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Recording Vice President's report

Volume 122, No. 6June, 2022

Harvey Mars

It has been a very eventful six months here at Local 802. Notably, we have successfully opened both the Club Room and Room B, and improvements have been made to both rooms that have increased air flow and air circulation. Air circulation and intake was non-existent in Room B and we had to make structural changes in the ventilation system on the first floor of the building to surmount these problems. It is wonderful to hear live music again on the ground floor of Local 802. Low-cost rehearsal space is one of the great benefits of union membership and we are extremely happy that we able to resume that benefit. If any member is seeking to rent rehearsal space at Local 802, start here.

I am also very happy to report that Local 802 has hired a new director of organizing, John Pietaro. John has been in the labor movement over 20 years and currently is a business rep at the New York State Nurses Association. I have worked closely John in the past while I was general counsel to District Council 1707 AFSCME, where we organized new shops and negotiated initial contracts. In addition to his involvement as a labor representative and organizer, John also is a musician and holds a master’s degree in music education. John’s experience in both the music and labor will make him an invaluable member of the Local 802 staff. We are happy to have him join us. John’s official start date is June 20.

John’s initial assignment will be assisting with the DCINY negotiations. On June 6 at 6pm, the DCINY musicians and Local 802 will be holding a labor rally in front of Carnegie Hall to protest DCINY’s refusal to use its musicians in performances, essentially locking them out. On June 6, the company is performing “Carmina Burana.”  In the past, DCINY always hired its professional musicians to perform this work. On this occasion, DCINY attempted to use high school students to perform. When the students and their instrumental music teacher learned of the labor dispute, they decided not to participate, in a show of solidarity with the displaced orchestral musicians and Local 802.  Thrusting these students into the position of becoming unknowing scabs is reprehensible conduct by DCINY. The teacher’s conduct should be applauded, and I hope her decision will serve as a valuable lesson for the students who may become professional musicians. Please try to come out and support the DCINY musicians in this rally to protect NYC musicians.

Another issue that Local 802 and its membership need to address is the recent spate of nonunion performances in major venues by prominent performers. For instance, Josh Groban performed at Radio City Music Hall in April. He used a full orchestra for this performance, which was recorded. Many of the musicians who performed this show have performed on Broadway and in other union settings. While is understandable that musicians would want to perform in a major venue after an almost two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, and I admit they sounded great (yes, I attended the show to see the size of the orchestra), the decision to take a nonunion job could be a costly one for them. This show was recorded and if the recording is released on an independent label, which seems highly likely, the performing musicians will have lost a huge amount of recording residuals.

The same could be said for the Jon Batiste performance of his “American Symphony,” which was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and was scheduled to occur on a nonunion basis. Local 802 has been working extremely hard to ensure that the musicians performing this important new work are covered by a union contract. This performance was also scheduled to be recorded and Local 802 now has an understanding with Jon’s representatives regarding the parameters of a proper AFM recording agreement for this project. The performance did not take place on the scheduled date because Jon Batiste had contracted Covid. The cancelation of the performance left the musicians who were hired to perform in an extremely insecure position regarding whether they would be paid. If the performance had been subject to a Local 802 agreement, there would be no question that the musicians would be able to easily enforce their employer’s payment obligation. Our understanding now is that Jon Batiste is honoring his obligation to pay and intends to rehire the musicians originally scheduled to play when the performance ultimately occurs. We hopefully anticipate that the make-up performance will be covered by a union agreement.

This leads to fundamental question that has been keeping me up at night. Both nonunion jobs were scheduled at major venues with celebrity artists who had employed seasoned veteran musicians. Yet these musicians did not reach out to the union to ensure that the work would be covered by a union agreement with all the protections such an agreement would afford them. I implore all musicians who find themselves in this position to contact me or the Local 802 hotline when this occurs. A union contract typically gives musicians greater pay, greater benefits, and greater rights, especially if a electronic media is involved. Jon Batiste originally had presented musicians with a lump sum payment buyout of all residual payments for the recording of his work. Thousands of dollars would be lost by musicians who sign such agreements, who would waive their right to new use and future use payments required under AFM recording agreements.

On a much more positive note, we are pleased to announce that Ron Carter’s 85th birthday performance at Carnegie Hall was in fact covered by a Local 802 agreement, which Ron eagerly signed after he was approached by Local 802. Ron is to be thanked and congratulated for this wonderful performance. Pictures of the event can be found here in this edition of Allegro. Ron serves as a role model for all performing ensembles.