Six months have passed since the new Local 802 administration was elected. The following is an overview of what we’ve accomplished so far — and the road ahead.
Last October, members of Local 802 voted to raise their own dues. It was the first time since 1996 that annual dues went up, and the first time since 1984 that the work dues percentage was increased.
In its review of the 2004 budget, the Executive Board felt it was of the utmost importance to devise a financial plan that followed through on what we promised the membership this increase would be used for:
- The allocation of funds to expand our public relations efforts.
- The restoration and increase of services.
- Maintaining a cushion to keep the union financially in the black to forestall any additional increase for as long as possible.
On January 30, the Executive Board unanimously approved a budget for 2004 that fulfills each of those promises. In addition, the board has begun a strategic planning process that will examine our long-term goals and finances.
The increased work dues are partly funding our ongoing public relations efforts to promote live music. According to the bylaw amendment, 50 percent of the work dues increase will go toward P.R. spending. This year that will amount to approximately $325,000.
Our successful public relations efforts during last year’s Broadway strike must and will be broadened to include all aspects of the music industry. Ken Sunshine Consultants, the firm that represented us during our fight to keep music live on Broadway, has now been retained as Local 802’s public relations firm.
Obviously our most prominent issue since we took office is our ongoing fight against the virtual orchestra machine. The successes we have achieved on that front do not only benefit theatre musicians. Our fight to keep music live benefits club date, opera, and ballet musicians as well.
We have begun to achieve agreements prohibiting the use of virtual orchestra machines. As a result of our successful fights against the use of the machine, some employers are beginning to voluntarily agree to use only live musicians and prohibit the machine (see article).
We must continue to send a very strong message that New York is the gold standard of live musical performance. Culture is the number one tourist draw; it is one of the largest economic engines in the city. We will continue to take a very proactive and aggressive position in making sure that the public’s expectations for top-quality, all-live productions are met.
Ongoing plans include radio commercial spots — both on 1010 WINS and elsewhere — print ads, and live music events. In addition, Local 802 will be launching a Web site — www.SaveLiveMusic.com — which will be devoted to the promotion and preservation of live music.
In the Organizing Department, we have restored an organizer position. Organizing is one of this administration’s top priorities. The department has been moved to the fifth floor, under the direct oversight of the president’s office.
We are committed to bottom-up, grassroots organizing approach. While the union has an important obligation to enforce contracts and to be a presence in the field, it is imperative that our membership be involved. For the union to act on your wishes, we need your involvement beyond campaigns and contract fights.
Our organizing department is not only the front line for our battles in the streets. They are the front door to the union — responsible for member orientation, internal organizing, education, and mobilization in all fields.
The Concert Department’s preparations for the upcoming freelance negotiations are well underway. The membership has been surveyed. Committees have been meeting regularly and are putting together their proposals for the various symphonic employers.
These negotiations are particularly important as they set the wages, benefits and working conditions for the entire classical field in New York City. To meet the needs of this field, staff that had been drastically cut over the years, has now been restored — an assistant to the financial vice president, a full-time field representative and a full time executive secretary.
CLUB DATES AND JAZZ
Although we have just successfully completed our club date negotiations (see page 1), the ongoing challenges that we face in this field cannot merely be addressed at the bargaining table. In order to effectively implement strategies that tackle the threat of nonunion, underscale work, all club date musicians must get involved and stay involved.
There are no easy answers. Our best chance of developing effective strategies, however, depends on your involvement. We are committed to increasing our presence in the field and responding to the realities of the club date scene. Our organizing efforts there have only just begun.
The jazz field remains a vast opportunity for us. For several years, we have been encouraging jazz leaders to sign voluntary agreements with the union in order to provide their side musicians with pension and health benefits. We also have several major agreements, such as with the New School’s jazz department, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. We must continue organizing in this field so that jazz musicians win their fair share.
In the new administration’s first term, all four of the major Lincoln Center agreements are set to expire. The New York Philharmonic is currently in negotiations. The New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera contracts both expire next year, followed by the Met in 2006.
This administration is very mindful that Lincoln Center orchestra musicians are responsible for a substantial portion of the union’s revenue. Local 802 is committed to working with each of these orchestra’s committees to continue to find additional ways to provide services that are important to them.
That is why the Local 802 Executive Board has proposed a bylaw resolution, to be voted on at the June 29th membership meeting, that will enable these orchestras to access additional funds for legal services incurred during negotiations.
In the recording field, the newest challenge is digital download distribution. Local 802 is working with the AFM to meet the challenge of the new medium. Negotiations with the major record labels are underway to ensure that artists receive their fair share of revenue generated as this new market develops.
We also plan to make sure than any relief or benefits that Congress grants to recording musicians are obeyed. The Recording Department has already discovered that many New York musicians may be owed money due to them under various new statutes. See pages 9 and 15 for details.
Our fight against the virtual orchestra machine is paramount. We remain convinced that Local 802’s efforts to keep music live are not only necessary but perhaps ultimately will be the only thing that keeps producers from succumbing to the temptation of cheapening the product of live music.
The solidarity of the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds (COBUG) that was demonstrated during last year’s Broadway strike remains strong. COBUG continues to meet regularly. We are prepared to support each of our member unions in any way they require. On page 5, Actors’ Equity President Patrick Quinn reports on the status of their current negotiations with the League. Equity can count on 802’s total support in their fight for a fair and equitable contract.
While Local 802 has always played an active role in the affairs of our city and state, it is important that we continue to seize every opportunity to increase our involvement and influence in our great city, not only in the labor movement and arts community, but in the political arena as well. We must venture outside of our own backyard if we are to be a player that has influence in the decisions that will ultimately affect us all.
We have a new Executive Board. Each member comes with a different level of experience and understanding, from a broad spectrum of all fields.
In order to plan for the long term, we have embarked on an educational, information-gathering process that will take place over the next few months and will culminate in the fall with a strategic analysis.
The Executive Board will be meeting with the full staff of each 802 department that services a major area of our industry — club dates, concerts (symphony, opera and ballet), Lincoln Center orchestras, theatre, recording, jazz, teaching artists, organizing and public relations — to examine the activities of each department and to prioritize goals and resources, both in the deployment of staff and the allocation of funds.
Once this review process has been completed, the board will engage in a strategic analysis to prioritize the goals and resources of the union as a whole.
Financial and strategic decisions cannot be made piecemeal. This process is critical if we are to maximize the quality of services and effectiveness of the representation we provide to our most important resource — you, the member of Local 802.