Recording Vice President's report

Volume 124, No. 3March, 2024

Harvey S. Mars, Esq.

Last month I described how unions must find creative approaches to mold collective bargaining agreement terms to novel ways in which employees work. The contract that Local 802 negotiated with the Winter Jazzfest is one example of a new approach where we were able to secure a collective bargaining agreement covering an entire music festival over multiple venues. By crafting new approaches to cover existing work, we not only increase union density but we also ensure that more musicians are performing under union agreements. 

But increasing union membership is only half the battle. In order for Local 802 to grow, we need to keep finding ways to create more work under union agreements. That is the essence of a union’s strength and influence.

Organizing new employers or orchestras is one approach to meet this challenge. Unfortunately, organizing is often time intensive and resource draining. Achieving a meaningful agreement with the DCINY bargaining unit took over four years to achieve. Many organizing efforts are not as successful, and targets have to be carefully vetted and cultivated.

However, Local 802 has another tool it can use to increase bargaining unit work. That tool is through the promulgation of collective bargaining agreements that can be offered to select groups of musicians for specific areas of work. For instance, Local 802 has already promulgated four types of agreements that can be offered to employers:

  • Single engagement classical 
  • Single engagement club date
  • Public service 
  • Our recently-created fundraising agreement

(Single engagement classical scale can be viewed on the contracts area of our website. Club date scale can be viewed on the scales area in our membership portal. Both the public service and fundraising scales require Executive Board approval to utilize. For information on utilizing any of these agreements, send an e-mail to 

The hope is that these agreements will attract musicians who wish to work under union contracts as well as accrue pension and health contributions (which, pursuant to ERISA, can only be remitted to the pension and health funds by virtue of a written agreement).

Recently, in an effort to create more bargaining unit work, I’ve proposed a new promulgated agreement that Local 802 is calling a “member-leader/chamber ensemble” agreement. 

The rates will be midway between our public service rates and single engagement rates. This new scale also permits utilization of the AFM “joint venture recording agreement,” a contract that permits joint ownership of self-produced audio visual recordings.   

There will be a few restrictions on the new proposed agreement:

  • The leader of the ensemble will act as employer and must be one of the performing musicians.
  • The ensemble must be 17 or fewer musicians.
  • Any gigs covered by this agreement must NOT take place in what Local 802 calls our “major venues.” A partial list of major venues includes: any hall in Lincoln Center; Carnegie Hall; Brooklyn Academy of Music; City Center; Town Hall; Paramount Theatre; 92nd Street Y; any theaters owned or managed by the League or Disney; any venues owned or managed by Clear Channel
  • At least four performances must take place within one year’s time
  • The performance budget will not exceed $10,000 per performance.
  • The member-leader (employer) must adhere to traditional scales for performances that do not fit within its specific terms (i.e. a performance at a major hall must pay the proper rate and cannot use this agreement).

At the time I am writing this article, the Local 802 Executive Board is considering this form of agreement and may have additional suggestions with respect to its terms before Local 802 agrees to promulgate it. One major concern is that this new scale may undercut some of our established agreements. This would be an unacceptable result, so as of yet this form of agreement is conceptual only. Hopefully, I’ll have more to report on this shortly. If and when this agreement is established, send an e-mail to for more info.

The concept for this form of agreement arose from a recent negotiation I completed with the New York Jazzharmonic Inc., a jazz ensemble created by New York City Ballet principal bassist Ron Wasserman. The Jazzharmonic agreement was renegotiated after a seven-year hiatus (it had expired in 2016). Its new terms contain an increase in performance wages to $225 (from $120) and an increase in pension n contributions to 11.99 percent (from 8 percent). This new agreement is in effect from Jan. 1, 2024 to  Dec. 31, 2026. It was recently ratified by its bargaining unit. 

Promulgation of my proposed member-leader agreement may streamline the negotiation process of agreements such as the New York Jazzharmonic. At present Local 802 has roughly six agreements negotiated by member-leaders.  We eagerly anticipate more under our new framework.

Finally, I am proud to report that Local 802 has just completed negotiations with the John W. Engeman Theatre for a one year agreement. We were able to achieve an 11 percent increase in performance wages  and a 20 percent increase in rehearsal wages. Furthermore,  Local 802 was able to incorporate the Broadway 50 percent substitution standard into this agreement  after this employer violated the National Labor Relations Act by unilaterally denying musicians the ability to substitute out services when they previously had been permitted to do so. The settlement was prompted after Local 802 filed an unfair labor practice charge against the theatre for making this unilateral change . The Engeman agreement was recently ratified by the bargaining unit. We intend that this agreement will serve as a pattern for other Long Island theatres that Local 802 has contracts with. Local 802 Principal Business Rep Peter Voccola was instrumental in achieving this agreement. Many thanks are owed to him for the work he performs on behalf of Local 802 members.