As we continue to adapt to our transformed lives and careers, I want to give you an update on how Local 802 is also adapting and working hard to best serve our members during this difficult time.
All performance work has stopped and our community of 802 musicians is in survival mode. Without a doubt, this is the biggest crisis Local 802 has ever faced. Like many other organizations, the Local 802 Executive Board had to make the hard decision to place a large part of our 802 staff on emergency leave until a more normal business environment resumes. This was done after careful consideration focusing on the need for long-term fiscal stability so that together as a union we can survive this crisis.
At this very moment we are all as a community making sacrifices to prevent further loss. Many of you already know musicians and other loved ones who have passed away due to complications of the coronavirus. Please see our obituaries on page 36. Even before workplace shutdowns began, we were working with your individual employers to ensure that, at the very least, all our contractual provisions regarding work stoppages and closures would be upheld. Much of this work has been done in lockstep with our rank-and-file committees. I want to thank all the committees for their relentless hard work and dedication on behalf of their fellow 802 members. For obvious reasons, negotiating in the midst of an unfolding crisis has been hard for everyone. Some employers have gone above and beyond the contract to support musicians through this tough time. Other employers have used this crisis to completely overlook the important contributions 802 musicians make to their organizations on a daily basis. Please rest assured that we keep all of you — every musician at every job — at the forefront of these negotiations.
There are a few bright spots to report:
- We have released $100,000 in new funding from our 802 Emergency Relief Fund as well as a new ERF Web site and Facebook page. We are also launching a video campaign featuring 802 members called Songs of Support to help fundraise for the ERF. See https://erf.local802afm.org (as well as photo on front cover!)
- With many members starting to use new technology to record, teach and flex their creative muscles while quarantined at home, Local 802’s Electronic Music Committee has stepped up and is consulting with members who want to learn new tech. See https://emc.local802afm.org.
- The CARES Act passed by Congress includes benefits that can help our members who are paid as employees with W-2’s, and it also provides payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. Benefits can be accessed by first applying for unemployment at https://www.usa.gov/unemployment.
- The IRS has already started mailing out Economic Impact Checks; check your status at www.irs.gov.
- Many 802 members have been able to teach lessons online and even participate in meaningful remote recording projects, some of which we’ve shared on our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Local802AFM.
- Our Local 802 staff has been working diligently for you in whatever ways we can. Despite the fact that our building is shut down, several of our key staff in the Electronic Media Department — including Recording Vice President Andy Schwartz and his team (Cathy Calabrese, Steve Singer, Bob Pawlo, Alex Blake and Amoh Essandoh) — have donned safety masks and come to work to process checks that are owed our members from recording projects that took place before the shutdown. See page 5 for photos.
- This issue of Allegro contains many more resources for you, including inspiring stories from our members about how they’re adapting.
We continue to reach out to our contacts at the local, state and federal level to make sure our members’ needs are being addressed. At a local level, we have good friends at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, particularly Commissioner Anne del Castillo. We also have good contacts with both Governor Cuomo’s office (through NY Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon) and with the New York City Central Labor Council and its President Vincent Alvarez. On the federal level we have been in contact with the officers of both Representative Nadler and Senator Schumer.
Our collective action as a union last month helped make sure the CARES Act covered our most vulnerable members who aren’t traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits. Right now to preserve our members’ healthcare and the 802 health fund, we’re calling on Congress to provide a 100 percent COBRA subsidy in the next stimulus package. A 100 percent COBRA subsidy would provide anyone on the 802 health plan with full coverage at no cost if you were to fall off the 802 plan in September. Send a pre-written letter to your reps now by going to this site: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-congress-to-subsidize-cobra-during-the-pandemic
Even as we’re bombarded by change, we can take comfort in knowing that the fundamentals of our lives retain their same value. Our relationships with one another and the love we have for our friends, family and community are invulnerable. Our actual creativity — the core essence of why we became musicians — is still very real and cannot be destroyed. Our society is fragile right now, but our humanity will grow even stronger.
I want Local 802 members to know that the union is doing everything possible to help our members during this crisis. In this unprecedented time, there is one certainty: we have more strength when we act together. That is the true power of a union, and together we will get through these tough times.
For our ever-growing list of financial aid, grants, tips and other help, visit www.Local802afm.org/resource-center