance and selflessness shown by our healthcare workers during this crisis. So many of us have struggled to find ways to show our appreciation for their heroic efforts, and so I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity to offer a small gesture of gratitude. I hope very much that my music will provide some distraction, comfort, and even joy to our healthcare heroes and their patients.”
- Lastly, the hardest decision we have had to make as an administration due to the pandemic, was a permanent reduction in staff at Local 802. The Executive Board had no choice but to notify our staff currently on emergency leave that they would be laid off. We had tried to avoid doing this for as long as possible, knowing the impact this will have on everyone, including our members, our remaining staff, and our local as an institution. But we are charged with the duty and obligation to preserve the local and ensure that we survive this crisis. Live music will return in force to NYC and we need to make sure that Local 802 will be in the best position to restore and revitalize our members’ work lives. We recognize the great contributions that our staff has made to Local 802 — some over many decades — and the valuable service they provided to our membership. It is our sincere hope that once we navigate this unprecedented crisis, we can rebuild our valued staff along with the union. We have reduced the salaries of all remaining staff, including the officers and executive board members. Even so, Local 802 faces severe and continuing financial challenges that can only be met by making these extremely painful cuts now. We will continue to operate remotely to serve the membership until such time as we can safely return to our building. We want to express our deepest gratitude to the staff for their service to our members and we wish them the very best. For more details, click here.
That’s just some of the work we have done on behalf of members here at Local 802 during the summer. Thanks to all musicians who are supporting Local 802 by maintaining their membership. The union is an essential service as we prepare for the eventual reopening of all aspects of the music scene in NYC. If you have any question about your dues, please contact Recording Vice President Andy Schwartz.
This issue of Allegro contains the audited 2019 financial reports of Local 802, the Emergency Relief Fund and the Health Fund as well as the annual report by Local 802 Financial Vice President Karen Fisher. When our administration took office in 2019, one of our clear priorities was to bring about more fiscal responsibility and fix the major deficit that had accumulated. We cut expenses by $909,000 from the previous year and made progress in streamlining and modernizing our organization. We were able to achieve this even as we initiated the first large-scale organizing campaign in years and successfully completed several important negotiations, including Broadway and a number of key freelance orchestras. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, our finances in 2020 will look dramatically different.
I want to sincerely thank all of our members for supporting our union. There has been an increase in participation in union meetings, committee work, lobbying campaigns, new projects and financial support for the Emergency Relief Fund. Your collective engagement is the true power of our union and allows us to navigate and weather this ongoing crisis together.