Rally to Support Musicians
Every month during the pandemic seems to bring many new ups and downs. We’re all trying our best to navigate these tough times, but it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed and worn down. Those feelings are completely normal — it goes without saying that this has been a hard year for everyone. That said, Local 802 is here to make sure our community of musicians stays united, and our goal is to help in whatever way we can. Please reach out to us especially if you feel isolated, are struggling financially, or want to participate in union activities. We’re here for you and will continue to serve our members to the best of our ability in whatever way we can. The best way to reach the union is via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an announcement last week, our community received the disappointing news that the Metropolitan Opera has completely canceled its 2020-2021 season and will not re-open until fall 2021. In its statement about the cancellation, the MET Orchestra Committee said the following:
After being furloughed without pay for six months, we are concerned for our members and their families as they navigate what will now be over a year without economic support from the Met. Furthermore, we are devastated that the Met has not found ways to engage the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra during this closure — especially when the Met Stars series shows that there is a possibility for collaboration. Many orchestras across the country are performing in adapted ways, continuing to connect to their valued audience members and communities. Simply stating that labor costs must be cut is not a solution or plan for the future; especially in light of the fact that no labor costs have been paid by the Met over the last six months. Great artistic institutions cannot cut their way to success. This leadership approach only further jeopardizes the Met’s credibility and artistic integrity with our audiences. With the Met at risk of artistic failure, we will insist on a contract that preserves the world-class status of the Met Orchestra so that when we are able to reopen, our audiences will be able to experience performances at the level that they expect and deserve.
In some better news, we’re happy to report the late-night TV bands, including Saturday Night Live, are back to work. Musicians are still getting paid under an AFM contract when they perform live, but all of their work that has been streamed by networks has been unpaid. Musicians and the union are trying to correct this outrageous injustice through a campaign called #RespectUs. To that end, Local 802 and the AFM are planning a joint rally on Oct. 6, which will feature a march and live music. All of the details and the RSVP link are here. Please join us! Learn more about the campaign here.
The warm weather of summer and early fall gave musicians the opportunity to play outside, including a group from the New York Philharmonic. The MET Orchestra musicians teamed up with scientists and engineers to find out ways for musicians to get back to work safely. Local 802 once again co-sponsored Piano in the Park at Bryant Park. The Music Performance Trust Fund announced increased funding opportunities for live streaming.
In other news:
- We’re organizing our members to register to vote and help out in the Biden/Harris campaign. There has never been a presidential election more crucial to the lives of artists and union members. Please check out our election action page.
- We released our Covid-19 Health & Safety Recommendations for Live Performance.
- Local 802 member Anthony McGill won the 2020 Avery Fisher Prize of $100,000.
- I am pleased to announce that I have joined the board of trustees of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.
Finally, many members have read about the Save Our Stages Act, which is just one piece of the next proposed round of pandemic relief funding that’s pending in Congress. The bill has the potential to send a much-needed boost to our industry. We’ll support it in any way we can, but we want to inject one note of caution. We’re concerned that the previous federal aid package, including the Paycheck Protection Program, was utilized in a “top down” manner by our industry. For instance, some Broadway producers and general managers gained access to funds to help pay for their basic expenses without filtering the money down to the very artists and craftspeople who work in the arts, including our musicians. Others in our industry used access to PPP relief as a bargaining chip, forcing unions to accept major long-term concessions to our collective bargaining agreements in exchange for any financial aid during the pandemic. We’ve been in contact with Senator Schumer and Senator Klobuchar (who co-sponsored the bill) to let them know that if our industry is thrown this critical lifeline by the Save Our Stages Act, then musicians — all of whom have been out of work since March — must be guaranteed some direct aid in this bill, including wages and healthcare payments. The situation is extremely dire for us. We are the essential workers who keep the arts engine running in NYC, and we must be included in any stimulus package, including the Save Our Stages Act. Without direct aid to musicians and other artists, we will only save stages, while those who perform on them are lost in the economic crush of this pandemic.