I hope that everyone had a great summer. You can see from the front page of the printed issue that the Local 802 Executive Board has endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor of New York City. There are several reasons for this. We believe that as the economy continues its slow recovery, we need a mayor who understands the importance to New York City of live music and culture and who is willing to support and invest in them. Other goals on the top of our list are respect for unions and all working people, and an assurance that affordable housing is maintained for artists in the city.
In all of these areas, Bill is a clear leader. For more, see “Music to our ears” for a transcription of the remarks I gave in a press conference in Times Square on Aug. 12, where we publicly endorsed Bill. The primary election is Sept. 10 (and possible runoff is Oct. 1), so please vote! To find out where to vote, or with any questions about voting, you can call 1-800-FOR-VOTE, or visit www.elections.ny.gov, or call my assistant K.C. Boyle at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.
Speaking of investing in live culture, I was recently honored to be asked to serve on the steering committee of a new organization called One Percent for Culture. This group has a simple mission, but one that could shake things up in a big way: getting New York City to invest one percent of its expense budget in culture, including live music. For more, see our story “One percent for culture.“
This summer, I attended the 99th AFM convention. (Yes, our union has been going strong for that long!) It was a busy time, and I was proud to see our union’s democracy in action.
I’d like to focus my convention report on the results of the officer elections and how various recommendations were voted on.
Ray Hair ran unopposed to be re-elected as president of the AFM.
All members of the International Executive Board were re-elected: Vice President Bruce Fife, Local 99 (Portland, OR); Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, Local 368 (Reno, NV); Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, Local 149 (Toronto, ON); Tino Gagliardi, Local 802 (NYC); Tina Morrison, Local 105 (Spokane, WA); Joe Parente, Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA); Dave Pomeroy, Local 257 (Nashville, TN); and Vince Trombetta, Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA). I think that it is important to note that not only was our president elected by acclamation, the international vice president, the vice president from Canada and our secretary-treasurer were also honored in this way.
Recommendation #1 called for a $10 per capita dues increase as well as a 0.25 to 0.5 percent increase in work dues for national agreements. These additional dues will not go to Local 802, but will be sent directly to the AFM. Although dues increases are never popular, I favored this very modest dues increase because the future effectiveness of our parent union will require financial stability. It is also important to note that there has been no increase in Federation dues in over six years. This revenue is essential to continuing to provide services integral to the locals that need it the most. This new financial package will raise approximately $1.2 million for the AFM annually, and will be used to bolster organizing and contract enforcement efforts, as well as for augmenting services to local officers and musicians. The resolution was adopted.
Recommendation #1 also included a proposal that the AFM convention meet every four years, instead of every three, in order to save convention expenses. This would also extend AFM officers’ terms by an additional year. Although many saw the benefit of a quadrennial convention, this component of the recommendation was viewed by committee as being more philosophical than financial. On those grounds, it was removed from the recommendation by the committee and, in the absence of a motion to reinstate it, it was not included in the adopted resolution.
John O’Connor was appointed chair of the AFM Organizing Committee, which will show AFM locals that organizing is a necessary mission that we all must pursue. For more, see John’s story “Don’t mourn: Organize!“
One of the more difficult proposals was Resolution 13. which dealt with the increasing incidences of orchestras performing outside their home locals. Needless to say, there was spirited debate as to how best to handle this controversial subject. The issue was partly addressed by referring the resolution of the matter of “residencies” to the International Executive Board to be resolved later. It was, however, understood and resolved that, if an orchestra performs outside its home local but not as the featured act (an example would be a named symphony orchestra accompanying another named opera or ballet company), the wages paid cannot be less than those dictated in the jurisdiction of the performance and that the work dues will be paid to the local where the performance takes place. This portion of the resolution was adopted.
Former Local 802 president Bill Moriarity gave a presentation on the AFM Pension Fund. His entire presentation and other presentations can be viewed at www.afm.org.
Additionally, the delegates to the convention donated $70,000 to AFM Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul) to support the local that has been fighting so hard on behalf of the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. In addition to the loss of work dues from two lost seasons, the local has incurred crippling legal bills in negotiating for both orchestras during two lockouts.
This could be the last time the convention will be at the Las Vegas Riviera hotel and casino. This is due to the fact that management refuses to negotiate a successor agreement with AFM Local 369 (Las Vegas) for the musicians who perform there. As soon as there is news as to the status of any negotiations, I will be sure to share. The official report of the conference was published in the August issue of the International Musician, which members can read at www.afm.org.
As you read above, musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra remain locked out by management, a situation that began last Oct. 1. We’re coming up on almost a year here. Earlier this year, the Local 802 Executive Board voted to donate $5,000 to the musicians. More recently, the board voted to donate another $2,000, this time to support the union (Local 30-73), which is incurring lots of costs associated with the lockout during this time. To make your own donation to the musicians, or to follow their progress, see MinnesotaOrchestraMusicians.org.
After the AFM convention, I attended the conference of the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), an AFM player conference. New members might not know that the player conferences are special advocacy organizations for AFM musicians. These groups are independent of the AFM, but also officially recognized by the union. The player conferences act as advocates for musicians within the union itself. It’s another layer of democracy to make sure that the union is representing musicians well. There are player conferences for classical musicians (ICSOM and OCSM), one for theatre musicians (TMA) and one for recording musicians (the RMA). This year the ROPA conference was held in Spokane, WA. It was a successful conference in many ways. The sharing of experiences from all the delegates was enlightening and also showed the commonality of difficulties that we are all facing since the economic downturn. Additionally, there were reports from the various other player conferences as well as a very insightful presentation from a representative from the Federal Mediation and Conciliatory Services. Needless to say, with all the difficulty in negotiations many of us are facing, it was very useful.
Over the spring and summer, Local 802 significantly ramped up its Justice for Jazz Artists campaign. The jazz clubs continue to do the wrong thing and not return our calls, so we’ve found new pressure points. In the spring, we handed out leaflets in front of the townhouse home of one of the partners of the Blue Note. Over the summer, we leafleted and performed in front of various restaurants owned by same owner of the Jazz Standard. We want to show the jazz club owners that we will put maximum pressure in many different places at the same time, while letting the public know that we will not rest until there is justice for jazz artists. For more, see Todd Weeks’ story “A battle has many fronts.”
- I’m pleased to report that we have a deal with the New York City Ballet. The new contract is a two-year deal, which includes a 2.75 percent wage increase over the first 18 months with another increase of 3 percent in the last six months, as well as other benefits. It goes without saying that the past five years have been one of the worst climates to negotiate contracts, and yet we have consistently achieved fair deals for our members. This shows our strength and solidarity. We will always represent musicians to the best of our ability.
- Earlier this year, we reached an agreement covering musicians who performed at the Jazz Foundation of America’s “Great Night in Harlem” concert and fundraiser.
- As I reported in my column in June, we had finally come to an understanding with the owners of the cabaret venue 54 Below that the musical performances there must be under a Local 802 contract. We called off our protests and both sides are working hard to come to an agreement. I am confident that we will be able to come to terms that will properly protect the musicians with health and pension and prevent the exploitation of any electronic media without appropriate compensation. More to come on that.
- The AFM film negotiations are still in progress. I will be traveling to L.A. once again to pick up where we left off. Unfortunately, these negotiations have proved to be very difficult, with many issues still outstanding and the parties miles apart. Wish us luck! With Ray Hair leading the team, you can be sure we are in good hands.
Our theatre department continues to achieve good contracts for musicians. Most of our contracts include fair wages, union benefits and guaranteed grievance procedures. Musicians recently won contracts at the development productions of “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” “Beyond the Music” and “Super Fly.” We also achieved a new agreement for musicians who perform at the John W. Engeman Theatre in Northport on Long Island.
Remember, if you get called to play music for a theatre production of any size – including a full show, a reading, or a workshop – make a confidential call to the Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. We have an excellent track record of helping you get the pay and benefits you deserve, while protecting your identity and your job.
MUSICIANS WIN $37K GRIEVANCE
Steve Danenberg, the director of our electronic media department, recently reported that musicians who worked on the “Electric Company” TV show won a grievance worth just over $37,000 in wages, $2,166 in health contributions, and just over $4,000 in pension.
Steve also recently worked with AFM President Ray Hair to resolve a situation where Local 802 music preparation musicians had been due payments for commercials recorded for the Broadway show “Big Fish.” The sessions took place in Nashville, and the producer was the Spotco advertising agency. The union was able to collect just over $7,800 for musicians, in wages, health, pension and late fees. All of this is evidence that there’s power in the union. Without a union, musicians have to find their own lawyers and attempt to collect their own wages if there’s a mistake or a misunderstanding. But with a union, we all stick together – and employers feel our strength.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
We recently lost two members of the Local 802 family. The bassist Carline Ray 88, a strong union advocate and a part of jazz history, died on July 18. She had been a member of Local 802 since 1945. Carline was born in New York City, and attended Juilliard at the age of 16, following the footsteps of her father. She studied composition and began playing jazz during her tenure at Juilliard, and after graduation joined the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. In 1948, after the Sweethearts disbanded, Ray joined Erskine Hawkins and his orchestra, and later formed a trio with Edna Smith and Pauline Braddy, which played in clubs around New York. Aside from being an accomplished guitar player and bassist – playing with projects including the Sy Oliver Orchestra and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and with pianist/composer Mary Lou Williams – Carline was known as an educator and women’s rights activist. She is featured in the documentary “The Girls in the Band,” which tells the stories of groundbreaking female jazz and big band instrumentalists and the adversity they faced.
In 2005, Carline was awarded the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival Award, and in 2008 she received an International Women in Jazz Award. Carline Ray was a celebrated musician but also a leader in the jazz community. She will be missed. She is survived by her daughter Catherine Russell and her sister Irma Sloan, along with nieces, nephews and cousins.
On a personal note, Carline was a dear friend and always a valuable counsel to anyone seeking guidance. I recall one remark she often made to me as a reminder: “Don’t be sorry – be careful…”
(The tribute above was also published on our Justice for Jazz Artists site, at www.JusticeForJazzArtists.org.)
The other person we lost recently was Toshi Seeger, the wife of Local 802 member and folk music legend Pete Seeger. Toshi was Pete’s rock and his foundation. She passed away on July 9 at the age of 91. We send Pete our deepest condolences and sympathy. The Executive Board unanimously voted to make a donation in Toshi’s memory to Clearwater, the environmental and sailing organization that Pete and Toshi helped to found.
MEET AND GREET
All musicians are invited to our annual Meet and Greet, where we welcome new theatre musicians, especially those playing in the New York Musical Festival and the New York Fringe Festival. This is a terrific way to network with your peers and enjoy insights and dialogue from our master panel. The event this year is on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 5 p.m. in the club room here at Local 802. There will be free food!
BANKRUPTCY OF DETROIT?
I feel a strong need to mention events that are not happening here in New York City or to our musicians, but which should concern us nonetheless. It’s hard to believe that Detroit, which was once the nation’s fourth-largest city, is planning to declare bankruptcy. For union members and regular working people, the implications are worrisome, since bankruptcy can sometimes be used to bust union contracts and take away “guaranteed” pensions. This is obviously a complicated issue, but I can pose a very simple question. Since taxpayers were forced to bail out Wall Street banks repeatedly, why shouldn’t the federal government – which we elected to protect us – bail out regular working people? This situation in Detroit will unfold slowly, but our hearts are with the workers. Bankruptcy must not be used as a weapon to betray working people. We’ve seen it used on musicians recently, especially in Philadelphia. It’s time for all musicians to empathize with Detroiters. We’re all on the same side.
ARTS ACTION ALERT
And speaking of government spending, there are some dimwits in Congress who think that the arts are a luxury that this country can no longer afford. Americans for the Arts recently reported that the U.S. House subcommittee on appropriations recently proposed cutting $71 million from the NEA, which would bring its budget to a level not seen since 1974. The arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources, but funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $29 million over the past three years. These disproportionate cuts recall the dramatic decline of federal funding for the arts in the early 90s, from which the agency has still not recovered. Please see www.ArtsActionFund.org to get involved, or contact my assistant K.C. Boyle at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176 or Kboyle@Local802afm.org.
The British Musicians’ Union (MU) is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year. It was back in April 1893 that Joe Williams, a young clarinetist, sent an anonymous letter to his fellow musicians in Manchester, England inviting them to a meeting to discuss forming a union to “protect us from amateurs, protect us from unscrupulous employers and protect us from ourselves.” From that small meeting grew what became known as the British Musicians’ Union. Within six months of its founding, the union had 1,000 members, with branches in Liverpool, Newcastle, Dundee and Glasgow, and it was not long before the union was adding employers and demanding an improved standard of employment for its members. The MU now has over 30,000 members.
IS YOUR INFORMATION CORRECT?
At the end of this year, we will compile the next edition of Local 802’s Membership Directory. We only publish this directory every two years, so it’s important that your information is accurate. Now is the time to make sure that Local 802 has the correct information on file for you. Click here for details.