Season of solidarity
Recording Vice President's report
Volume 122, No. 11December, 2022
This has truly been the season of solidarity. In November, two Local 802 bargaining units – the DCINY Orchestra and the jazz instructors at the New School – came together in ways that have had a far-reaching effect on labor management relations within New York and perhaps the country. I would like to highlight the activities these two bargaining units have participated in and how they will have a positive impact on the entire Local 802 community.
First of all, a quick refresher: Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act grants employees the right to engage in concerted activity for their mutual aid and protection. This is true even if there isn’t a union contract in force. More on that below.
On Nov. 16, after many months of bargaining, workers represented by ACT- UAW 7902, the union that represents most of the adjunct faculty at the New School, were forced to go on strike due to lack of progress at the bargaining table. This union, which represents roughly 1,700 faculty members at the New School as well as the faculty at New York University, effectively shut down the school. This strike made national news and was essentially prompted by unfair working conditions imposed upon adjunct faculty who have no job security or tenure but who perform roughly 87 percent of the teaching assignments at the school.
Local 802 represents a small unit of faculty members who teach in the jazz department at the New School. Our jazz instructors have yet to commence bargaining. However, they engaged in a sympathy strike and refused to cross the UAW’s picket line. As Allegro goes to press on Dec. 1, the strike has exceeded two weeks. The New School management made a “last, best and final offer,” which is a legal term in labor law. Unfortunately, this offer did not meet the workers’ expectations and the UAW recommended that the offer be rejected. On Dec. 1, the union announced that 95 percent of the workers had voted to reject the offer. The New School can still implement its offer – or it can agree to return to the bargaining table with the assistance of a federal mediator. The end result of this labor conflict remains unknown. No matter what happens, the UAW has already managed to compel the New School to agree to a 7 percent increase in the first year of the contract. Our jazz instructors are supporting their UAW counterparts in a true show of solidarity. On top of this, there’s no doubt that the union’s current gains at the bargaining table will ultimately benefit the jazz instructors when it’s our turn to negotiate.
Prior to my election as a union officer, I represented the adjunct faculty who teach at Pace University. The exploitation of adjunct faculty was clearly present there, as it is in other universities such as the New School. The UAW has been involved in a national campaign to improve adjunct faculty’s working conditions. They recently achieved a landmark agreement with NYU and are striking at the University of California. It is clear that the UAW will in large part substantially improve adjunct faculty’s terms and conditions of employment. Local 802 proudly stands in solidarity with them.
DCINY RALLY WAS A SUCCESS
On Nov. 20, DCINY musicians and their allies rallied across the street from Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall, where DCINY was performing. Though it was bitterly cold, the rally was decidedly a success. Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine showed up and gave a rousing speech. “I am here to stand with you in your fight for a decent contract,” he told the crowd. “You deserve the security of a pension and retirement. You deserve health care like every American. You deserve a salary that allows you to pay for housing and other needs for your family. This is not too much to ask. I am here to stand with you as long as it takes to get a fair contract!” We then chanted “DCI is not Distinguished!” Local 802 members formed a 10-piece brass band and provided joyful music for the rally. (Musicians were paid under a union contract, of course!). The DCINY musicians were joined by musicians from the Met Orchestra, New York City Ballet and New York Philharmonic. As a result of the rally – and with the assistance of Local 802’s president’s office – DCINY has agreed to engage in federal mediation. (See full story elsewhere in this issue of Allegro.) The involvement of a federal mediator is a welcome development and may lead to an agreement that could become the template for first-time contracts for nonunion freelance orchestras performing within New York. For more information on the musicians’ campaign and how you can help, see www.local802afm.org/dciny-orchestra.