Happy new year to all! It’s hard to believe that I’m about to enter my second year of returning as president of Local 802. My administration and I have been working nonstop since taking office and we have a lot of progress to report as we look back at the year that just ended.
As I think back on 2022, the first thing that comes to mind is how it was a year of transition out of the pandemic. Covid is still a part of our life, but we’re no longer panicked by it. Live performances came back, society learned how to adapt, and I’m proud of how our members made it through this crisis with resilience. If you still need help, our Emergency Relief Fund is accepting applications at https://erf.local802afm.org.
As society opened up, Local 802 re-opened our building to the public and started hiring back staff. We began renting our rehearsal rooms again and we held our first in-person membership meeting since the pandemic – and an actual holiday party that felt festive again! We also inaugurated a new series of jazz nights and jam sessions. It was incredible to see our members in the building again and to hear music coming from the club room. In 2022, we also renewed our sponsorship in the program called Music for the Soul, a series of union gigs at local hospitals that we co-produce with the mayor’s office of media and entertainment and New York City Health + Hospitals.
We successfully won a new deal for Broadway in 2022, and the New York Philharmonic restored salaries, seniority and overscale payments to their pre-pandemic levels. Actors’ Equity won a new contract with the Broadway League in a campaign that they called “It’s about time, Broadway!” Their issues included safe workplaces, fair wages, sensible rehearsal schedules and sufficient coverage for actors and stage managers.
In 2022, Local 802 also recently ratified dozens of contracts, both big and small, including “Encores!” at City Center (see article in this issue by Deborah Assael and Maura Giannini).
Union organizing became part of our renewed focus in 2022. We held two successful rallies with the musicians of DCINY and are starting the process of federal mediation with their employer, which is hopefully the final road to a contract. We celebrated with the faculty of the New School who won a contract after a successful strike and mediation, and we’re looking forward to our own New School jazz faculty’s fight for a fair contract as they begin negotiations soon. Musicians of “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish” won a contract as their production finished a new run at New World Stages.
We were thrilled that Ron Carter’s musicians were paid union wages and benefits for his 85th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall. We were also glad that Jon Batiste agreed to cover his “American Symphony” under a union contract and that Harry Connick Jr covered his musicians at David Geffen Hall We’re sorry that the same couldn’t be said for this year’s Josh Groban gig at Radio City Music Hall or the performance of Il Volo, also at Radio City. If we had been given enough advance notice from our members who were playing these gigs, we could have helped musicians earn union wages, benefits, recording protections and much more. If you get called to play a concert at a major venue, we want to make sure that you’re earning the union wages and benefits that you deserve. Feel free to make a confidential call (or e-mail) to the union’s hotline to give us the chance to help you. Making sure that each gig is union is a responsibility that all of us share together.
We had some success in this year’s New York State budget. Our efforts with the New York State AFL-CIO and other allies brought about an upgrade to the state’s COBRA subsidy program. What this means is that if you lose your Local 802 health coverage, the state may subsidize 75 percent of the cost of keeping on our plan. Restrictions apply. Read more about this new subsidy here. The state also decided to keep the post-production tax credit for eligible film and TV producers. We’ve always supported this tax break in order to attract more work for our members
We updated our communications in 2022 by adding a TikTok channel to reach our youngest members; check it out here. For those who want to keep in touch with Local 802 on our social media, our Facebook is here, our Instagram is here and our Twitter is here. Please make sure that your e-mail address and postal address are correct so we can reach you with important updates and announcements (including Allegro). Log into Local 802’s membership portal to confirm your contact info.
Near the end of 2022, Local 802 joined a coalition of unions and other stakeholders to support a casino and hotel complex concept in Times Square. As part of the proposal, the developers signed an agreement that guarantees labor peace and neutrality so we can unionize the musicians who will be working there. My statement to the coalition was the following: “New York City already has the best live music in the world, thanks to the professional union musicians who perform at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Broadway, and hundreds of other clubs and venues. More live music for NYC is always a good thing, especially when musicians earn the wages and benefits they deserve. We support this plan for a new casino and hotel complex in Times Square where professional musicians would provide great music while enjoying the protections and high standards of a union contract.”
I want to be clear to our members. Local 802 supports casino development in NYC as long as our musicians get guarantees for labor rights, traffic congestion and other critical issues. So far, the developers who we’re supporting are taking the right approach, which is why we are joining this coalition. For more, see Local 802 Communication Director Mikael Elsila’s story in this issue of Allegro.
REST IN PEACE
We suffered some big losses in 2022, including Stanley Drucker, Jack Gale, Elayne Jones, Red Press, Pat Varriale, Jon Bogert and Jim Hannen. I’d like to mention each of them below.
STANLEY DRUCKER: We lost Stanley on December 19 at the age of 93; he had been a member of Local 802 since 1945. Let me share with you some words from the New York Philharmonic, which Stanley joined at the age of 19 in 1948. He was appointed principal clarinet by Leonard Bernstein in 1960. Over the course of his 60-year tenure he appeared in more than 10,200 concerts in 60 countries, with solo turns including 64 performances of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, and worked during the tenures of nine NY Phil music directors. Accolades on his retirement in 2009 included the Guinness World Record for “longest career as a clarinetist” and being named an honorary member of the New York Philharmonic. At the time, then music director Lorin Maazel said, “He stands alone in the world of clarinetists. His contribution to the orchestra and its fame is immeasurable.” We extend condolences to his wife, Naomi, and to his children and grandchildren. Please enjoy this tribute to Stanley written by his biographer, Local 802 member Mitchell Estrin, which Mitchell has shared with Allegro.
JACK GALE: Jack, who we lost on March 16, was a brilliant trombonist, composer, arranger and music educator, and was one of my earliest mentors at the union. As previously reported in Allegro, Jack helped the Members Party win the 1982 elections, which heralded a new era for the union. He served on numerous committees, was president of the New York RMA, and was elected to the Local 802 Executive Board for 18 years. Against the odds, he convinced the union to buy its present building, a decision that many felt saved the union financially and also helped us create a strong community and identity. He was a true visionary, and all of us at Local 802 owe Jack a debt of gratitude. Read our tribute to Jack here.
ELAYNE JONES: Elayne Jones died on Dec. 17 at the age of 94 after being a member of Local 802 for 66 years. She was the first Black percussionist to hold a principal position in a major symphony orchestra and was a member of Local 802 for almost 70 years. Her story remains inspiring to a new generation of musicians. Elayne’s death was covered in the New York Times and Allegro published a feature story about Elayne here.
RED PRESS: We lost a real icon of our business on Oct. 24. Goodbye, Red Press. You will be sorely missed and irreplaceable. I love you, my brother. Your respect and care for all the musicians you represented on the gig was second to none and a model for all to aspire to. You always knew the right thing to do, and I will always appreciate that. We need more like you. Please read more about Red’s life here.
PAT VARRIALE: The AFM community suffered a horrible loss when Pat Varriale was killed in a car accident on May 13. Pat served as the director of the Electronic Media Services Division as well as assistant to AFM President Ray Hair. He was a fixture at the AFM for almost 50 years and he taught me everything I know about the recording industry. He was a true advocate for union musicians, a great friend, and I will miss him dearly. I’d like to share the tribute that was posted by the AFM.
In addition, I’d like to note the recent passing of two highly valued former Local 802 staff members: Jon Bogert (brother of Local 802 member Melanie Bradford) and Jim Hannen (we’ll publish a tribute to Jim in our next issue). Both of them dedicated years of their lives to excellent service, and all of us mourn their loss.
I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year and hope that your 2023 is full of joy, good health and lots of live music. I especially want to thank all of the members, officers and staff of Local 802 for your hard work and for your friendship and support. Let’s continue our great work together in the new year.