The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters 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, editor, at Allegro@Local802afm.org
If the June 10th meeting indicated the choice that some 802 members propose – the choice to shout others down like the detractors of health care reform at town hall meetings – then I choose a different path, one of open discussion with respect for opposing viewpoints. This is the only basis for collective, democratic action, which is what “union” is about.
Mary Landolfi is a musician, as was her grandfather. She understands and respects what we do. She has fought for the continued relevance and survival of 802 in a hostile climate. Following the corruption debacle of the previous administration, she and her team restored fiscal integrity, rebuilt trust and won better conditions.
From my vantage point on the 802/New School negotiating committee during several contract cycles, Bill Dennison has advised us in improving our contract. The intelligence, interest and care he has displayed have earned the trust of our faculty that include some of the most respected Jazz artists in New York, who have benefited from his guidance.
The competitiveness of union musicians is weakened by nonunion labor, technology, dwindling audiences and corporate greed. These are front line issues. Myopic, personal disputes or tinkering with bylaws for political gain are wasteful, misleading ventures of low collective priority.
Dividing 802 into “administration” and “musicians” is a sinister ploy, at a time when building consensus is essential. Clearly, musicians don’t have all the expertise to run 802. That’s why we hire lawyers, accountants, and labor consultants. We need unity, not fragmentation. It sounds quaint, but can we come together on the big issues?
Anyone who is disgruntled and dissatisfied and yet wants to improve things can run for office in order to propose, enact and implement constructive alternatives to the content and methods of union operations.
In support of Lenny
In the last issue of Allegro, I read Zachary Shnek’s letter in which he was deeply critical of Lenny Leibowitz. I, too, found much to fault in the handling of the Radio City Music Hall negotiations and was very disappointed and saddened when I heard of the problems Lenny now faces.
However, before we reach any final conclusion about his career, we also need to take into consideration the more than two decades of tough-minded, intelligent, creative service he provided to Local 802 musicians, and to recognize the critical role he – along with Phil Sipser – played as architects of the measures that improved the working lives of orchestral musicians nationwide.
His situation has yet to be resolved. Until it is he should be allowed the same consideration of due process that he fought so hard to obtain for musicians his entire working life.
Speaking personally, I could not have asked for a more cooperative negotiating partner in my years at the Local. I consider him my friend and I wish him well.
THE ADMINISTRATION REPLIES: The administration agrees that Mr. Leibowitz is entitled to the presumption of innocence as it indicated in its reply to Mr. Shnek’s letter last month. That having been said, one responsibility of leadership is to make decisions based upon the best interests of the institution, even when those decisions negatively affect individuals with which one has a friendly relationship. It should be possible to both acknowledge Mr. Leibowitz’ past service to Local 802 and to recognize that the decision to terminate his relationship with Local 802 was the proper one.
Shame on you!
The Landolfi administration’s utter disregard, lack of respect and fear of the will of New York’s working musicians has never been more clearly illustrated than by the recent petition circulated via email by the Concerned Musicians to select Local 802 members under the guise of a “Membership Equality Petition”. Not only are they scheming to reverse a recently approved bylaw revision, which was overwhelmingly ratified by the largest turnout of active, working musicians at a bylaw meeting in over 25 years, but they are doing so in a clever, elliptical fashion which clouds their intent and misrepresents the central issue. Moreover, the email only partially quotes the bylaw revision they propose, curiously seeking support while omitting a key provision.
Local 802 deserves better than this! Subterfuge and self serving political machinations are antithetical to good government. These tactics are reminiscent of the Arons era, a dark period in 802 history when political considerations often trumped the interests of those attempting to make a living in an increasingly difficult and challenging environment. We need leaders who will listen to the concerns of working members and respond directly and honestly.
Shame on you!
THE ADMINISTRATION REPLIES: Although the letter seems to suggest that any attempt to change or reverse a recently passed bylaw is unprecedented, this is not the case as a careful review of Local 802 history would reveal. There are a wide range of opinions within this union; that controversial subjects should attract more than one proposed solution should not be a surprise. Ultimately it will be the decision of the membership which opinions shall hold sway; hopefully those judgments will be based upon good information, reasoned thinking and tolerance for the viewpoint of others – qualities which were sorely lacking at the June membership meeting. However disturbing Mr. Bonvissuto may find it that other individuals and groups within the union choose to exercise their free-speech rights, it is still their right. Alleging nefarious motives to every action of one’s opponents and attaching the name of long-dead enemies to those who currently hold office does not equate with valid criticism and is unlikely to heal the divisions that plague us.
I’m a musician and a member of Local 802. I’d like to congratulate Allegro and the entire staff on being awarded by the International Labor Communications Association.
The president’s report
President Mary Landofi’s report in the September issue of Allegro offers a look back at what she believes are her administration’s accomplishments. Landolfi and her Concerned Musicians administration are clearly out of touch with reality for the musicians of Local 802.
1. Ask your fellow musicians how they feel about the health plan. Are the concessions and wage freezes really going to preserve the viability of the plan? Ask musicians if they even participate in the plan.
2. Ask attendees if Local 802 representatives took a lead role in the film negotiations. They didn’t. In fact, it was reported that Local 47 representatives have taken the lead role.
3. Ask President Landolfi why she and her administration authorized the spending of $39,000 of our money to pay for advertising space in the Radio City Playbill, especially after their gross mistreatment of musicians. What did we gain from that? Did she owe RCMH something?
4. Ask the musicians who work at “WonderPets!” how they feel about the union’s handling of their negotiations.
5. Ask Broadway musicians how they feel about the new “Media Deal.”
6. Ask how much time and money this administration spent on its campaign to save Legacy Studios? The sale was a planned, private real estate deal that had nothing to do with Local 802.
In her final paragraphs about facing the future, President Landolfi stresses the importance of officers working with committees in order to make decisions. In fact, this administration has done everything possible to marginalize our committees. Ask the members of the RMA (the nationally recognized player conference for recording). Ask the representatives on the Theatre Committee.
Musicians are supposed to benefit from membership in 802. Ask your colleagues what this administration has really achieved for us.
THE ADMINISTRATION REPLIES: The following will attempt to clarify the factual record on each of Mr. Finck’s points:
1. Is he suggesting that Local 802 does not need a health benefits plan, or that we could have gained a contract that included both raises, salvation of the health plan and unreduced pension? If it is the former, the 2,500 to 3,000 members and dependents who utilize our plan would likely disagree. If the latter, he is being unrealistic; the Broadway settlement which he criticizes was larger than that gained in the previous negotiation which culminated with a strike. It is regrettable that Mr. Finck was silent when the previous administration’s neglect nearly bankrupted the fund but is so critical now that it has been rescued.
2. In a previous e-mail to the administration, Mr. Finck insisted that the RMA should speak for recording musicians. Here he takes the opposite position, then seems to reverse himself once again in the final paragraph of this letter. This administration, however, has acted in a manner consistent with the past – it held a meeting of those eligible to ratify the agreement, those people elected a representative to attend negotiations, a questionnaire was distributed to solicit opinions from the bargaining unit, the elected representative has reported back regularly (within the confidentiality rules of the negotiations).
3. The administration did buy an ad to highlight the importance of live music at RCMH, which seemed advisable after audiences had demonstrated willingness to attend performances with taped music in 2005. The expenditure was unanimously approved by the Executive Board, including two members of the RCMH Orchestra. Does Mr. Finck extend his accusation against everyone who supported this idea, or only those whom he dislikes?
4. The answer to the question posed about “WonderPets!” depends upon which members of the bargaining unit are asked. A majority are quite supportive; a minority are not. The fact remains that the agreement increased the cost of production to the employer and extended job security to musicians whom the employer had replaced during the campaign. It is ironic that this administration is attacked for saving the jobs of musicians at “WonderPets!” by some of the same people who defend the RCMH debacle, which lost job security for musicians in the pool.
5. As to the Broadway media agreement, after months of discussions the final negotiating session took place on March 31 with the participation of musicians who were designated to be the negotiating committee by a vote of the Theatre Committee. At that time, each individual present was specifically asked if they were in favor of making the proposal which was incorporated in the final agreement (to agree to a freeze in wages for one year in return for an extension of the minimums). No one argued against the idea. If a few individuals later reversed their position, it reflects badly on their decision-making ability, not on the process or the administration. Most members understand that we have to live with our decisions and have the ability and courage to explain them to our colleagues.
6. Mr. Finck asks how much “time and money this administration spent on its campaign to save Legacy Studios.” Answer: cash outlays totaled less than $2. The administration did spend time trying to prevent the closing of this studio because the loss of studio space means the loss of recording work. Would we not take similar action if the existence of Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall was at risk?
Finally, Mr. Finck asserts once again that the administration has undermined committees but offers no facts to support his thesis. Did the administration support the NYCB Committee in its quest to negotiate a novel media deal, much as the Met had several years earlier? Yes. Did the NYCO Committee negotiate without the direct involvement of the union, as they have for many years? Yes. Have the chair and co-chair of the Theatre Committee been involved in virtually every special situation process, as they have in the past? Yes. Did the administration hire an outside expert to assist the Theatre Committee in considering the League’s media proposal? Yes. One could go on, but this reply is already extensive. When the facts are examined, however, the administration continues to believe that a neutral person would conclude that repeating accusations is not the same as proving them and that there is little or no substance to Mr. Finck’s continual attacks.
Retraction and apology
I am writing this letter to Allegro and the musicians of Local 802, rescinding my last letter from the September, 2009 issue. It was originally an e-mail response to an e-mail I received from the Concerned Musicians Party. My e-mail/letter was careless and impulsive and I should have slept on it. I realize now how the CMP used me to further their politics. I feel that the Party in power controls Allegro and I hope this retraction is printed.
I should never have mentioned David Finck and John Babich. I apologize for the hurt I have caused them and I am truly sorry. I am doing my best to make amends.
When I wrote my email response to the CMP, I was angry. I have no idea what the union is doing. When I return to New York, I will march into 802 and investigate what is going on.
I think that music is the most important thing, and it is already gone. The union does not have enough influence to change anything. It is deteriorating. I liked Dave Finck’s letter in the September Allegro. It was clear and it made sense.
My sincerest apologies to Dave Finck, John Babich and the musicians of Local 802.
–David O. Braynard
THE ADMINISTRATION REPLIES: David Braynard is entitled to change his mind, so we have no problem printing his retraction. We do take exception, however, to his assertion that he was “used.” We’d like to point out that in his original e-mail to us, in which he blasted the “childish meanderings” of David Finck and John Babich, he also told us “Please publish this if possible somewhere!!!!!” That was on June 28. The September issue didn’t come out until Aug. 31. He could have retracted it any time during the summer before Allegro went to press, but didn’t.
A union in conflict
Last month’s Allegro contained several disturbing and misguided items including a letter from a member that was a personal attack on David Finck and me. That member has retracted his letter and his apology should appear in this issue. [Editor’s note: see David Braynard’s letter above.]
802 members are disturbed by the conflict that has beset our union since late 2005. Members on either side of issues and conflicts have been saddened to find that relationships with fellow musicians have been adversely affected by the bitterness and vitriol in statements and positions taken by formerly cordial colleagues.
The problems we have been experiencing are unprecedented in 802. There have been disagreements about union policy, unfairness in one form or another and disappointment with officers; but nothing as widespread as the current situation.
These problems, which date from the 2005 Radio City Musical Hall strike/lockout, can be traced to the December 2003 election, when two non-musician members were elected to serve as officers. Both of these persons were employees of 802 and one is still a supervisor while simultaneously serving on the Executive Board. Many members have said that we need professional non-musicians to help run our union and perform crucial tasks and responsibilities. This may be true; but only under the supervision and orders of musicians.
On Oct. 20, there will be a crucial membership meeting at St. Malachy’s Church at 3 p.m. It is imperative that every 802 member attend that meeting.
On Dec. 1, the election of officers of the union will be held. Every member should vote. If we do not take back the union for musicians in this election, it will likely mean the end of Local 802 as an organization that is relevant to the lives of musicians and the fight for live music.
–John A. Babich
United, not divided
I am writing to urge 802 members not to go down the divisive road that SAG has been going down the last two years. We elected leadership in 2006 that has been doing a good job despite very challenging conditions. Let’s not go back and fight old battles! It’s exactly what the producers and entertainment conglomerates want. They love to watch us tearing each other apart.
So many of 802’s “problems” seem to have started at the July 21st meeting at the now closed big room at Legacy Studios. People in the Members Party, such as David Finck and Jack Gale, seem to be under the illusion that it was an official “802” meeting. Well, I was there, and it was no such thing. The room was filled with engineers, studio owners, producers and members of 802. We were all trying to find out a way to save the once thriving recording industry in NYC. And if there was one “idea” that got bantered around the most, it was “How do we save the last remaining studios in NYC?”, If all the big studios close, there will be no recording industry left in NYC.
I was around during the “glory days” of three or four “finals” a day, and it was glorious. But like any business, we have to change with the times. And the idea of having a “smaller” union is just absurd. If anything, we need to make it larger. I’d like to see our leadership organize all the Pro Tools editors (who are mostly musicians anyway) as well as the DJ’s and the rappers. American music is in constant change, and our union needs to change with it. And we need to use our resources to that end, not on this endless political nonsense and mudslinging.
Media deal is smart
I have talked to more than a few musicians who still have misconceptions about the new Broadway media agreement. I was involved with the negotiating committee and I supported this agreement. I’d like to offer the following to show why it was profitable and smart for us to adopt it.
First, it’s likely we’re going to make more money. This is partly because, in the past, the producers were not using many of us for uses covered by the new “media payment.” This covers advertising for Internet/trailers/kiosks, and other smaller media streams. By 2011, the average musician will be making around $1,200/year extra from this “media payment,” based upon 80 percent attendance.
With this agreement, TV/radio can also be paid in addition to the media payment under certain circumstances under the jingle contract. TV/radio has always been the biggest advertising moneymaker for us – if you’re lucky enough that they use you. Now, the fact that the actors and musicians are being paid in advance, and on an ongoing basis, makes it highly likely that our work will be used for Broadway promotion, and also picked up for National/Bus & Truck productions too. It practically ensures that the producers will come in and record our shows. However, we don’t get paid for TV/radio when the tracks are lifted from the cast album, which is a previously established practice intended to promote cast album production.
In other words, we are getting in on the ground floor of all the future advertising work for our shows. This is a business model that attracts work, and can pay you for years to come if your show opens other productions. This agreement brings back our work.
We will be able to revisit this agreement in the near future, and re-evaluate it. We should do it jointly with Actors Equity.