Union Busting Affects Us All

President's Report

Volume 113, No. 1January, 2013

Tino Gagliardi
George Troia

Say no to union-busting laws that hurt musicians and other workers! George Troia, president of AFM Local 5 (Detroit) was one of the many union members and supporters who protested Michigan’s recent right-to-work legislation. Photo: David Elsila


These days, It seems to be fashionable to bust unions. As many of you know, Michigan recently became the 24th so-called right-to-work state in this country. I say “so-called” because the label “right to work” was invented by union busters to disguise the true purpose of this legislation. But these laws aren’t about any right to work. What we’re
really talking about is unions under attack – again! To their credit, those who opposed this law in Michigan did their best to have their voices heard at the capitol, and Democratic lawmakers stalled the bills as much as legally possible. But, in the end, the Republican majority pushed through the legislation. The United States is now only one state short of a nightmare scenario where workers in half of the states are forced to live under such
union-busting laws.

We’ve had wake-up calls before, but if Michigan – where unions have such a strong, proud history – can be attacked like this, workers aren’t safe anywhere.

We must protect the gains that workers have made over the past 70 years. We must honor and preserve the hard work of those labor leaders who came before us. Remember, there are plenty of powerful interests who would like to take back what we’ve gained.

For instance, this past Labor Day, the House majority leader, Republican Eric Cantor, sent out a tweet that said, “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” It was cruelly ironic that on Labor Day – a day to praise and remember workers – Cantor instead honored bosses.

Also, when Mitt Romney made his famous clandestine speech about the “47 percent” of Americans earlier this fall, he referred to them as those “who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Criticizing working people who have union protections as being “victims” and “takers” is nothing new. What is new is that big business has managed to bring this criticism of unionized workers closer and closer into the mainstream so that people start believing the rhetoric and voting for union-busting politicians.

President Obama, visiting a Michigan truck factory, put it this way: “You know, these so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have anything to do with economics…They have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

Once again, to those who say that politics don’t matter and that the union should stay away from political work, I respond that we don’t have that luxury. We must continue our advocacy to make sure that we have political leaders and laws that are union friendly. Not just in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but all over the country.


The Broadway League recently published its annual report on Broadway audiences. The report covered the 2010-2011 season. The League’s press release noted the following.

  • Tourists accounted for 63.4 percent of all Broadway tickets, up from 61.7 percent in the 2010-2011 season. Overall, international tourists accounted for 18.4 percent of all admissions to Broadway shows in New York City.

  • The 2010-2011 season was Broadway’s strongest 52-week season in history in terms of attendance and grosses, with over 12.3 million admissions.

  • Word of mouth continues to be the greatest influence for show selection, with a notable uptick in the power of social networking posts.

  • The report also shows that the use of the Internet for the purchase of tickets has increased to 47 percent from 44 percent. Online purchase continues to be the most popular method of ticket buying.

  • Reflecting a trend of the past few decades, 67 percent of the audiences were female.

All in all, an interesting study. The continued commercial success of Broadway is an important statistic and a reminder of how critical live music remains in theatre.


Local 802 recently achieved union contracts for the developmental productions of “Ella Minnow Pea,” “Hands on a Hardbody” and “Diner.” For details, contact theatre rep Claudia Copeland at  (212) 245-4802, ext. 158. Also, please contact Claudia if you get called to play in any kind of musical theatre production, including readings or workshops. We’ll help you get the pay and benefits you deserve.


We recently sent out a letter to members who owed the union work dues, and it brought a positive response. This is related to something I wrote about previously and which is still as relevant today as it was then. I will reprint my words here, and I hope members will read them very carefully:

If you’ve been ignoring your work dues bills from Local 802 – or if you’re supposed to be a member but you never joined – we have a message for you: the union can no longer allow membership obligations to go unfulfilled. Over the past few years, some members have racked up considerable work dues owed to the union. At the same time, some musicians who are required to join the union have not done so, or have allowed their memberships to lapse.

After a recent audit of our dues, we discovered that if these members paid up the dues that they owe, it would improve our bottom line tremendously. Because of this, we must take action. This could have real consequences for those who owe us dues or those who refuse to fulfill their membership obligations.

Every time we negotiate a contract, we include language that is known as a “union security clause.” This clause provides that all musicians working under that agreement must join the union no more than 30 days after their first employment under that agreement.

So if you are hired by a Broadway show, you have 30 days to join Local 802. If you don’t join the union, the producer must remove you from their employ. Virtually all of our contracts have a union security clause. This clause is essential to us because it strengthens the union and gives all musicians the resources needed to maintain protections achieved through negotiation.

Our audit showed that there are bargaining units where some musicians are not current Local 802 members. Up until now, we have not formally required these musicians to join nor have we instructed their employers to dismiss them in accordance with the contract. However, because our union has an obligation to treat all musicians fairly and equally, we will have to begin enforcing these payments in order to make Local 802 whole and to protect the interests of the majority of the union’s members who do pay their dues.

This covers annual membership dues. The other category of dues is work dues, which are a percentage of scale earnings that you pay to Local 802 on each job. The union needs these dues to operate. These dues are not deducted directly from musicians’ paychecks unless there is a work dues withholding authorization as part of an agreement. (This is another component of collective bargaining that we always try to include in our agreements.) When work dues are automatically deducted from paychecks, it makes life a lot easier for musicians and for the union and we don’t have to send you a series of letters to remind you to pay the amount owed.

Work dues letters may get lost in the mail. Sometimes members go on vacation and forget about them. There are other possible reasons why members may fail to respond to our work dues bills. However, some members may be consciously ignoring these bills. These musicians are benefiting from the services of our union on the backs of other musicians who are properly paying their dues.

Because we all benefit from a financially healthy union and because Local 802 is not administratively equipped to enforce dues payments, the Executive Board is considering turning delinquent dues bills over to a collection agency. No one wants that to happen. Collection agencies are irritating and they could damage your credit. However, we may have no choice. If you owe the union, contact us and let us know how we can help you resolve your debt. Delinquent members will soon be receiving dues bills from 802’s dues department.

In the meantime, if you need to find out how much past work dues you owe, call the Membership Department at (212) 245-4802. You can pay what you owe over the phone with a credit card.


For those members who still need assistance recovering from Hurricane Sandy or its aftermath, please see our hurricane resources list at or contact the office of our Musicians’ Assistance Program at (212) 397-4802. A variety of public and private programs are still available to help those affected.


I want to acknowledge the tragic deaths – which included 20 children – in the school shooting that took place in Newtown, Conn. The tragedy affects us all, especially those of us who were friends or relatives of the victims. I want to extend my condolences to all. May the gift of music that we share with the world help bring more peace and less violence. Members who need someone to talk to can contact our social worker, Cindy Green, at (212) 397-4802.


Happy New Year to all members. I wish you a joyous and prosperous 2013, and a year full of live music. Our New Year’s resolution continues to be that we represent you – the musicians of Local 802 – to the best of our ability at all times. We value your trust in us and we take seriously our obligation to work hard on your behalf. Have a great year.