The year of the pandemic has been the most challenging time for Local 802 in our union’s entire history. To add to the urgency, we are facing the most important U.S. presidential election in our lifetime and it’s important that Local 802 speak out. This may be obvious to some of our members, but not to all, so our position deserves some explanation.
When our administration was elected, we vowed to make our union not just more efficient but also more relevant to our members’ lives. Rather than making dozens of endorsements per political cycle — which diminishes the power of our endorsements — our administration’s approach is going to be more strategic. We will focus our endorsements so that there is a clear and understandable reason for each endorsement that fits into our union’s overall strategic plan to build our power and political capital at the city, state and federal level. It is in this spirit that the Local 802 Executive Board has voted unanimously to endorse the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the upcoming presidential election.
In its endorsement, the Executive Board said, “The professional music community needs a robust recovery of the economy and the arts, but we also need strong investments in the nation’s healthcare and pension systems, a strengthening of labor laws that protect the rights of all working people, and — more than ever — a country committed to mutual respect. We need a president who affirms that Black Lives Matter and an administration that fights for the rights of women, immigrants, people of color and all Americans. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the candidates who are clear, obvious choices to move our country forward. We enthusiastically endorse the Democratic ticket in the 2020 election and call on our members to help get out the vote!”
I understand that not every member of Local 802 wants us to get involved in politics. However, the situation is so dire this year that we feel extremely confident that an overwhelming majority of members will understand why Local 802 will spend time and resources on the important fall campaign season.
President Trump has shown himself not to be an ally for artists or workers. His budgets have consistently attempted to defund the National Endowment for the Arts as well as many other arts organizations. Trump and his Republican allies have blocked attempts to save our nation’s pension funds (like our own AFM-EPF). Trump and his allies have blocked expanded unemployment benefits. Trump and his allies have refused to offer much-needed health insurance relief, like COBRA subsidies. Trump and his allies have treated immigrants, women and people of color with contempt. Trump and his allies have gone out of their way to target unions in order to weaken our ability to organize, collectively bargain and survive economically during this pandemic.
In contrast to Trump, it’s so easy to see how Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are on the side of progressive and democratic ideals. You read their campaign platforms here: https://joebiden.com/joes-vision/
Local 802 is surrounded by blue states, with one exception: the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania, which is one of a handful of states that may decide the election. We will be working with our allies at the NYC Central Labor Council and the New York State AFL-CIO to figure out the best way for our members to plug into the Biden campaign. We’ll keep you posted. If you want to get started early, visit www.nycclc.org or www.nysaflcio.org or www.joebiden.com.
On a related note, New York State is allowing everyone to vote by absentee ballot this year, but you must register without delay. If you live in NYC, you can apply for an absentee ballot here: https://www.vote.nyc/page/absentee-voting. Otherwise, start here: https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingAbsentee.html
We’d like to give you an update on the re-opening of New York City, including some new guidelines that we feel adversely affect professional musicians.
New York City is currently in a modified version of “Phase 4,” the final stage of re-opening in New York State. Outdoor dining and outdoor music are mostly permitted, as is media production, all with prescribed limits and safety measures. But in New York City, indoor dining is still prohibited, as is indoor music at venues such as Broadway, Lincoln Center and indoor bars and restaurants.
On Aug. 19, the New York State Liquor Authority (which governs restaurants and venues that serve alcohol) announced new guidelines that say: “Only incidental music is permissible at this time. This means that advertised and/or ticketed shows are not permissible. Music should be incidental to the dining experience and not the draw itself.”
It’s clear that the Liquor Authority is attempting to control crowds and limit numbers. We appreciate that concern, but we feel that the new guidelines are overly stringent, misguided, and actually counter-productive.
By preventing venues from selling tickets in advance, a venue is unable to know how many audience members to expect. On the other hand, if venues were allowed to sell tickets, it could set up its crowd control measures in advance and manage the audience more effectively.
These guidelines currently only apply to outdoor music at outdoor restaurants in New York City. But we can’t let these guidelines stand. Once indoor dining is allowed in New York City, it will signify the next wave of re-opening and will create more work opportunities for our members. By not allowing advertised or ticketed shows, our members’ return to a normal work life is threatened.
We are currently meeting with state and local officials to make our position known: as New York City continues to re-open, there should be no restrictions on ticketed or advertised shows. We can create safe workplaces for our musicians without threatening their work.
Finally, if you are hired for any kind of music work right now, please remember two things.
The first is that your employer is responsible for your safety. If you feel you are asked to perform in an unsafe condition, contact Local 802 immediately at Membership@Local802afm.org.
The second thing to remember is that we strongly encourage every musician to file a Local 802 union contract for every gig you do. This matters now more than ever. Local 802 can help protect your wages, benefits, and — most of all — your safety.
Our goal is to get our members back to work as quickly and as safely as possible. Entertainment and culture are the engines that makes New York City work. We need to get those engines up and running without any false starts, delays or breakdowns.
Please join Local 802 member Ralph Farris and other members of the 9/11 community for the annual Calling of the Names ceremony. This year’s event will be broadcast on YouTube at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11. Ralph and other community members will be be calling names of musicians and other first responders who died on or after 9/11. Ralph’s group ETHEL will also be featured. More info and the YouTube link can be found at www.callingofthenames.com.
Finally, I am humbled and honored to be included again in this year’s “Labor Power 100” by City & State New York, which has said that “the heart of New York’s economy and politics lies in labor, the city’s workers and unions.” This honor has little to do with me personally; it’s really a recognition of our collective strength as a union. Together we must continue to build the power of our union. It is that collective power that will help us navigate this crisis and find our way to a more stable future.