Our true power as a union comes from the collective engagement of all our members – whether you play in a TV band or a Broadway show, perform in a major orchestra at Lincoln Center, or work as a freelancer playing a different gig every day. When musicians from such diverse sectors of our industry are all engaged and ready to stand together in collective action, we build the power and leverage we need as a union to start to address the many issues musicians face in 2019. This power can be used to improve our negotiating position, organize new work under union contracts, execute a union community organizing strategy around a deeply-felt issue, or simply help make clear to the public just how vital union musicians are to the arts and culture here in New York and around the world.
As a community of union musicians, we are starting to see what we can achieve when we try to address the issues we face through collective engagement and collective action rather than individually and in isolation. Once in office, our administration launched an initiative called #802strong. We are committed to overcoming barriers that divide us and to standing together as a unified union of musicians that represent different genres, different workplace realities, and the many different experiences of being a professional musician.
Amid the contract negotiations on Broadway, 802 musicians launched the Musicians of Broadway website which draws attention to the exceptional musicians working in Broadway pits. Building on that action, musicians in almost every show on Broadway took photos with the #802strong hashtag, which were posted on the new website and on social media, adding to the Broadway dialogue stories and content about the musicians who work in the pits. Towards the end of negotiations, we gave out #802strong T-shirts to any Broadway musician who wanted to wear them during a performance produced by the Broadway League for the public called Stars in the Alley. That small choice to show union solidarity is a real example of collective engagement and action.
In the spring, Local 802 held a rally to support the Chicago Symphony musicians who had been locked out and over 150 union members showed up. 802 musicians gave speeches, we heard from politicians, there was a performance by over thirty 802 musicians and, all throughout, union members made sure their collective voices were heard.
Over the summer, the courageous musicians of the DCINY orchestra took the first steps to unionize their work through collective action, starting with an overwhelmingly successful election at the NLRB, where the “yes” votes were 114 versus only 13 “no” votes. The orchestra chose to unionize and have Local 802 represent them in their upcoming fight to negotiate a first contract with DCINY management.
The DCINY organizing campaign has been supported by the collective action of many 802 members across New York. Collective support has come from the New York Philharmonic and Musicians of Broadway, as well as the Patriot Brass Ensemble and members of the New York City Ballet. We hope that as DCINY musicians work to secure a fair contract that more orchestras and musicians will show their support by taking solidarity photos (see photo below) and supporting in other ways as the orchestra requests.
Another example of collective action happened when the Baltimore Symphony musicians were locked out. The New York Philharmonic took action to support the BSO by wearing BSO T-shirts and taking a great group solidarity photo, published to social media with supportive statements. (See photo below.)
Currently, 802 musicians, led by Elise Frawley, Joanna Mauer and Ray Mason – as well as members of the bargaining unit Contract Action Team – have been working on taking collective action to secure a fair film and television contract that includes streaming residuals. They put together a killer band and have organized rallies here in New York while collaborating with musicians across the country to take action. The simple truth is that actors, writers and directors all earn streaming residuals, but not musicians. This is a real threat to our financial futures.
Collective action is the only way we will have enough power to demand the respect and equality that other artists have. As Joanna Mauer, an associate violinist with the Metropolitan Opera who has recorded on numerous film scores, television scores and pop albums summarized it at a recent rally, “Despite the immense success of streaming platforms, production companies like Disney, Warner Media, NBC/Universal, and CBS/Viacom are paying musicians a fraction of what we get on traditional platforms such as in theatres and on network television. We are doing the exact same work but getting paid 75 percent less.”
As television shows and movies move to streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+, the studios are refusing to provide musicians fair compensation. Very profitable companies like Disney, which earned an estimated $59.43 billion last year, are demanding that musicians take huge cuts. Without streaming residuals, a musician will take a 75 percent pay cut when a Disney film is released on Disney Plus versus in theatres or on network television.
Here in New York, Local 802 musicians rallied outside NBC Universal headquarters at Rockefeller Center, where Congressman Jerry Nadler made clear to the public his support for our collective action. “I am proud to stand with the thousands of AFM music professionals who rightly deserve a fair living wage,” Nadler said. “AFM members are creative professionals who deserve fair compensation and revenue-sharing for their work both on streaming films and television shows. Without music, there really is no TV.”
This collective action is taking place both here in New York and in Los Angeles, with fellow musicians from Local 47 helping to draw attention to the fact that we simply cannot economically survive as union musicians over the next decade without residuals on streaming. This campaign is called #BandTogether and I appreciate the support the AFM organizers have given our 802 musicians throughout.
Engagement from 802 members is growing every month, gradually building the power we have as a union together. We must keep working together and continue to address the complicated landscape of the music business as a union through collective engagement and collective action. In 2019, the reality is that income inequality is at historic highs, orchestras are increasingly locked out by management, and musicians are not properly valued publicly for the important contributions we make to our communities both artistically and economically. As a union we must address these complicated issues with one unified collective voice, exercising the full power of our union to demonstrate that 802 musicians are the social and economic bedrock of the arts here in New York.
This summer, musicians with contributions in the AFM-EPF received notice that the pension fund has reached critical and declining status and that the trustees are petitioning the federal government to make cuts in the amount of benefit payouts. While there is uncertainty in what the cuts will look like and there is some question about whether cuts are necessary, this is a critical time for 802 members to be engaged and informed in the process. In September, we invited Professor Norman Stein from Drexel University to speak with 802 members about the history of multi-employer pension funds, different legislation in Washington D.C. and the MPRA cut process. In October, the retiree representative of the AFM-EPF, Brad Eggen, gave a presentation to 802 members at SEIU.
As the retiree representative, Mr. Eggen is given access to funding from the pension fund to hire an attorney and actuary to make sure there is an independent check and balance on the trustees as they file an application to cut benefits with Treasury. Mr. Eggen was appointed directly by the trustees and, in their notable absence, is touring the country giving a presentation explaining the role of the retiree representative and an outline of the MPRA cut process. While there is educational value in explaining the process and role, the retiree representative is supposed to be advocating on behalf of retirees whose pensions are at risk of being cut, and his presentation does not take the place of needed transparency from the trustees themselves as we all face looming cuts.
At its best, the role of the retiree representative should be impartial. To date, Mr. Eggen, who is the longtime president of AFM Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul), has: given a lengthy nominating speech praising Ray Hair (current AFM-EPF trustee co-chair) at the AFM convention this past June; hired a former AFM-EPF actuary as his independent actuary; hosted meetings for AFM retirees but refused to do so at their locals; and has yet to present any substantive information publicly related to his findings on whether the cuts the trustees are pursuing should be carried out. It is concerning to see that our retirees’ advocate has failed to demonstrate impartiality from AFM politics, and I hope that he and the trustees will work more closely with the locals to increase transparency and better serve our members.
We continue to extend our invitation to the trustees to meet directly with our members at Local 802. Here are a few questions I have for Mr. Eggen and the trustees:
- What steps are you taking to examine whether the trustees exhausted all options before filing for cuts through a MPRA application?
- Have you examined whether the AFM-EPF has had sufficient employer contributions over the last decade? If so, what are the results?
- Have you examined if the trustees could raise employer contributions in the future? If so, what are the results?
- Have you examined the investment performance of the AFM-EPF over the last decade? If so, what are the results?
- Have you examined AFM-EPF board governance of the fund over the last decade? If so, what are the results?
- Have you examined the complaint in the class action lawsuit filed against the AFM-EPF trustees – which goes to trial in April? If so, what are the results?
INTRODUCING LEO GERTNER
Local 802 is excited to announce that Leo Gertner has joined the union as director of field services. Leo has a background in labor law and comes to Local 802 from the National Employment Law Project in Washington, D.C., where he was a staff attorney and a member of UAW Local 2320. He worked on promoting policies to combat workplace injustice and expand worker protections, with a focus on state and local minimum wage laws. Previously, he worked as an attorney at SEIU, where he provided legal and research support to a campaign to unionize low-wage airport workers. Before law school, he was a grievance representative at SEIU 32BJ District 615, where he represented janitors and security officers throughout New England. Leo is also an avid writer and has been published in the Washington Post, Yale Law Journal Forum, and In These Times.
As director of field services, Leo looks forward to working with the local’s business reps and leadership to enforce the union’s agreements and improve member outreach and education, so musicians have the tools they need to build power and solidarity in their workplaces.
INTRODUCING THE LOCAL 802 RESOURCE CENTER
The Resource Center is a curated list of entrepreneurial and social service resources. By providing links and information on the Local 802 website, the center offers easy access to a wide variety of organizations which offer free resources to entrepreneurs and small business startups. These resources include free classes, workshops, seminars, business mentoring, legal advice, grants and grantwriting support, web design tools, online tutorials, and access to business resource centers across the five boroughs of NYC.
Some of the organizations included in the list are: New York Small Business Development Center (NYSBDC); The Business Outreach Center Network (BOC); SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives); US Small Business Administration (SBA); National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO); New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA); Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) and many more.
The center also provides access to information on AFM products, 802 policies and links to free social services. Links and information are provided for the convenience of 802 members. All organizations must be contacted directly to enroll in classes, workshops, counseling and other support services, or for further information. Local 802 cannot register members for specific programs and is not responsible for schedule changes or course cancellations. Please consult each organization directly for specific and up-to-date information.
The 802 Resource Center is a tremendous tool for members, providing easy access to programs that are freely available for all musicians who live or work in New York.
(If you would like to include a listing on the resource center page, please send an e-mail to Jferrara@Local802afm.org. Listings will be reviewed by the Executive Board prior to posting to confirm adherence to posted “contribution policies.”)
Local 802 recently negotiated and ratified agreements for Inside Broadway, Manhattan Theatre Club and Transport Group Theatre Company. As always, our priority is increasing wages and benefits and maintaining job security.
LOCAL 802’S INFLUENCE GROWS
My fellow officers and I recently met with the New York State AFL-CIO to discuss how we are connected to the larger labor movement in New York and beyond. We also discussed different policy issues at the city and state level that are negatively affecting 802 members and ways the AFL-CIO could help in the fight. Last month, I met with Anne del Castillo from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment to discuss the importance of creating more union recording work here in New York City. I will also be meeting soon with New York State Commissioner of Labor Roberta Reardon to discuss the same issue. It is important for our union to continue to build our power through our relationships with politicians, activists and other unions. When we need to call on the very important network representing labor both here in New York and across the country, those relationships will be there.
On a related note, I was humbled and honored to be included in this year’s “Labor Power 100” by City & State New York, which said that “the heart of New York’s economy and politics lies in labor, the city’s workers and unions.” In addition, I was honored to be included in Variety Magazine’s 2019 “Broadway Impact List,” which honors 50 creatives, producers and executives, exclusive of actors, who made a mark during the 2018-19 season. These honors have little to do with me personally; they are really a recognition of the members of Local 802 and our administration’s mission of democracy, transparency and putting our members first.