The future looks bright
Volume 121, No. 7July, 2021
It’s great to be able to connect with you as the summer begins. For the first time, I think we can safely say that the future really does look brighter if we can hang on just a little longer. NYC has dropped almost all of its restrictions, the vaccination rate is looking good, some of us have been performing or teaching again in various ways, and our major venues are figuring out how to open their doors.
At the same, we recognize that our members are still struggling and dealing with very limited work (or no work at all), pay cuts, limited audiences, health care stress, and much more. We hear you and we understand the reality.
It’s still hard to believe that together we are enduring the worst crisis our union and our industry has ever experienced. Seventeen months is how long it’s been since the entire live performance industry closed down and the pandemic shuttered our venues and our livelihoods.
We couldn’t have kept going without you — the members of Local 802. Many of you kept up your union membership and pitched in every step of the way. The officers and staff of the union are truly grateful for you, and we’ll never forget how you stuck by us in the time of our most dire need.
Paradoxically, the union has been busier than it’s ever been. We’ve been dealing with complex situations like the Met, New York City Ballet and Restart Stages at Lincoln Center. We’ve also been creating new work for our members, building relationships with elected officials, negotiating many other contracts in order to restart the industry, and running our day-to-day business. Let me tell you some of what we’ve been working on recently.
OUR PUBLIC VOICE
I’ve consistently heard from members that one of the things they appreciate the most about Local 802’s work in the past year is the greater visibility of our public voice and our renewed relationships with our elected allies, such as Senator Chuck Schumer. A great example of this is the letter we recently sent to Lincoln Center, signed by 18 of our political allies, who were all extremely happy to amplify our message about achieving fair wages and benefits with Restart Stages (more on that below). We also congratulate those of our endorsed candidates who won their races in the recent New York primary election. This was an important election season that built and strengthened Local 802’s relationship with the future leaders of NYC. My thanks to the Local 802 Government Relations Committee: Elise Frawley (co-chair), Bill Hayes (co-chair), Janet Axelrod, Pete Donovan, Caryl Paisner and Bobby Shankin. This committee actively studied the candidates for much of the last year. Working closely with the Local 802 Executive Board, the committee proposed endorsements for 17 City Council races, plus the races for comptroller and Manhattan borough president. The board and committee interviewed over two dozen candidates and participated in multiple meetings to discuss and share research on many more. Our work with elected leaders and political allies is one of our most important achievements, giving Local 802 a serious voice in New York politics again.
PROVIDING WORK FOR OUR MEMBERS
Another bright spot that we’ve accomplished in the past few months is possibly even more important: through our newly-established partnerships with the city, we created work for our members when you needed it most. Our musicians performed live at vaccination sites throughout the city in a program called MUSIC HEALS, which was co-sponsored by the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment. We paid out almost $200,000 in union gigs and almost 350 of our members took part in over 100 performances over an 8-week period. That series just ended, but then we won a contract for another series, called MUSIC FOR THE SOUL, which will last throughout the year and into next. This series involves our members performing concerts from their own homes that are streamed to all NYC hospitals, and will soon involve live performances in hospitals. It’s sponsored by New York Health + Hospitals, and again it involves union gigs and hundreds of our members. To apply for either of these gigs, see www.local802afm.org/music-for-the-soul. Let me just read you one quote from one of our members who took part in these gigs: “I’m so grateful and honored to be able to share my music with essential workers who have tirelessly cared for patients during this crisis and sacrificed for the greater good of our communities. It is my hope that I can bring some peace and comfort to their day.” Local 802 is doing its part to create work for our members, trying to help musicians recover from the pandemic one step at a time. One important reason we achieved these new programs and partnerships for our members is our ongoing relationship with the city of New York and our allies. These are strategic relationships that have been built over the last few years, based on hard work and trust — and they pay off big for our members in the long run. The administration and planning of these programs require countless hours of work from Local 802 staff, who are working around the clock to serve you. I want to thank Mikael Elsila, Robin Donach, Ronnie Gent, Marisa Friedman, Todd Weeks and fellow officer Andy Schwartz for their hard work on these new programs.
Local 802 recently completed its first comprehensive membership survey. The purpose of this survey was:
- To understand how Local 802 members view their relationship with their union, and to learn how the union can better serve its membership
- To gain a clearer understanding of the demographic, financial, situational, and professional profile of current Local 802 members
- To better understand the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown on Local 802 musicians’ careers
The survey was e-mailed to all active members of Local 802. We sent a total of 5,970 surveys and received at least partial responses from 1,227 people for an overall response rate of 21 percent. (Our response rate was markedly better than the national average for e-mail surveys, which range from about 8 to 12 percent.)
The data has all been anonymized in a way that does not permit any reader (including any union officials) to identify any particular individual. The union’s outside data consultant is the only person who has access to the full dataset and he has signed a non-disclosure agreement that guarantees data security.
We’re still analyzing the survey and will issue an executive summary this summer.
One of the most important functions of a union is standing in solidarity with others, especially music students who are the future members of Local 802. Students at Juilliard recently engaged in non-violent protests and demonstrations to demand a tuition freeze. The New York Times reported on it, and I gave the following statement in support:
“Dear Juilliard students,
As president of the NYC musicians’ union (AFM Local 802), I want to let you know that I support you and have your back. You are our future members and you deserve the right to an affordable music education, especially during this time of fragile economic recovery when professional musicians have been out of work for 15 months. Furthermore, peaceful protests are a core part of our democracy and we stand in solidarity with all those raising their voice through collective action. If I can help in any way, including facilitating your communication with the Juilliard administration, please let me know.
Local 802 President Adam Krauthamer”
We just released the audited financial statements for Local 802, the Emergency Relief Fund, and the Health Fund. I’d like to share the following insights from Financial Vice President Karen Fisher and Controller Alla Emelianova, who wrote a financial report in this month’s issue of Allegro. Karen and Alla report that with approximately 95 percent of our members out of work since mid-March of 2020, the pandemic predictably took a heavy toll on our local’s finances. Local 802’s main sources of income — membership dues and work dues — were significantly reduced. We are extremely appreciative to all the members who maintained their membership through this difficult time and are now welcoming back the members who resigned due to financial hardship. We’ve cut our expenses at Local 802 to the bone, including everything from staff salaries to air conditioning. While our numbers are starting to look better this year, we will not see a normalization until the full restoration of work at Lincoln Center and Broadway. Please read their columns for more analysis.
Part of the financial statements we just released include the summary annual report of the Local 802 health fund. The health fund’s future will be much clearer once our musicians go back to work and money starts flowing into the fund again. In the meantime, for any information on COBRA health care subsidies or any questions at all about health benefits, please start at the Local 802 health fund website or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Members who are eligible for COBRA will also receive a notice around the first week of August for eligibility beginning Sept. 1.
We thank the hundreds of people who came together for our WE ARE THE MET rally in May. As you know, we’ve been in tough negotiations with the Met for many months now. As I write these words, the stagehands are bargaining as well and we wish them good luck. We’ll keep you posted on how you can help the Met musicians achieve a fair contract. One thing you can do is join the Met stagehands’ “virtual picket line” (disclaimer: it’s not technically a picket line!). Start at https://metoperanews.com/virtualpicket. Another thing is to keep yourself informed at the Met musicians’ own Web site, which is www.metorchestramusicians.org, where Met musicians are producing their own fundraising concerts and more.
As Broadway moves towards a fall re-opening, we are in talks with the Broadway League over musician wages and benefits. Broadway was one of the beneficiaries of the Save our Stages Act and other federal aid, so our goal is to make sure that musicians don’t bear the brunt of any financial cuts or austerity measures. Separately, although it hasn’t been announced yet, it’s common sense that Broadway may eventually adopt a vaccination requirement for audiences, just like Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. Indeed, Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway show, which just re-opened, required that all audience members were vaccinated. I can also report to you that we have formed a Broadway reopening committee and we are actively discussing health and safety measures. The AFM has not released its own national health and safety guidance yet for musicians. But it goes without saying that the safest scenario for everyone is an all-vaccinated environment. The truth is that there may never be a zero-risk performance situation, but at this point all of us are trying to figure out the best balance between safety and an open society. Our goal is to consult with an outside health and safety expert when needed as we re-open.
In addition to the Met and Broadway, we will continue to bargain with NYC Ballet, ABT, DCINY, and many other employers. We’ll keep you posted.
Lincoln Center is still refusing to act as the employer of its musicians for Restart Stages. Instead, it’s sending out nonunion contracts to our members and forcing musicians to negotiate directly with bandleaders and music directors. This shirking of responsibility means that there’s no union agreement or pay scale for Restart Stages. If any of you have been asked to perform at Restart Stages, please e-mail or call the Local 802 hotline at (212) 245-8227 (212-245-TABS).
LOCAL 802 EXPANDS ITS JURISDICTION
Local 802 has recently absorbed the southern part of Westchester County because the previous AFM Local 38-398 has ceased to exist there. We would like to welcome our new members and are in the process of accepting their membership transfers to Local 802. If you’re a former member of AFM Local 38-398, send an e-mail to email@example.com and we’ll help you transfer to Local 802.
This fall, we’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Local 802. We’re working with the city to figure out where we can host a live celebration. We’ll send out a save-the-date as soon as we know more. The tentative date is Oct. 12.
I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy summer, and we all hope this summer will be an easy transition into a fall that’s full of live music as we all get back to work. Thanks for your membership in the union.