A transcript of the Feb. 14 membership meeting is being prepared and will soon be available. Members can request a copy through the office of the president or the recording
A HISTORIC MEETING
Our recent membership meeting of Feb. 14 provided members with a critical opportunity to engage in a discussion with the negotiating team of the recent Radio City Music Hall negotiations. The meeting was unprecedented in a number of ways.
First, our required quorum of 125 members was far exceeded – the count was 185 when the meeting was called to order.
Second, this kind of turnout is usually achieved when the agenda contains a significant bylaw resolution, such as a proposed dues increase – there was no such resolution on the agenda for this meeting.
Third, the meeting was attended by a broad spectrum of the membership – Lincoln Center, theatre, freelance concert, club date, jazz, music prep, teaching artists and recording musicians.
Last, and most importantly, those in attendance were given the opportunity to hear directly from the rank -and-file negotiating committee of one of the most difficult negotiations in Local 802 history.
Given the subject matter, and the political undercurrents apparent to all, it is no small accomplishment that, for the most part, the meeting maintained order and everyone was given an opportunity to speak.
To that end, the Executive Board wisely engaged the services of a highly credentialed parliamentarian who had previously served in that capacity for Local 802. No member was turned away from the microphone and everybody was given the opportunity to express his or her views in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, the official parliamentary procedure of our local.
Political grandstanding was kept to a minimum and that afforded everyone the opportunity to hear from the committee, question the negotiating team, and express their views, be they positive or negative, in an orderly and respectful manner.
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Although I would like to reprint the entire presentation for those members who were unable to attend the meeting, time and space do not permit. A full transcript is being prepared and will be made available shortly. Requests for a transcript can be made by contacting the president’s office or the recording vice president’s office.
The presentation began with the introduction of the Radio City negotiating team: Committee Co – chairs Andy Rodgers and Tom Olcott, John Babich, Bud Burridge, Mark Johansen, George Wesner, 802 Principal Theatre Rep Mary Donovan and myself. Committee member Mario DeCiutiis was unable to attend, as well as 802 counsel Len Leibowitz who was hospitalized for surgery. Statements by DeCiutiis and Leibowitz were read during the presentation.
It was important to all of us that after much misinformation had been circulated amongst the membership, that the record be set straight by the rank-and-file musicians who were actually there, involved in this difficult negotiation every step of the way. I opened with the following introductory remarks:
The recent struggle with the owner of Radio City Music Hall was a difficult and controversial negotiation. Our goal, in this meeting, is to provide the members with an opportunity to hear the facts from the people who were actually there – directly from the negotiating team and, in particular, the rank- and-file members of that team.
We believe there has been considerable misinformation and inaccurate information circulated amongst the membership. In particular, we need to make perfectly clear that one document entitled “Radio City TimeLine,” which has been widely circulated and distributed, is not a product of anyone on this negotiating team and we believe highly inaccurate.
I’m sure issues raised in that document will be addressed when we open the meeting to questions. And, we welcome them.
We do not wish to dictate how you should feel about these negotiations and the contract that was reached. We strongly believe, however, that in all fairness to this committee and to the membership, that you deserve to have the facts in order to reach whatever conclusions you may reach.
Lastly, I want to say this was one of the finest and most experienced rank-and-file committees I have had the privilege to work with. I respect them, and above all, I respect the authority of the duly elected rank-and-file musicians’ committees of this union. That is the foundation of what makes Local 802 truly democratic and representative of the professional musicians who comprise our membership.
In that sense, the Radio City negotiations, and the union’s respect for the authority of the musicians’ committees going forward, will be central to this discussion. It impacts every rank-and-file committee of this union.
Committee Co-chairs Rodgers and Olcott, both seasoned orchestra committee members, then gave an overview of the union’s bargaining history with Radio City Music Hall. In prior negotiations, the orchestra lost their 20-week guarantee, and subsequently, lost the potential for year round work at the Hall – the contract was limited to the Christmas show – and the minimums were lost for all other productions. In addition, there had been concessions made in overtime on the seventh day of work.
The committee also pointed out that many other unions workers at Radio City had suffered similar concessions since 1999: the Rockettes had lost tenure, subject to audition and in their recent lockout lost maternity leave. The cast, stage managers and wardrobe all suffered losses in overtime and had been broken into two groups. Overtime had also been limited or cut for front of house staff, merchandising, tours and security.
The committee made clear in no uncertain terms that, despite the misinformation that had recently been widely circulated throughout the membership, management had never offered a “status quo” rollover – not on June 20, Oct. 6, Nov. 17 or any other date.
Moreover, the infamous Oct. 6 proposal, for a two-year contract with miniscule base wage increases and concessions in other economic areas, was not the only window of time for the committee and orchestra to accept or reject that offer, as some have inaccurately proclaimed.
In fact, in violation of labor law, management went around the union and directly contacted the orchestra members with an inaccurate and actually slightly better description of that offer on Oct. 18, with a 48-hour deadline to accept it. The orchestra was united in its rejection of that offer.
The committee also stressed that Cablevision and Radio City Entertainment had the goal of tapes from day 1 and they tried to make it look like the musicians’ fault. As one committee member put it, “every management proposal came with a suicide note!”
The committee made clear that the entire orchestra was also united in its opposition to Local 802 signing Cablevision’s unlawful demand that would falsely label 802 as a lying union for all time.
Lastly, in a statement read from committee member Mario DeCiutiis, the committee acknowledged that union leadership and counsel honored the committee system and their right to make the major decisions during their negotiation for their contract. DeCiutiis also expressed concern over the union’s disunity which he believed was made apparent to the other unions and management.
Finally, a statement from 802 counsel Len Leibowitz was read to the membership. That statement set forth an accurate and detailed timeline of events and negotiation analysis. Copies of that report are also available through the president’s office.
The meeting was then opened to questions and comments from the floor. Discussion was held for approximately two hours, and at 6:15 p.m. a quorum call was requested. A quorum having been lost, the meeting was officially adjourned; however, discussion continued with those present.
In the weeks following the Radio City contract settlement, there has been a lot of talk about “free speech” and the democratic right to disagree with leadership. No one disagrees with those precious rights. However, there is a vast difference between the freedom to express dissenting views and interfering with the expressed will of an overwhelming majority of the Executive Board, the officially constituted negotiators and the members of an orchestra engaged in the most explosive and difficult struggle in the union’s history.
Local 802 has long prided itself on respecting the authority and autonomy of the rank-and-file musician committee system. There is much at stake as we look to important negotiations and challenges ahead. The debate and discussion that took place at this membership meeting should continue. That is what democracy is about. That is what this union should be about.
However, when all the debate is said and done and a majority consensus is reached, we must maintain a united front. Our failure to do so jeopardizes our strength at the bargaining table, and weakens our image in the public’s eye and within the labor movement itself.