President's report

Volume 124, No. 3March, 2024

Sara Cutler

This was a busy month at 802. I’ll begin with a report on the Feb. 7th membership meeting. The business of that meeting was a hearing of the charges brought against Recording Vice President Harvey Mars. We achieved well over the quorum by the time I convened the meeting.

The charges were brought, and read to the body, by member Larry Siegel who claimed that he and his business, Cliff Hanger records were harmed by communications between Harvey and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). Larry’s business had been a long-time vendor of NYSNA. Cliff Hanger had provided strike and rally bands for all of NYSNA’s job actions and events for many years. After allegedly inappropriate communications from Harvey, NYSNA stopped hiring bands from Larry.

Our bylaws prescribe specific actions from the members at a meeting, the first of which is to judge whether the charges, on their face, should be dismissed or moved to the next step, an election to form a Trial Committee of seven members. The grounds upon which the charges could be dismissed by the members present (in Step 1) are very narrow. They are:

  1. The charges are vague or poorly defined
  2. The alleged act is too trivial
  3. The alleged act is not malfeasance
  4. No evidence exists to support the charge

A motion was made to dismiss the charges on ground #3, using the argument that the alleged act was committed against an employer (Siegel in his capacity as owner of Cliff Hanger) and that our bylaws do not specifically speak to member-vs-employer charges and could not, therefore, rise to the level of malfeasance. During the debate period following this motion, it was clear that the limitations of our bylaws confused many people. Many who spoke said they were not given enough information to determine whether it was an act of malfeasance or not. It was difficult to understand that our only job in that moment was to decide if the argument supporting the motion (that charges against an officer submitted by an employer cannot be considered malfeasance under our bylaws) was valid and therefore the charges should be dismissed — or the argument was not valid and a Trial Committee should be formed. There were many comments about the lack of evidence and facts presented (which admittedly were none — except for the facts stated in the charge). Unfortunately, our bylaws do not allow for those to be offered at the first step of the process.

Ultimately, the motion was called, a secret-ballot vote both in person and on Zoom was taken simultaneously, and the charges dismissed. But we agree that the process is flawed. The Executive Board bylaw subcommittee will be looking at these specific bylaws (Article V, section 7) to see if they can be organized differently and more intelligibly. If the committee can identify changes they can support that don’t compromise the integrity of the process, we will bring them to a future membership meeting for consideration.

Members can download the Local 802 bylaws by first logging into the membership portal, then selecting MEMBER DOCS. (This is a good opportunity to mention that our bylaws now use gender-neutral pronouns. We thank Local 802 member Matthew Jaimes for this effort.)


In other news, we settled the special situation request for “Water for Elephants” in rehearsal now for a run at the Imperial. We did not grant the request outright, but we agreed not to contest it further in exchange for a total ban on instrument emulation patches, originally planned for insertion into the two keyboard parts. Not an ideal end, but we decided to settle for what we could. We felt it was crucial that a show using less than the required minimum number of players at least not use electronic substitution for the instruments and players not hired.

We are in prep for both the Broadway and New York Philharmonic negotiations slated to start this spring. We expect both to be difficult. Negotiations over “Cabaret” (coming into the August Wilson this spring with a pre-show including five musicians) have successfully concluded. As all musicians will now be covered under the 802 Broadway CBA, the show will run over the minimum by one. Our negotiation with the Perelman Arts Center is crawling forward. 802 supported the AFM in its successful negotiation with the AMPTP (the film and TV producers) through the union’s Fair Share for Musicians campaign. Those negotiations addressed large issues like streaming residuals and AI, and the outcome affects about 500 local 802 members who work under that contract. Executive Board officer Jessica Phillips attended the first round of talks and our Senior Recording Rep Marisa Friedman attended the second round, which concluded in L.A. on Feb 23. It was so important that we were at those negotiations in person, both to represent our members and to be part of the discussion on the larger issues. Read more about the tentative agreement here.

We are also working on several Broadway/Off Broadway situations that are, or may end in, grievances. The producers of “Sugar Hill,” a Christmas musical built around Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker,” have reneged on payments to all their unions. Originally scheduled for a run at City Center last December (which didn’t happen), it only rehearsed in New York, took five musicians to its Chicago run (which did happen) and then defaulted on most payments to everyone. Our folks were paid for the New York rehearsals — minus health contributions — but not for the Chicago run. Fortunately, 802 did require a bond which, unfortunately, will only cover about 15 percent of what is owed. We will be filing a grievance and may even join a civil suit in Illinois against the producers. All of this is under discussion. As well, we have a dispute with Radio City Music Hall rising out of dozens of payroll errors covering last November/December’s run of the Christmas show. This could end in a grievance but we and they are still talking.

In other union news, you may have read that AGMA (the dancers’ union) won a tentative agreement with the American Ballet Theatre. Stay tuned: we’ll be negotiating with ABT soon on behalf of our musicians. Separately, Actors Equity has authorized a strike against the Broadway League over its “development agreement,” used for the development of new works.  This move does not affect current Broadway musicals but could see workshops for plays and musicals put on pause. (Local 802 does not know of any current developmentals with musicians at this time that are under contract with us.)  Equity is asking the public to sign this petition.

Finally, you will see an introductory article in this issue of Allegro on generative artificial intelligence (AI). We will be showcasing a series of articles to introduce us all to the subject and educate us on its current capabilities and potential future ramifications for us musicians, and to set the stage to begin considering the most effective and ethical approach to the subject that the union can adopt.


I am happy to announce that as of March 1, Cathy Calabrese will serve as Local 802’s Recording Department Supervisor. Cathy has been with Local 802 for decades and knows more about recording contracts than anyone else here! You can reach Cathy at (212) 245-4802, ext. 165, or On a related note, if you want to know if you have recording money waiting for you, check out our Unclaimed Checks page: