United, We’re Strong!

A progressive deal for musicians at the Winter Jazzfest

Volume 117, No. 12December, 2017

Winter Jazzfest committee members Ben Perowsky, Jen Shyu and Graham Haynes vote on their new contract.

Now in its 14th year, Winter Jazzfest has become one of the premier events in the New York cultural calendar. The festival showcases a broad spectrum of musical styles, featuring both established names and up-and-coming acts from New York City and all over the world. Even as it has grown into a week-long series of concerts and events, the focal point of the festival continues to be its two “marathon” nights, in which over 100 groups play at various venues throughout Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan until the wee hours of the morning. This year, the marathon occurs on Jan. 12 and 13.

The festival draws thousands of music lovers every year, as well as hundreds of musicians who take part in one or more performances during the week.

Winter Jazzfest has been covered by a union agreement with Local 802 since 2012, after a grassroots campaign led by festival musicians culminated in negotiations with the festival organizers. The agreement ensures a minimum scale wage, recording protections,and other guarantees on working conditions for all musicians who play the festival. This fall, musicians and festival organizers concluded negotiations on a new two-year agreement for 2018 and 2019, including significant wage increases over previous years. The CBA was unanimously approved by the musicians’ committee and the Local 802 Executive Board.

“I’m proud of the Winter Jazzfest committee, and the progress we’ve made with this year’s contract,” said Local 802 Recording Vice President Andy Schwartz, adding that “Winter Jazzfest features some of the best musicians in the world, and we wish them continued success going forward.”

The 2018 Winter Jazzfest stretches out over eight nights, from Jan. 10 to 17.  Headliners include Ravi Coltrane, Wadada Leo Smith, and an all-star tribute to the late pianist, composer, and educator Geri Allen. The Friday and Saturday marathon nights feature bands led by 802 members Jazzmeia Horn, Marc Ribot, Alexis Cuadrado, Ryan Keberle, Catherine Russell, Fred Hersch and many more. While Winter Jazzfest continues to grow in terms of variety and breadth of programming, the festival has also made an increasing commitment to bringing in artists whose work engages with themes of social justice. This year’s festival will also see the launch of an educational series entitled “We Resist! Jazz and Justice.”

Guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson, who has played the festival numerous times both as a bandleader and side musician, told us that “I am very pleased that the union has signed a contract with Winter Jazzfest. Last year, I had a very positive experience at the festival, both as a performer and as a listener. I am very much looking forward to attending this year’s festival and checking out a lot of great music!”

Tickets for Winter Jazzfest are available for the full week, just the two marathon days, or for individual days of the festival. For more information, visit

Musicians in action from last year’s Winter Jazzfest. Photos by Jati Lindsay.