The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters published here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. Letters must be 300 words or less. Send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Elsila, the editor, at Melsila@Local802afm.org.
Left to right, Jimmy Owens, Paquito D’Rivera and Marco Katz.
To the Editor:
When I recently discovered a reuse of a recording on which I performed — “Tubby the Tuba Meets a Jazz Band” — I called on Local 802. I thank David Sheldon for helping the musicians enforce the contract and obtain appropriate repayments. This experience validates my longstanding belief in musicians working together to protect our common interests so that we can have the resources necessary for performing worthwhile music.
When “Tubby the Tuba Meets a Jazz Band” first came out on Angel in the 1990’s, I tried to convince Angel to list the musicians, pointing out that several of the names would help their sales. Angel representatives ignored my advice because I was, after all, only a musician and could not be expected to understand the grownup world of business. I wonder where they all work now that Angel no longer exists. Sadly, too many of us have been complicit in cultivating this image of musicians as imbeciles.
Koch has also left out the names of the musicians. In this case, they have not even bothered to patronize me; my phone calls and e-mails remain unanswered. Time will tell if, in the long run, they fare better than Angel.
Meanwhile, as the bandleader and trombonist on this recording, I remain very grateful for the fine conducting of Rick Ulfik, and the excellent performances of Paquito D’Rivera, Jimmy Owens, Bob Stewart, Cynthia Sayer, Chuck Folds, Oliver Jackson, and John Thomas. Al Schoonmaker’s beautifully copied parts made my arrangements easier to play. Perhaps Koch will someday realize the treasure they have.
RE: MEMBERSHIP MEETING
To the Editor:
It is not surprising for a union membership meeting hearing charges to be spirited, but the June 11 meeting at Local 802 was chaotic.
In an unusual move, President Landolfi announced at the beginning that she was “not an expert in parliamentary procedure” and would rely upon the parliamentarian seated next to her.
The parliamentarian was scholarly but seemed unable to keep up with the pace of discussion, so that neither one of them carried out many of the most important duties of chair.
As chair, Landolfi often interjected herself in the discussion after members spoke, which is specifically prohibited by Robert’s Rules of Order, which are mandated by Local 802 bylaws at all meetings.
She used “point of information” to give her own opinion, even though a point of information is defined as a question asked of the chair about the current topic.
She ignored numerous “points of order” motions from members, even though this kind of motion (raised when the rules of order appear to be broken) takes precedence over all others.
She invited monologues from two of the local’s attorneys, which despite assurances otherwise, had the tone of opinions.
None of these irregularities were noted by the parliamentarian.
Thus, some (but not all) of the evidence of the charges was debated at the meeting, even though Local 802 bylaws specifically prohibit this. The end result was a debacle that was fair to neither the complainant nor the defendant.
A union president does not have to be an expert at parliamentary procedure, but he or she must at least be knowledgeable of the basics and be able to conduct a meeting.
President Landolfi should get a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order and study it so that future meetings will not be as frustrating and embarrassing as this one.
THE ADMINISTRATION REPLIES: The writer appears not to remember that Local 802 has made use of the same parliamentarian on numerous occasions in the past, including two meetings in 2006 at which charges were heard against officers, and in 2003 when a dues increase came before the membership. The presence of the parliamentarian is intended to bring impartiality to the decisions of the chair in contentious situations.
To the Editor:
I attended the June 11 membership meeting and left feeling confusion and bewilderment over the way in which the vote was conducted.
I could have easily collected multiple ballots for myself — they were being handed out by several people walking around the Club Room — and dropped them into the numerous ballot boxes being carried around the room.
Regardless of where you fell on the particular question, how could anyone feel that the vote was conducted in a fair and orderly fashion?
I was shocked at the degree of disorganization in those final crucial minutes.
Firstly, I’d suggest that the meaning of the yes or no vote be posted — perhaps projected on to a screen. The mood in the room was anything but calm at the time that President Landolfi was defining a yes or no vote in this case.
Secondly, how about one ballot handed to each person as they enter the room? If the final ballot count had exceeded the head count — it could have very easily been the case — would a re-vote have been called? And what exactly was the head count? People were leaving the room as calls over the microphone were made asking them not to do so.
The whole situation could best be summed up with one word: CHAOS!
THE ADMINISTRATION REPLIES: The writer makes several useful suggestions, although implementing them might have the effect of further slowing the progression of proceedings. It would be valuable to have the meaning of a yes or no vote projected on a screen, but often the exact nature of any motion made cannot be known until the meeting is in progress. This would mean that the meeting could be delayed while such a display was prepared. The procedure for dispensing ballots was the same as was used during the meeting in 2006 when charges were heard against David Lennon — staff were assigned to quadrants of the room and were instructed to distribute one blank ballot to each member in the assigned area. The marked ballots were collected in locked ballot boxes. The boxes were opened at the back of the room in front of multiple witnesses for both sides. The ballots were separated into yes and no piles, then counted, then re-counted to verify the result. The results were written down, shown to the witnesses and given to the chair. Other staff members were assigned to keep track of members entering and leaving the club room so that an accurate head count was available. The number of ballots distributed and cast was not greater than the head count. In spite of these procedures, balloting did not go as smoothly as was hoped. It is possible that, if charges against officers are to be heard in the future, a procedure will have to be considered that requires members to line up single file if we are to avoid similar confusion, even though such a policy will require much more time to accomplish.
To the Editor:
The July/August 2008 issue of Allegro lavished much attention on me. I was mentioned by name nine times: twice on the front page and seven times in President Landolfi’s “Radio City Redux.” The front page item, “! Charges Dismissed,” characterized the “President’s Report” and the “Vice President’s Report” (titled “Charges and Countercharges”) as “analysis” of the June 11, 2008 membership meeting. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Some say that any publicity, positive or negative, is good. I suppose that after the last issue, my phone should be ringing off the hook. Alas, this is not the case. As the Landolfi Administration chose to give me such prominence in our once-proud Allegro, I requested space to write an article about the distortions, half truths and inaccuracies that pervade the three items mentioned above. The article which I submitted was rejected by the Allegro Editorial Board and President Landolfi.
Instead, the Editorial Board invited me to submit a “letter to the editor” of 300 words or less. Anyone interested in reading my rejected article or anyone who has questions about the June 11, 2008 meeting, my trial at 802 on Jan. 28, 2008, the Radio City Music Hall Lockout of 2005 and anything else regarding the breakdown of democracy and the sad decline of our union journal Allegro into a partisan rag, should contact me at JohnBabichBass@gmail.com. I will be more than happy to send you a file of the article and answer questions about my year-long odyssey.
I write this letter on Aug. 5, 2008, exactly one year after I received a phone call from President Landolfi informing me of my “…failure to be rehired…” for the 2007 Christmas show at RCMH. What a year it has been.
–John A. Babich
THE ADMINISTRATION REPLIES: The characterization of Allegro, our highly respected, award-winning paper as “a partisan rag” does a disservice to this publication and to our union. This administration continues a long-standing tradition of printing a wide range of opinions, including commentary on its letters page, a fact confirmed by the contents of this issue. Furthermore, as to the decision of the Editorial Board to reject a longer article from Mr. Babich, the board concluded that it does not serve the broader interests of the membership, and particularly those members still working at Radio City Music Hall, to give Mr. Babich unfettered access to the paper in which to make accusations which have been rejected by the National Labor Relations Board, both when filed in New York City and at the national level on appeal.
DEAR SENATOR OBAMA
To the Editor:
The following is an edited version of an open letter to Barack and Michelle Obama. I am encouraging New York City’s jazz musicians to sign it. See MySpace.com/musicians4obamapetition or e-mail me at EveZanni@yahoo.com.
Dear Senator and Mrs. Obama,
We jazz musicians of New York City are hopeful and excited about your upcoming presidency. You represent to us many of the principles for which we have devoted our lives.
Unfortunately, we must tell you that the unique legacy of jazz is becoming an endangered species.
Our opportunities have been drastically diminished in recent years. We have been replaced by D.J.’s and our recording income has been diminished by digital pirating. We are scarcely found in schools and universities, other than in temporary capacities.
The situation is dreadful. To see our esteemed elders of jazz suffering economically is a moral and cultural outrage. They created this music — unique and revered in all the world — and risked everything in the life-threatening racial climate that they came up in. It is a travesty that they are unable to afford simple amenities, not to mention adequate housing and healthcare.
Meanwhile, we who are honored to follow in their footsteps cannot afford health benefits and have fewer and fewer opportunities to play and educate.
Many of us have families to support, while others cannot even contemplate having a family because of the lack of opportunities.
We have two proposals:
1. Create tax incentives for those who use live musicians at their event.
2. Establish permanent part-time teaching positions in schools and universities for musicians, with health and pension benefits. The positions would be part-time so that musicians wouldn’t have to choose between teaching and performing.
We are appealing to your astute sense of justice, wisdom and love of jazz!
–Eve Zanni and other New York City jazz musicians.
RE: LIVE AT THE PLAZA
To the Editor:
I was taken aback when I saw the headline “Live Music Back at the Plaza” on the cover of the July/August issue of Allegro. Perhaps it is a case again of the emperor not having any clothes —or at least not many — since the Plaza used to have three piano/violin duos (not two) and there was also a pianist/singer in the Oak Room.
In addition, the hotel is now without a piano. (Do you think the management did not know what they were for?) Pianists who come to work in the ballroom have to bring their own keyboards. For shame: do you think the hotel has towels and soap in the rooms?
There is only a hollow victory for us at the Plaza. Two harpists do not make a live music victory any more than two swallows make a summer.
I can only hope that Jim Hannen can continue to culturally educate the management so that the Plaza can once again be The Plaza.