President's report

Volume 124, No. 2February, 2024

Sara Cutler

I’d like to start my report this month with two issues that remain crucial to the future of the union: leadership and being counted.

This year is a Local 802 election year, and it always astonishes me how none of us ever knows who, if anyone, will run for 802’s elected positions, which include President, Financial Vice President, Recording Vice President, the Executive Board, the Trial Board, and a host of other offices. (Click here to see our current leadership.)

When we don’t have leaders in training who are willing to run for office, it creates a big problem for our workflow. It makes it harder to maintain consistent policies and keep our institutional memory alive. Our continuity of leadership has been compromised over the last decade and this administration is determined to do what we can to remedy this failing

Sometimes I think we should just forgo an election cycle to be able to get a firmer hold on the direction and depth of understanding in a sitting administration. But doing so is not an option. The Department of Labor is very clear that all local union positions with decision-making authority must be filled by an election at least once every three years. So, here we are again on the cusp of another election, with very few viable candidates on the horizon. What can be done?

We have established a leadership subcommittee of the Executive Board and tasked it with identifying future leaders and beginning an educational process centered on those people. We can’t say that we will be able to find people to stand for this year’s election — although I hope we do — but it is essential we start creating a pipeline of concerned, engaged and intelligent people on whom 802 may call in the future. If you have any interest in learning more about your union, what it can do for you and what you might do for it, please talk to us…soon! Talk to the leadership committee, or Karen Fisher, Harvey Mars, or me. Talk to anyone you know on the Executive Board or Trial Board. Start understanding the nuts and bolts of union governance. Do not be misled by anything you’ve heard about how any hack can run a union. Having served on both boards and now as president for five months, I can tell you  that it’s hard and cannot be learned by reading a few contracts. The learning curve is too steep to climb quickly. It’s frankly a lot of work. But it’s never dull work and it’s important work that has a positive impact, even if necessary change only comes at a glacial pace. It’s valuable just for creating a floor for the work we cover and the work we don’t. It must go on. As I said, if you have any interest, step up. Your union needs you.

The official notice of Local 802’s 2024 election, along with information on how to run for office, will appear in a future issue of Allegro. Past elections have occured in the month of December.


You may have seen Bud Burridge’s article in the December 2023 issue of Allegro, followed by two articles in the New York Post published around Christmas. One, on Broadway assaults near stage doors, was the cover story. Then inside was a shorter article on pit accidents. Local 802 was instrumental in engendering press interest in these stories (but of course had no control over how the stories were written). While they were not perfect in our view, they did get a lot of attention where we hope it will do some good. Other media outlets are now beginning to pick up the thread. And so we’d like to thank everyone who stood up and talked to the Post reporter. We understand the many reasons people would prefer not to stand up and be counted in situations like this, but it was only because of those who did that we may be able to effect some change. Again, this is one more of hundreds of situations where the union is only as effective as the members help it to be. So a big thank you to all!


Meanwhile, it’s budget time. The officers and Local 802 Controller Alla Emilianova are putting together a 2024 budget. We operated under a deficit budget last year and it looks like we will again this year. While we’ve made great strides in pulling ourselves out of the hole the pandemic created, we are still struggling. However, our membership numbers are up, our income is returning to somewhat normal (as are expenses), and the markets are improving. We are hopeful that we will show considerably less of a loss this year than in the year just ended. However, there are variables we cannot control. We now expect the Local 802 building renovations to begin between April 1 and July 1. While we prepare for that, repairs to our systems continue to avalanche. We will doubtless still be paying for repairs to some floors while undergoing construction on others. This is a double whammy that should be covered by our financing package, but the timing on everything will certainly impact our cash flow. In spite of these concerns, the business of the union must go on and, to that end, we do have a complement of consultants working for us on monthly retainers. This puts extra pressure on our fiscal management, but we feel we are getting great value for our money. These consultants include a public relations firm (Downfield LLC), our two law firms (Cohen, Weiss and Simon and Colleran, O’Hara and Mills), a health care actuary (Sue Taranto of Milliman, who is working on health insurance for multiple bargaining units), the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations (which is training and organizing the Broadway bargaining unit) and, possibly soon, a political lobbyist to assist with our legislative agenda. We consider all of these essential to the proper functioning and provision of member services that are the mission of Local 802.


On another front, we’ve been hearing from members about their concerns and fears related to congestion pricing. Everyone is asking what can be done and why is 802 not doing it? In fact, 802 has been involved with the process for over a year. We were the only entertainment union that submitted testimony during the hearing phase. Unfortunately, our pleas for musician exemptions fell on deaf ears, and it is now almost certainly a done deal. Yes, we are in yet another comment period, and while it couldn’t hurt to comment, we are told it is just a pro forma process mandated by the federal government, but that all decisions have been made. Regardless, 802 sent out this new comment from the Executive Board. We sent out this e-mail blast to our members. We are adding congestion reimbursement language to our promulgated contracts. Further, the United Federation of Teachers has filed a suit alleging faulty process on the part of the city. We will be watching that. There will possibly be an opportunity to file an amicus brief when that suit gets to the appeals court (which would show the court our support for the suit and allow us to raise our own concerns). But that is unlikely to be sooner than months from now, well past the start date for congestion pricing of May this year.


And finally, a reminder that our next membership meeting will be on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 5pm, both in person and on Zoom. The main business of that meeting will be to hear charges filed against our Recording Vice President Harvey Mars by member Larry Siegel. It will be the responsibility of the members present to vote to refer the charges to a special panel elected from those members present, or to dismiss the charges. In order to accomplish any of this, we need to achieve a quorum. Please mark your calendars and come, either in person or by Zoom. I look forward to seeing you all there. If attending by Zoom, pre-registration is required.