“No contract, no peace!” That’s what over 100 musicians and supporters chanted in front of Carnegie Hall on Feb. 20 to support the DCINY orchestra, which is on strike for a fair contract. We were joined by State Senator Jessica Ramos, who told the crowd, “DCINY can’t get away with creating beautiful music and not paying the musicians the wages, job security and benefits they deserve.” She added, “Musicians should be afforded a life of dignity for bringing us so much joy and beauty to all of our lives, especially right now, at a time when we’re so desperately trying to recover from the past few years. We want good jobs for every single worker, including our musicians. DCINY: do the right thing!”
I couldn’t agree more. The musicians of DCINY are simply demanding the very essential rights that every worker deserves: job security, health benefits, fair wages, and the chance to retire in dignity with a good pension. For over a decade, this company used its professional musicians to build up its reputation. Now it’s kicked those very musicians into the street. DCINY has broken its trust with the public and is showing its true colors as a predatory business. It promises choirs a trip of a lifetime to sing at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, which are among the finest venues in the world. However, when choirs show up to sing, they find themselves accompanied by scab musicians who crossed our picket line…or unpaid student musicians. The company has refused to negotiate a fair contract and is unethically taking advantage of innocent small-town high school choirs, churches and other ensembles. We’ve tried to negotiate a fair contract for over three years, and we’ve even submitted to federal mediation. The company will not budge on the essential right of a fair primary hiring list. As Allegro goes to press, the company had just lost yet another Unfair Labor Practice. Musicians demand a fair contract now, and Local 802 is going to do everything in its power to make this happen. Read our updates at www.local802afm.org/dciny . We intend to picket DCINY’s next performance at Carnegie Hall on March 18, 2023. Please join us! More details are on the way, but click here to RSVP.
WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Sara Cutler and Martha Hyde have produced an incredible collection of interviews with a few of the many women who have forged successful careers in historically male-dominated (including white male-dominated) areas of our business. Many of these women not only broke through gender and racial barriers but also play their instruments in traditionally unusual settings or genres. I want to thank Sara and Martha for this deep dive and all their hard work in writing down these amazing stories. We are also pleased to present a story by Maestra founder Georgia Stitt in which she talks about her organization’s important work for gender equity. In her story, Georgia points out the lack of women chairholders on Broadway, and even the basic fact that only 29 percent of Local 802’s membership are women (according to our 2021 membership survey). Obviously we have a long way to go, and I thank Georgia for her insights.
HEALTH PLAN MOVES TO EMPIRE BLUE CROSS
As of April 1, 2023, the network administering our health plan is changing. This is good news both for the fund and for participants. Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield will replace Aetna as our network provider. Empire has a very robust network of doctors. While it is likely your current health care providers who accept Aetna will also accept Empire, it is important to check with your individual doctors before your first visits after April 1st.
The trustees are very pleased with this change. The fund had many problems working with Aetna and we believe those issues will be better managed under Empire. We are hopeful that a better relationship between the fund and its network provider will translate into better care for our participants. To learn more about this change, participants may refer to the announcement that you should already have received in the mail from the fund, or send an e-mail to email@example.com. (Thanks to Martha Hyde and Sara Cutler for preparing this announcement, which also appears elsewhere in this issue.)
REMEMBERING JUDY WEST
Judy West, who served as director of communications for many years at Local 802, died on Jan. 27 at the age of 99. As her son Joel writes in this issue of Allegro, “Judy was a much-loved member and administrator of Local 802 for many years, an administrator whose door was always open to all. During her tenure, working alongside former President John Glasel, Judy proudly helped initiate many important social programs that enabled union members and their families to achieve the economic stability that artists enjoy so rarely in society.” Please read our tribute to Judy here.
LABOR POWER PLAYER
Not to toot my own horn, but I was just designated as a “Labor Power Player” by AMNY and PoliticsNY 2023. The write-up said: “As president of Local 802, Tino Gagliardi leads negotiations for all of the major music contracts in NYC, including Broadway, the Met Opera, New York Philharmonic and the NYC Ballet. He’s a graduate of the Cornell Union Leadership Institute and served on the New York City Cultural Affairs Plan Citizens’ Advisory Committee. President Gagliardi is also a trustee of the AFM Pension Fund and the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund. Local 802 has been a major leader in the re-opening of NYC after the devastation of the pandemic. President Gagarlidi and his administration have negotiated strong contracts for musicians at Lincoln Center and Broadway and are also looking out for NYC’s newest and youngest musicians, to make sure that all musicians earn the wages, benefits and job security they deserve.Musicians who work under Local 802 contracts earn fair wages and job security as well as contributions for health insurance and pension, so they can retire with dignity. The union also offers instrument insurance, a referral and booking service, emergency financial aid, free mental health counseling, and much more.”
NEO-NAZIS HARASS THEATREGOERS
The Coalition of Broadway Unions & Guilds, representing workers both on and off stage in New York State and beyond, condemns the self-described neo-Nazis who harassed theatregoers prior to Tuesday’s preview performance of Parade outside the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. The involved extremist organization has been known to stage incendiary racist and antisemitic “protests” for decades, and is considered a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Theatre and the arts have the power to bring people together, promote empathy and understanding, and inspire each of us to make the world a better place. COBUG is united in its commitment to ensuring that members and audiences can enjoy the transformative power of the arts without fear of harassment or violence. ”Antisemitism, vile hate speech, and censorship have no place on Broadway — or in American culture or society,” says COBUG Co-Chair Laura Penn, Executive Director, SDC. “COBUG calls on all members of the theatrical community, all people of conscience, and Mayor Eric Adams to safeguard inclusive environments for everyone who participates in or attends theatrical events in New York.”
The Coalition of Broadway Unions & Guilds, COBUG, is a group of 18 unions that represents workers both on and off stage in New York State and beyond, including Local 802.
OPPOSE VISA INCREASES
I’d like to reprint something that was posted on the AFM Web site. The AFM strongly opposes increasing visa fees proposed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Local 802 member Marc Ribot wrote an impassioned piece opposing the increase, which was reprinted by Neil Turkowitz. As the AFM reports, increasing the cost of visas is very short-sighted because it will vastly limit international touring and arts collaborations.In a letter sent February 8, 2023 to Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member on the House Homeland Security Committee, AFM President Ray Hair has asked the USCIS to reconsider the increase in visa fees, which would irreparably damage local, state, and federal investment in the U.S. arts and entertainment business.
- The increases proposed are upwards of 251 percent. And the proposal also includes a surcharge of $600 per petition to fund the Asylum Program Fee.
- International artists are engaged throughout the arts and entertainment industry, which is still itself recovering from the effects of COVID-19. Most of these entities do not, in fact, have the ability to pay these proposed fees, nor do the foreign artists engaged.
- Drastic fee increases will stifle international cultural activity and have a negative economic ripple effect on communities supported by arts events.
- Music is collaborative in nature, providing US artists with the ability to connect with international artists, who in turn provide those US artists with access to markets abroad.
- International touring artists contribute to the US economy in the way of filling venues, booking hotels, and the many other costs associated with a tour. They also pay U.S. federal and state taxes on their performance earnings.
If these increases are realized, they will also negatively impact dancers, actors, athletes, visual artists, and many others working in the various artistic disciplines.You can enter opposition comments online through the U.S. Federal Register Portal. Deadline for comments is March 6, 2023.