Moving forward

President's report

Volume 122, No. 2February, 2022

Tino Gagliardi

It’s been four short weeks since we’ve been in office and we’re moving forward, we’re getting organized and we’re putting our priorities in place.

After returning to Local 802 as president, the first thing I realized was how the pandemic changed so much about the union from the inside. It devastated our membership in more ways than one and it reduced our union’s resources to a huge degree.

Fortunately, Recording Vice President Mars and Financial Vice President Fisher along with a hard-working Executive Board understands our situation and we are all working together to address the myriad problems we currently face. To bring the union back to full power, we also need our audiences back in order to provide the opportunities needed to get us all back to work. I know that many of you are still financially shaky and the uncertainty of when that next gig will be is painful. All of us — including myself — believed that the pandemic would have retreated even faster by now.

The good news is that the omicron surge seems to have peaked. Our new mayor Eric Adams (who I knew personally when he was Brooklyn Borough President) wants the city to keep opening up as quickly and safely as possible. The key to moving forward is still full vaccination, including boosters, for those who are medically able to get vaccinated. We need our audiences to feel safe and confident in order to come back at 100 percent.

On Broadway, many of you know that some producers recently proposed to cut pay when they canceled a performance for Covid. We and the other Broadway unions rejected that proposal. Other producers have closed their shows early under the guise of a hiatus. Instead of abiding by the terms of the Local 802/Broadway League agreement providing for a hiatus, some producers have chosen to post a closing notice. An official hiatus per the terms of the contract would have given musicians the guarantee that when the show reopened, they would be called back.

I recently released a statement to the press that said: “Our Broadway contract does allow a show to go on hiatus in a way that protects everyone’s jobs and gives audiences the promise that the show will return. But that provision requires the producers to show true financial statements establishing that the box office receipts are less than its operating expenses including how much federal pandemic aid they got from taxpayers. Unfortunately, producers aren’t choosing to be that transparent. Instead, they simply close down their shows completely, with a vague promise of re-opening. Stopping a show abruptly and firing everyone creates a financial shock to our musicians and the other hardworking theatre professionals. When a show closes like this, none of the artists have a guarantee of being re-hired when — or if — the show reopens. Artists deserve a written guarantee that they will be re-hired. And if artists have to suffer economically when a show does poorly, we should share in the profit when a show does well. We are optimistic that Broadway will bounce back once the current Covid surge recedes. Everyone loves Broadway — and tourists flock to NYC to experience the best musical theatre in the world!”

I want members to know: we’re keeping an eye on Broadway and have not accepted any concessions or givebacks from producers. Also, Broadway may be getting a big tax break in next year’s New York State budget. If so, we will do everything in our power to make sure that we put pro-labor provisions in the budget language so that Broadway producers don’t take their tax break and then try to cut musicians’ wages at the bargaining table. We are meeting with the state AFL-CIO to make sure that this year’ New York State budget includes our priorities.