Recording Vice President’s Report

Volume CVII, No. 10October, 2007

Bill Dennison


As Allegro goes to press, the League is in negotiations with Local 1 of the stagehands’ union (IATSE).

We believe the stagehands deserve a fair contract and they have our full support in that effort.

For the past 15 years of my involvement at Local 802, the stagehands have always been there for us.

During the 1993 Broadway negotiations, which nearly resulted in a strike, stagehands refused to allow the surreptitious taping of shows that producers hoped would allow them to keep running in the event of a strike.

Again in 2003, when we were forced to strike in order to save theatre minimums, Local 1 honored our picket lines in an unprecedented show of solidarity.

At Radio City in 2005, again the stagehands did all they could to assist us — despite badly mishandled negotiations by our former leadership.

President Landolfi and I have made clear to Local 1 that they will have whatever support and help we can provide.


This year we have lost a number of giants of the jazz world, including the legendary Max Roach; earlier this year and at far too young an age, Michael Brecker; as well as unique contributors like Andrew Hill and Alice Coltrane.

These losses continue to inform us how important this music is to the culture of our country and indeed the world. They also continue to challenge us to do more to make sure that these artists have access to the same benefits and protections that musicians in many other fields enjoy.

Jazz is not only an underappreciated part of our nation’s cultural life, it is also an underappreciated part of New York City’s economic life.

This city is the world’s capital of live jazz performance.

There are major venues like Jazz At Lincoln Center where — to the employer’s credit — the musicians are covered by an agreement with Local 802 that provides health and pension benefits.

But there are also several dozen smaller venues — with music seven nights a week — that together provide far more work for musicians. Almost none of this work includes benefits for musicians.

New York is also a center for jazz education, with programs at Juilliard, the New School, Manhattan School of Music, several of the CUNY schools, SUNY Purchase and William Paterson College in New Jersey.

In most cases, the jazz instructors are adjunct professors and receive little or nothing in the way of benefits.

One important exception is the New School, where a Local 802 contract insures that adjunct instructors receive both pension and health benefit contributions.

Not surprisingly, jazz musicians are a disproportionate percentage of musicians without health insurance or pension.

In the upcoming months, we will be continuing to work with the venues that present this music to find ways to provide musicians with access to benefits that they so deserve.


The work performed by Local 802’s Recording Department is an especially important part of the work of our union. And it is the largest of the union’s departments.

I regularly hear from members who are extremely appreciative of the work of that department and especially its supervisor, Jay Schaffner.

Each year some 20,000 recording contracts are processed, with musician earnings totaling more than $26 million.

For the past several years, those earnings have included more than $1.1 million in grievance settlements and late penalties won because of the work of Jay and the department’s staff.

Jay has become an invaluable authority on the many AFM electronic media agreements. He is relied upon not just by Local 802 members and officers for his expertise, but is also consulted regularly by the AFM’s National Recording Department and AFM national leadership.

It is not just the knowledge of contracts that makes Jay an exceptionally important part of our union’s leadership.

As anyone who knows Jay can tell you, he believes in our union, believes in fighting for the rights of musicians and believes that we are part of a labor movement that continues to make a difference in the lives of the working people of our country.

For these reasons, it has been hard for me to understand some recent — and, I believe, unfair — criticisms of the Local 802 Recording Department and its supervisor.

The problem appears to be concern over several recording agreements that have been in place for nearly a decade through two prior administrations.

These agreements have been reviewed by two prior Executive Boards and have actually resulted in increased work and earnings for 802 members.

President Landolfi and myself — as the officer in charge of the Recording Department — have always been, and will continue to be, open to any legitimate ideas about how to make our recording agreements more protective and better suited to the constantly changing business we work in.