NYC Ballet Orchestra wins new contract

President's report

Volume 123, No. 11December, 2023

Sara Cutler

Thanksgiving is past, the winter holidays are approaching, and my year-and-a-half in office is flying by.

Around the country, other entertainment workers have achieved major successes. After 118 days on strike, SAG-AFTRA won a good deal. The Philadelphia Orchestra signed off on a contract. The San Francisco Ballet and Boston Ballet both got excellent deals.

Now we are happy to announce a new three-year deal for the New York City Ballet Orchestra. It came at the 11th hour as the annual Nutcracker run began the day after Thanksgiving. It was a long, tough negotiation that produced an excellent result for the orchestra, including healthy raises and a robust health insurance alternative. This alternative will replace the orchestra’s participation in the NYCB’s own plan. There were also several non-economic gains having to do with working conditions. Under the new deal, musicians will receive a 22.3% total compensation increase over the life of the contract, consisting of a 13% wage increase over three years, plus a restoration of a 9.3% COVID-related salary reduction. Congratulations to the NYCB Orchestra Committee, the entire ballet orchestra, 802’s legal team, and us!

We are close to a deal with the new Perelman Arts Center downtown that will cover all musicians who work there. We are in the midst of organizing the title callers at the Met who have chosen 802 as their bargaining representative. Management has agreed to recognize them and now we need to craft a new agreement for them as none of our current agreements really fit their needs. This will be a challenge.

Radio City has begun its annual Christmas show. With new upper management and staff, and a new contractor at the music hall, we’re both hopeful that the season will run more smoothly than usual there and wary that it might not.

There’s always a ton going on on Broadway. For starters, see Bud Burridge’s article about the uptick in accidents around Broadway stages. “Here Lies Love” is closing after a relatively short run. We can’t help but speculate that this proves Broadway audiences aren’t ready for “new genres” lacking live music and musicians. And that maybe they could have run a bit longer if the producers hadn’t spent so much money and resources pursuing a Special Situation.

We are trying to schedule the initial meeting with producers and the League for the upcoming show “Water for Elephants,” which is requesting a Special Situation. The show arrives in February, and we have formed a panel who are studying the materials sent by the producers. Unfortunately, there are so many people involved in the process that scheduling is proving difficult. 802 would still like to get the process finished by the new year and we are working towards that.

Yet another new show may require the same process. “Cabaret” is coming from London with more musicians than the minimum of 12 mandated for the August Wilson Theatre. The show is bringing 14 musicians, but five of them will only perform a prologue in the lobby before the actual show — and will then function as actor/musicians. We are discussing how to classify those five musicians and how many of them 802 will “claim.” Hopefully that will not turn into another Special Situation.

Bidding docs are about to go out to general contractors and trades for the Local 802 building renovation. In a few weeks, we’ll be submitting those bids for financing and then we expect to be on our way. By mid-December, we should have a workstation set up and populated on the fifth floor as the project management office. If you’re in the building or the neighborhood, stop by to talk and explore all the parts of the project.

If you missed the Workers Unite Film Festival screening of “The Girls in the Band,” you missed a wonderful night paying tribute to the many women who opened up the jazz field to future generations of women jazz musicians. The film and the follow up Q&A all reminded us of the many women of 802 who were part of this movement, llike Carline Ray, Jane Ira Bloom and Jamie Dauber. Many thanks to our own DECIBAL Collective for arranging the evening with the the AFM, Local 802, and the festival. We hope to do more film nights in the Club Room. Stay tuned. For more on the evening, see this story by  John Pietaro and Martha Hyde.

Don’t forget to put our holiday party in your books for Dec. 13. All members in good standing are welcome to come enjoy 802’s holiday fare and live music. RSVP’s are mandatory so we don’t go over capacity…please RSVP here (we’ll also send out a separate e-mail blast).


And now for this month’s “preaching to the choir moment.” It’s always surprising how many colleagues stay silent under questionable treatment or under actual mistreatment by employers and contractors. We should all remember a few things:

  • If you’re working under contract, the rehearsal schedule changes at the last minute and the contractor won’t let you out, contact us.
  • If you’re not working under contract but want to, contact us.
  • If you’ve been offered a flat fee to work out of town only to learn everyone else on the gig is on a contract, contact us.

This is why we are here. We can’t guarantee success every time but we have a good record of making these things right and it’s what we do. Contact us!

Your contact to us can be anonymous. But if you can comfortably give your name, it will make it that much easier for us to follow through. Remember, if 802 doesn’t know it’s happening, we can’t fix it.

Happy holidays everyone! Hope to see you all at the holiday party on Dec. 13…RSVP now!