As a member since I was 16 (I’m now 63), I’ve seen a lot of changes in Local 802 through the years. Although I haven’t been active in union gigs for a while, I’ve still been playing, touring, and recording. And I’ve often mentioned the union during interviews such as this one for Spotlight Canada.
Why haven’t I filed union contracts? Two reasons:
- When we tour overseas, we rarely make a profit. Most of my band aren’t union members, mainly because the union has never shown much interest in the blues. We are hired by blues enthusiasts, who also don’t make much money on our shows (and many have gone broke during the pandemic). So it’s not financially feasible to charge union rates to them.
- Here at home, it’s very hard to find work that pays half of union scale, never mind full scale plus benefits. And the union has been spectacularly unhelpful in finding us agencies or promotional companies or anything else that the modern music scene requires. Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Garageband, Soundcloud, Apple Music, Deezer are just a few of the absolutely necessary platforms that didn’t exist 15 years ago — and the union has completely ignored them.
And yet, I still believe in the union and what it means.
Perhaps at some point, Local 802 will reach out to those who live beyond the borders of Manhattan and the non-scene that exists there, and look at the many, many musicians on Long Island who have worked for years in the “low places.” Many are aging out with little to show for a lifetime of musicianship (not the union’s fault), but there are many young, idealistic players out there who know nothing about the union other than “they want my money.” Local 802 can change that.
Guitarist Russell Alexander has been a member of Local 802 since 1975.