The Musicians’ Voice

Volume XCIX, No. 11December, 1999

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. Please keep all letters to 500 words and send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036.


To the Editor:
It is traumatic enough to watch a loved one suffer from cancer as my mother did. She fought lymphoma for two years and survived valiantly. It is another to watch her die at the hand of a negligent ICU nurse during a routine CAT scan as she carelessly got air into the iodine injection, causing my mother to go into cardiac arrest and die from an air embolism.

I only bring this up because I have a full-time job as a pianist at the Hotel Intercontinental and lost a week of work due to my mother’s passing. That in itself is a financial hardship that is hard to recover from. The union said it had no bereavement pay policy for situations like this. Then the hotel told me to supply them with a death certificate and they would compensate me for the week. However, that was a mistake on the hotel’s part, and when I brought in the death certificate they said that bereavement pay was only for the wait staff, which is under a different union jurisdiction.

Consequently, I would like to propose that the employers of any musician working a steady engagement, whether it be a hotel or a Broadway show, put contributions in, just like vacation and health, for bereavement-type situations. Even if it’s $20 dollars a month. Anything would help. Or to have a fund like TEMPO, where musicians can give donations towards a bereavement fund to help offset the cost of traveling out of town and the loss of time one goes through for a loved one’s funeral.

Believe me, there will come a time when we all have to deal with this type of situation.

–Richard Atkins

President Moriarity replies:
The collective bargaining agreement covering work in major New York City hotels expired this past Feb. 28, and is currently being renegotiated. The writer is correct that this agreement contains no provision for bereavement pay.

In this negotiation, which we hope will soon conclude, the union’s proposals addressed wage and pension increases and several “quality of life” issues. These proposals were created at several meetings to which we invited all musicians working in this field, and were then refined by the elected rank-and-file negotiating committee.

Unfortunately, the subject of bereavement pay was never raised. There is no doubt that situations such as the one the writer describes and the hardships that accompany them create periods of great difficulty and turmoil in our lives. My deepest condolence to Mr. Atkins and his family.

In order for the union to help its members at these times, we need the ongoing involvement of the members in the process. It only takes one musician to bring any issue forward, and for a full and open discussion to take place. The Hotel Committee is an excellent representative body, but they need your input on a timely basis. They share with me the belief that the more inclusive the participation, the better the result.

While I understand that this reply may not fully satisfy Mr. Atkins’ desires, I hope that he will understand that the process we have put in place is designed to allow issues to be examined and decisions to be made by the entire group as to their importance and appropriateness.