February is Black History Month and I’m proud that Local 802 is re-committing ourselves to the ongoing work of diversity, equity and inclusion. Over the past few months, the Local 802 Executive Board has been interviewing various music diversity organizations with the hopes of presenting a public open house that highlights all of their work and deepens our relationship with them. We also plan to reboot our Diversity Committee. The motto of the labor movement is “Stronger Together,” and we must make sure that our movement and our music are as diverse as possible. According to League of American Orchestras data, Black musicians made up less than 2 percent of all orchestral musicians, and that is not acceptable. Four organizations that are already on our radar include: Sphinx; the Broadway Musicians Equity Partnership Project; the Black Orchestral Network; and Music United for Social Equality (MUSE). Local 802 members are part of the leadership of at least three of these organizations, and we hope to continue to learn from them and be inspired by them. (In fact, I just got back from a meeting convened by Sphinx, where I received an update on diversity efforts in the classical community.)
Local 802’s foundations were based on the powerful and courageous work of Black musicians, as can be seen in “African American Musicians and the Founding of Local 802” and “Black and White Together.” I also encourage you to check out Organizing Director John Pietaro’s research published in this issue on historical free jazz musicians of Local 802, as well as “Whitney Blues,” a poem by Local 802 organizer Cheryl Brandon.
HONORING RON CARTER
The AFL-CIO recently solicited nominations for its Black History Month series, and Local 802 submitted Ron Carter as our featured member. Ron, a member of Local 802 since 1959, is among the most original, prolific, and influential bassists in jazz. He’s also a strong union supporter: “Unions are critical these days,” he told Allegro in a 2016 interview. “Unions are our only voice to get a fair shake with wages, pension and health insurance. Unions are our survival, and unions have always been in the forefront of helping musicians. We work for these things, and those who don’t want to join the union are making a huge mistake.” Besides earning three Grammys (including one in 2022), Ron also won a Guinness World Record as the most recorded jazz bassist, with over 2,220 albums to his credit, including his famous stint with the Miles Davis Quintet in the 1960s. For more on Ron Carter’s incredible career, see https://roncarterjazz.com
- I’m sorry to report that the musicians of DCINY continue to be stalled by their employer in their negotiations for a fair contract. Local 802 agreed to submit to federal mediation, and we had two sessions, but the employer refused to budge. The campaign will now enter a more aggressive phase, and we’re going to need all Local 802 members on board to help. Stay posted for more, and we’ll also post updates at www.local802afm.org/dciny .
- Separately, the jazz musicians of the New School, who are represented by Local 802, just started negotiations for their successor agreement. This comes on the heels of the successful strike and contract campaign spearheaded by the New School part-time faculty represented by ACT-UAW Local 7902. Recording Vice President Harvey Mars and his team will keep us posted.
- As reported in last month’s Allegro, Local 802 has expressed support for a proposed Times Square casino complex. Local 802 supports casino development in NYC as long as our musicians get guarantees for labor rights, traffic congestion and other critical issues. If you have questions about this, please reach out to my office.
Local 802 exists to empower musicians, and one of the many tools at our disposal is engaging in the political process. Our union has strong members, excellent leadership and powerful allies to get good laws passed. In that spirit, our Chief of Staff Dan Point (who also serves as the union’s political director), is sharing our current legislative wish list in this issue of Allegro.
SUPPORT FOR SNL ASSISTANTS
I recently got this update from the Central Labor Council’s UNION MATTERS newsletter. Post-production workers in the Film Unit of Saturday Night Live have signaled their readiness to strike over frustration with the slow pace of first contract negotiations. The overwhelming majority of the performers, artists, and craftspeople who make SNL have long enjoyed union representation, but a team of about 20 freelance editorial employees who assemble the show’s pre-recorded segments have historically been hired nonunion. SNL’s editors work long hours in a stressful environment to get the show’s filmed skits ready for the screen on a highly compressed schedule. Last year, NBC Universal agreed to recognize the crew’s decision to organize with the Motion Picture Editors Guild (IATSE Local 700), but the sides remain far apart on the terms for a deal as the clock winds down on this season. Local 700 asks for allies in the labor community and for fans of the show to sign a petition urging NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell to expedite negotiations — click here add your name!
AFM LAWSUIT AGAINST NBC
The AFM is suing NBC for non-payment of musicians for some work on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” as well as “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” and “Today.” At least one Local 802 member reports that one of the shows is apparently defying the Live TV contract by not paying for tracks, rehearsals, non-playing contractors or music preparation, and will only pay one hour for musicians playing live music. If true, this is an outrageous contract violation. We’ll get to the bottom of this situation and make sure that musicians are paid what they’re owed. If you’re affected by this case, please e-mail me directly at Tgagliardi@Local802afm.org
LOCAL 802 IN THE NEWS
I was proud to see this headline in Forbes recently: “Broadway: the Engine That Helps Fuel New York City’s Economy.” The article rightly points out that Broadway contributes $14.7 billion to the economy of New York City on top of ticket sales and supports 96,900 local jobs. Broadway is so productive that attendance recently topped those of the ten professional NYC Metro-area sports teams combined (Mets, Yankees, Rangers, Islanders, Knicks, Liberty, Giants, Jets, Devils and Nets). We[re proud of our Broadway musicians!
I also recently was interviewed by NPR’S “Marketwatch” program about the economic reality of professional musicians in NYC. I’d like to share with you what I told “Marketwatch,” because it’s important that all members understand our position on this:
The arts are the economic engine of New York City, but we have to make sure that everyone has access. “The key to leveling the playing field starts with equitable access to arts education for all. That will ensure that music students from working families have the same opportunities to careers in the arts as those from wealthier backgrounds. Next, once you’ve become a professional musician, you need a strong union behind you. On average, union workers’ wages are 11 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts, and that’s even more true in the music business, where many musicians are pressured to work for free. According to our most recent demographic survey, 45 percent of our members make less than $100,000 per year. Consumer spending on the arts is the first to take a hit in an economic downturn, making artists especially vulnerable to inflation and high costs of living. That’s why we help musicians demand strong union contracts with fair wages, good job security, and important benefits like health insurance and pension contributions. As we always say, we’re stronger together.
SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT TEAM
I hope that many of you have attended the recent get-togethers sponsored by the Social Engagement Team at Hurley’s bar. These are great ways to mix and mingle with both younger musicians and seasoned professionals. We post these events on our social media; the most recent event was posted here.
REMEMBERING JIM HANNEN
Jim Hannen, 71, who worked at Local 802 from 1992 to 2010, died on December 7, 2022. Jim’s passion was to make sure that our club date and hotel musicians were paid the wages and benefits they deserved, and he did a great job. From all of us at Local 802, we’ll miss you, Jim.. Please read our tribute to Jim in this issue.
“LORD OF THE RINGS”
Thank you to everyone who saw our GIG ALERT and kept an eye out for the “Lord of the Rings” concerts at Radio City. We’re pleased to let you know that all Local 802 musicians who are being contracted for this gig will be covered by a union contract and will earn proper union wages and benefits. Thank you for your vigilance. Together, we can make sure that we uphold the high standards that musicians have worked so hard to achieve. Anytime you’re aware of a job that pays less than musicians deserve, please make confidential contact to our organizing department at www.local802afm.org/organize-now (or contact the Local 802 Hotline confidentially at www.local802afm.org/hotline).
The next Local 802 membership meeting will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023 at 5 p.m. in person at Local 802. The agenda will include officers’ reports and a bylaw resolution. The bylaw resolution would allow hybrid or electronic membership meetings at the discretion of the Executive Board. The board has reported this resolution favorably.