This is my final report to you as president of Local 802. Usually in my December column, I report on our administration’s accomplishments in the year that just ended. However, I already wrote about this extensively in a personal letter to the membership a few months back that included a comprehensive report you can read here.
The story of our administration was really the story of surviving a worldwide pandemic, which we did together as a community of musicians, as an industry, as a city — and as a union. Looking back, I’m sincerely proud of the work we did. We worked together to save our pension, save our health fund, ensure our union’s survival, and support our musicians in the best way we could. As you know, we made tremendous sacrifices to keep the union strong and safeguard our members’ resources. I’m confident that Local 802 will come out of this even stronger than ever as we scale back up our staff and negotiate new contracts, all while the pandemic continues to recede. I feel nothing but hope and optimism going forward.
I want to sincerely thank all of my colleagues, including my fellow officers Andy and Karen, as well as the entire Local 802 Executive Board. The staff at Local 802 worked literally around the clock since the pandemic to serve our musicians. It has been my privilege to serve with them.
As you know, I will not be disappearing from the leadership of Local 802. I am humbled that you voted for me and members of my slate to serve in the new administration that takes office on Jan. 1. My goal is to make sure Local 802 does not slip backwards. We must keep up our high standards of staff efficiency and modernization. We must continue to embrace flexibility and change. Those have always been my highest aspirations for the union. If we acknowledge that Local 802 must constantly change, adapt and evolve, then we will always be prepared to deal with any challenge before us. As you well know, musicians are very familiar with existential battles. From the challenges of digital piracy and streaming, to the crisis of our pension fund, to the shutdown of our industry during the pandemic, musicians have always survived. If we stay flexible, allow ourselves to adapt to the realities of the ever-changing music business, and not bury our heads in the past, we will come back stronger than before. I am confident that Local 802 can do so, since we survived the worst crisis our industry has ever seen.
A few more items to share before I sign off:
- Local 802 has filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge against Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) for failing to negotiate in good faith with its musicians. In 2019, DCINY musicians successfully formed a union with Local 802 to address issues of inadequate pay, no benefits, unreasonably long rehearsals, limited break times, intense and physically demanding performance days, and an atmosphere of fear due to frequent retaliation for voicing concerns to management. Despite the musicians’ success in forming a union, DCINY management has refused to negotiate in good faith for a fair contract. Specifically, DCINY has used the pandemic as the reason to arbitrarily delay negotiations, despite the fact that most major NYC cultural institutions (such as the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, American Ballet Theatre and Jazz at Lincoln Center) have managed to negotiate fair agreements with their musicians and re-open their doors. Local 802 and the musicians of DCINY call on management to immediately schedule negotiations and bargain quickly for a fair contract.
- I’m thrilled that Local 802 has signed a first agreement with Nassau County’s only professional theatre, the Plaza Theatre in Elmont, Long Island. First contracts are extremely challenging to accomplish and I salute the musicians and union staff who made this happen. Musicians will soon be earning a union wage, benefits and all the protections of a Local 802 contract. If you’re working at a job that doesn’t pay you what you deserve, feel free to contact the Local 802 hotline. We have an excellent track record in helping musicians win the wages and benefits they deserve while protecting their jobs.
- Local 802 has helped musicians win over $140,000 in grants through our NO MUSICIAN LEFT BEHIND program. We’ve simplified the application and plenty of funding is still available. Apply now at www.local802afm.org/relief. Our goal is to help musicians get back on their feet as quickly as possible while the industry continues to recover. On a personal note, this program is one of my proudest accomplishments as president of 802. I encourage you to apply!
- Also in #802Strong series, we just concluded a very successful and powerful organizing training called RAISING OUR VOICE. Please see here for thoughts from our members on what they learned and how it can help Local 802 as we try to build up our culture of organizing.
I want to close my final report on two positive notes.
First, I want to emphasize that it was live music — and specifically Local 802 musicians — who led the way to New York City’s re-opening. When the major cultural institutions of NYC re-opened — including Broadway, the Met Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the American Ballet Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the NYC Ballet — it showed the entire world that life after the pandemic was a reality. Culture took center stage, and Local 802 musicians were right there. You are survivors and you gave the world hope and inspiration. We’ll never forget this journey that we went through together and we must take with us the lessons we learned to create a stronger union in the future.
Finally, serving as president of our union is only made possible with the support of our amazing members, staff and Executive Board. I would like to sincerely thank all of you for your trust, hard work and relentless pursuit to build power for all musicians. I also thank you for the opportunity you gave me to lead our union through these perilous times. I look forward to working with the incoming president to ensure that the progress we’ve made continues and that all of our members’ priorities and needs are met. I wish you all a happy holiday season and a truly healthy and prosperous 2022.