The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of the way we at Local 802 are managing your union. While Adam, Karen and I continue to work remotely, seemingly 24/7, to communicate with members and employers and handle ongoing negotiations for expiring agreements, a majority of the 802 staff is on emergency leave. Those of us still on the job and working from home sorely miss our colleagues, the camaraderie and their contributions to the smooth running of the local. The realities of sustaining the regular monthly costs of the local’s operations in light of the expected dramatic reduction in revenue from work dues has hit home. In response to the financial pressure — and as a preliminary step — the Local 802 Executive Board and officers are taking voluntary reductions in salaries and have asked all remaining staff to also accept a pay cut. AFM locals across the country are feeling the same strain; a union with a membership of our size is expensive to run even in the best of times when a fairly reliable stream of dues can be counted on to support our work. Once that money begins to run low, we are forced to examine our options.
The enormous responsibilities of administering and enforcing the agreements under which our members work is now falling to small a crew of essential personnel. Work that was normally done by teams of people with specialized skill sets needed to be prioritized and reassigned to a core staff, while endeavoring to ensure we cover all aspects of our obligations.
Within my own areas of oversight a certain delay in administration is inevitable when staffing is down. With 802’s building already closed since the middle of March, we became very concerned that our inability to process recording checks would result in a serious hardship for those relying on that income. A skeleton crew from the Recording Department volunteered to brave the virus and come in to inventory the existing checks we have been holding for musicians. They worked the telephones to report what we had on file, confirmed current mailing addresses and took credit cards for recording work dues. These payments included wages for recording jobs completed before the closure, jingle residuals, and foreign or new uses of your work. Thanks as well to members of the building staff for joining us to get the mail out and monitor the building while we worked. Please note that if you received an e-mail or call about older checks now in the local’s escrow account there will be an unavoidable delay in further processing due to our emergency staffing reductions. Be assured that, once we are able, we will resume the handling of escrow checks.
We thank those of you who expressed gratitude to the staff for this special effort. Those words of thanks encouraged us and confirmed that we were making a difference for so many now out of work and likely with dwindling resources. E-mail us with questions or to report the appearance of prior work in the broadcast media or online.
Music preparation is also of concern as there was work finished prior to the shutdown of Broadway and touring shows that needs to be processed from invoices so that copyists and orchestrators could be paid and receive health and pension contributions. With some 200 members working various music prep jobs in recent years it is a field that needs up to date attention. That work continues remotely.
Club date employers also had Single Engagement reports to file and health and pension benefit checks to deliver. We are working with them to ensure musicians in this field get their benefits contributions.
The Membership Department is able to receive dues either electronically via the Local 802 Member Portal (https://info.local802afm.org) or by mail. Please note that the Local 802 Executive Board, in accord with the AFM, has instituted a policy that waives penalties for the late receipt of membership dues through June 30, 2020. Financial hardship should not force members to choose between life’s essentials and staying up to date at this moment. Those of you who are able to continue to send dues will be contributing to the survival of your union. As always, reach out to me with questions about membership or other issues.
Speaking of mail to your local, know that after a month-long delay in receiving mail from members and employers we were able to pick up mail at the post office and begin to sort through it. We hope to catch up on responses and processing soon. We have also rented a post office box that will be visited once a week to stay current on the mail while the building is closed.
Our special thanks to all our members who responded to the pleas from tje Emergency Relief Fund with much needed contributions. The ERF is one of the benefits of membership that you can draw upon when times are bad. If you need assistance, start at https://erf.local802afm.org/apply.
We continue to hope for relief from the virus and a return to work for everyone. Until that day the administration remains available to each of you as needed. Our very best wishes for your health and safety.
Andy Schwartz is the recording vice president of Local 802 and the supervisor of the union’s activities in electronic media services, club dates, hotels, nightclubs, jazz, Latin, music education and the Local 802 Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund.