#UnionPower: Local 802 is rocking new campaigns, strategies and outreach
Recording Vice President's Report
Volume 117, No. 8September, 2017
I want to begin this update by celebrating the Local 802 Emergency Relief Fund’s 50th anniversary. It was in May 1967 that the IRS gave the ERF its status as a nonprofit, and for half a century the fund has taken care of our members in dire need. That first year we partied at Roseland Ballroom with Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald headlining a gala. In 2011 we took the opportunity to celebrate 802’s 90th anniversary with another ERF gala, again at Roseland, with a great lineup of stars honoring Pete Seeger. Plans are in the works for something special in the months ahead. We hope each of you will want to reflect on the work of the ERF and make a charitable contribution to keep our brothers and sisters safe and making music. Contact ERF Coordinator Bettina Covo at (212) 245-4802, ext. 152 to make a donation or use a credit card with PayPal at www.local802erf.org. If you are in need due to health, family, financial or career difficulties, please contact the Musicians’ Assistance Program (now located at the Actors Fund) at (212) 221-7300, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support services and assessments for grants are available to those who have been active members of Local 802 for two years or more. Lastly, if you are planning your estate, what better way to be remembered than by making a bequest to the ERF, which is really a gift to your colleagues?
Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of representing Local 802 in Croton, New York at the Clearwater Hudson River Revival, an arts and environmental festival. The Clearwater charity is one that 802 has supported for years, with its activities focused on cleaning up and preserving the Hudson River environs. Featured performers included 802’s own Larry Campbell and his partner Theresa Williams, plus Los Lobos, Toshi Reagon, Richard Thompson, Tommy Emmanuel, Lake Street Dive, Nick Lowe and dozens more. All music performances were covered under an agreement courtesy of AFM Local 1000, the traveling musicians’ union. Beautiful weather, great food, and superb music were enjoyed by all, spotlighting an important cause.
The Hotel Users of Music agreement has been renegotiated with good increases in wages and benefits. Local 802 organizers have begun the process of researching the new music scene that has mushroomed in many trendy hotels in Manhattan and Brooklyn not yet covered under this agreement. Music is being made in these venues by professional musicians of all generations and in a wide range of styles. Our job will be to organize musicians and get this work covered to ensure sustainable wages and benefits. If you are performing in the hotels and want to see a strong agreement in place to protect your work, contact Sarah Koshar at (212) 245-4802, ext. 150.
The Jazz Foundation of America has signed a new agreement covering the Monday Night Jazz Jam in the 802 Club Room. Wages were improved for both the house trio and guest artists. All other terms and conditions remain in force.
Winter JazzFest is coming in January and we are preparing to enter into negotiations with BOOM Collective for a new agreement to cover the hundreds of jazz and new music performers who appear in multiple venues downtown. If you have been a JazzFest side musician and want to take part in the bargaining process please contact Shane Gasteyer at (212) 245-4802, ext. 143.
92nd St Y recently signed its first agreement for the entire Jazz in July series of concerts at the venue. The concerts had previously been covered on an individual basis and this agreement represents a step forward for both the Y and 802, bringing all engagements under one contract to simplify the administration. We hope this will be the beginning of a long collaboration benefiting our members.
Jazz at Lincoln Center and Local 802 have a successor agreement for members performing as the JLC Orchestra following some 20 months of protracted negotiations. The new agreement added anti-discrimination language, terms for rest days when on tour, and wage increases. My appreciation goes out to the 802 team who worked diligently for so long on this complicated negotiation: Maggie Russell-Brown, Sarah Koshar, Todd Weeks and 802 Counsel Harvey Mars.
Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce has signed a new agreement to cover professional music entertainment for Harlem Week, which ran from July 31 to Aug. 27. This year’s schedule highlighted music from all the neighborhoods of Harlem, and included R&B, jazz, gospel, dance and Latin styles. Public school students and community youth performers had an opportunity to perform onstage as well.
I announced news in the July/August issue of Allegro of the recently adopted AFM Single Song Overdub Agreement enabling members to file individual agreements when contributing their tracks recorded in home studios and so receive protections for their work along with health and pension benefits. We would love to hear from you if you have taken advantage of this opportunity: let us know how this is working!
Also please contact me if you are called for a performance in the Lincoln Center Out of Doors series. These concerts are not covered by an agreement and the wages offered have been reported as grossly below our area standards.
Local 802 has begun the negotiations with Lincoln Center for the American Songbook series scheduled for early 2018. If you have been contacted to perform for the series please let me know. The series last year was plagued by poor communications between the venue and the artists, who were made the employers for the concerts, leading to confusion about the correct wages and benefits. We hope to see the creation of a more reliable and transparent agreement result from these negotiations.
BROADWAY INTERNAL ORGANIZING INITIATIVE
Recently, some of our Broadway musicians have been surprised to receive a phone call from 802 with an invitation to sit down with one of our professional union organizers for a one-to-one conversation. I am sure that some were scratching their heads, wondering what this was all about: why the call and why now? We believe that sharing your opinions about your working life, the diversity of the music you make outside of Broadway, and your relationship with your union is our first step in researching a major initiative, one designed to ensure we have a future as a collective and better able to represent you, the professional musicians of 802. Why contact Broadway musicians in particular? From my own 40 years of experience in the pits I know that Broadway may be 802’s most far-ranging collective bargaining unit. When not at the show, we are performing in every genre of music imaginable. We are busy recording, producing, composing, arranging, club-dating and teaching. We are in nightclubs, house concerts, touring on the road and appearing onstage at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Broadway musicians are literally everywhere music is made in the five boroughs and beyond. As we move into these other fields, we mix with musicians and employers outside the 802 circle. We bring along our knowledge of working in traditionally unionized fields and have also experienced many music scenes apart from those. The Local 802 organizers calling to meet with you are typically not working musicians. However, they are highly trained professionals prepared to ask the right questions and listen carefully to your answers. Effective organizing to create power for our members starts at home, with what is known as “internal organizing.” That means getting our own house in order before we can be ready to move into new fields and organize new groups of musicians. It means letting our union have the benefit of your experience. It also means letting us hear your ideas, attitudes and vision so we can become a more effective organization. Local 802 will ultimately be what the members determine it should be, if we can communicate.
The overarching questions for 802 are: What will it take to expand the umbrella of union protections; to strengthen our existing agreements to meet the needs of our membership; to develop new kinds of agreements covering more musicians in more diverse fields; to evolve with the times and yet not discard what is working for us? If 802 can better understand the diversity of our total music community, we can begin to think strategically about our way forward, in an enlightened mode. So when you are invited to talk about your life in music, I hope you will want to participate. Your voice gets heard, your comments are held in confidence, and you can have major impact on how your union functions in the future. If we don’t ask, we may never know. For the record, your show’s representatives on the Theatre Committee are enthusiastic about this plan, one that we are calling the Broadway Internal Organizing Initiative, and your Executive Board recently approved the following statement of support:
The Executive Board authorizes the Organizing Department to carry out any and all interviews and research necessary for the success of the Broadway Internal Organizing Initiative. The organizers shall follow a plan of action instituted by the Director of Organizing and Field Services in consultation with the Director of LC and Broadway Activities. The professional staff will use their judgment to decide when and where the interviews and research will take place; Directors will keep the executive board apprised of the initiative’s progress.
If you have questions or concerns please contact the Director of Organizing and Field Services at (212) 245-4802, ext. 157.
Our newly reinstituted Jazz Committee had its first meeting this summer, and we were excited by the energy in the room. Of note, the Local 802 Executive Board recently appointed drummer extraordinaire Alvester Garnett to fill a vacancy on our board. Alvester was also appointed as the board’s liaison to the Jazz Committee and he was front and center at that first meeting, guiding the attendees and bringing his wealth of experience as a working jazz artist to the table. If you would like more information on the committee please contact Todd Weeks at (212) 245-4802, ext. 185.
ARTIST RIGHTS CAUCUS
Don’t miss the opportunity to become part of the Local 802 Artist Rights Caucus. Conceived by 802 activists Marc Ribot, Jack DeJohnette, Maria Schneider and other notable members, this group meets regularly to formulate grassroots action in the face of rampant copyright infringement by online music streamers such as Google/YouTube. If you record music to promote your career, ARC meetings should be on your calendar. Contact Shane Gasteyer at for the schedule.
PETER VOCCOLA RETIRES
I must mention the retirement of Local 802 Principal Business Representative Peter Voccola this summer. Many of you who work in the single engagement club date world have interacted with Pete over the past 25 years. He has been recognized as a dedicated and dependable rep who won the affection and respect of our musicians. He covered Long Island club dates and theatres, initially out of our Hicksville office. He then moved his base of operations to our 48th Street headquarters in 2015. Pete comes from a family of musicians, including his late father Joseph Voccola, an 802 member who was a well-known drummer in his day. Pete’s tenure at 802 was preceded by his work on the front lines of the Eastern Airlines machinists’ union strike of 1989 and, according to those who know his history, Pete was never afraid to speak truth to power and was always ready to confront the bosses on behalf of his membership. When I came into office in 2016, Pete was there to help get me up to speed on the issues facing our union. I counted on him to give me an unfiltered assessment of his field and I came to rely on his judgment. I wish him the happiest of retirements but have already warned him that he may hear from me when I need to draw from his deep well of knowledge. Happy trails, Pete!
As always, feel free to contact me at (212) 245-4802, ext. 110 to discuss any issues that arise with your work. All calls are confidential.