Live music is coming back to NYC hotels…with Local 802’s help!

Recording Vice President's report

Volume 123, No. 11December, 2023

Harvey S. Mars, Esq.

The front page of our new hotel brochure (download a PDF copy)

In 2000, Local 802 had roughly 30 New York hotels under a union agreement. These hotels were all part of a multi-employer consortium known as the “Hotelmen’s Committee for Hotel Users of Music.” This multiemployer group bargained with Local 802 as a single unit, much in the same way as our club date employers still do. 

Unfortunately, after the last agreement between Local 802 and the Hotelmen’s Committee expired in 2016, the group notified us that it was disbanding and was no longer going to engage in multi-employer bargaining. As a result, we were forced to negotiate with hotels on an individual basis.

We achieved individual agreements with four hotels: the Plaza, Carlyle, St. Regis and Pierre. These first agreements covered the period February 2016 through February 2020 and contained economic and non-economic terms that varied from one another. But in the aftermath of the pandemic, these agreements remained dormant as almost every hotel in New York stopped presenting live music. However, slowly but surely, New York hotels are now resuming live performances.

Local 802 is providing well-needed encouragement for this trend. The Local 802 Organizing Department recently launched a hotel live music campaign. Local 802 Organizing Director John Pietaro and Organizer Cheryl Brandon have been making site visits to prominent New York hotels to pique their interest in presenting live music to their guests and the public at large. We’ve discovered that many have already resumed live music, so our mission is to let both the hotels and their musicians understand the advantages of working with a Local 802 union contract. As part of our efforts, we’ve created this professional brochure.

New York hotels have presented live music for over a hundred years. The Carlyle hosted cabaret lounges where Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop performed. These days, the Caryle has two live music rooms: the Café Carlyle (which reopened last year) and Bemelmans Bar. Some of our members perform there, including Isaac Mizrah, John Pizzarelli and Steve Tyrell, among many others. I’m happy to report that Local 802 has secured a successor agreement with the Carlyle that re-establishes many of the same terms that were contained in the original Hotelmen’s Committee agreement.

Similarly, the Pierre has opened its Two E Lounge, where Local 802 members like Eric Yves Garcia and others sing and perform. Here, too, Local 802 has achieved a comprehensive union contract that parallels the terms in the Carlyle agreement.

We’ve also secured recognition from the Thompson Central Park Hotel (formerly known as the Parker-Meridien) and plan on commencing negotiations shortly. This hotel presents live jazz almost nightly in a club named after Charlie Parker. The resumption of live jazz at the Thompson was made possible through the efforts of the Jazz Foundation of America, with whom Local 802 recently entered into a contract to resume its monthly jazz jam here at the union.

We anticipate that other hotels will soon follow. If you perform at a hotel that isn’t paying the union wages and benefits you deserve, contact us confidentially at .


Recently, the National Labor Relations Board has issued a rule that will greatly enhance the prospect that Local 802 can recapture some of the hotels that had previously been under contract and even try to expand to hotels that were never under an agreement.

In October, I wrote in my column about the Cemex decision, which liberalized union recognition processes. This will certainly enhance our ability to organize new shops.

Even better, the NLRB published a new final rule on Oct. 27, 2023 that substantially relaxes the standards for determining “joint employer” status. If two or more employers are deemed joint employers of a unit of employees, they both can be compelled to bargain over the terms and conditions of their employment. The new rule overturns a prior standard that was codified in 2020.

The NLRB holds that the new 2023 rule more faithfully grounds the joint-employer standard in established common law agency principles. In particular, the 2023 rule considers the alleged joint employers’ authority to control essential terms and conditions of employment, whether or not such control is exercised, and without regard to whether any such exercise of control is direct or indirect. The common law clearly recognizes that reserved control and indirect control are relevant to the analysis. By contrast, the 2020 rule made it easier for actual joint employers to avoid a finding of joint-employer status because it set a higher threshold of “substantial direct and immediate control” over essential terms of conditions of employment, which has no foundation in common law.

It is anticipated that many hotels may argue that they are not the direct employer of the musicians who perform there. They may claim that either the musicians are employed through an agency or through a member-leader. The new joint-employer rule will neutralize that argument if both employers have the ability to control essential terms of musicians’ employment. Thus, if the hotel determines the hours of performance and the genre of music performed by a group of musicians referred by a club date agency, they can be considered a joint employer and be required to bargain. It should be noted that our hotel agreements already make it clear that any agency that supplies musicians to a hotel is bound to the terms of the hotel agreement.

We anticipate a successful campaign and will keep membership abreast of any new developments. We are optimistic that any progress here can be applied to other areas, such as night clubs, casinos and club date offices.

If you perform at a hotel that isn’t paying the union wages and benefits you deserve, contact us confidentially at .

The inside of our hotel brochure (download a PDF copy)