We Can Make a Difference

Recording Vice President's Report

Volume CVIII, No. 10October, 2008

Bill Dennison
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A FRIEND IN CONGRESS: Local 802 member John Hall is running for re-election as representative of the 29th Congressional District, which covers the upper Hudson Valley. John Hall understands out issues and is an avid reader of Allegro! Photo by Walter Karling.
In this issue of Allegro, the last before Election Day (Nov. 4), you’ll see a good deal of space devoted to issues and candidates. It’s obvious we feel this election is important and like most 802 members, we hope to see a change in the direction of our country. For that reason the Executive Board voted unanimously to endorse Barack Obama for president and Joe Biden for vice president.

We do not have the luxury of standing above political struggles. What happens in Washington, D.C. deeply affects all of our lives, the lives of our families and our future. The stark economic decline for working families at home and the catastrophic loss of respect for our country abroad make it painfully clear that we not only need new leadership, we also need new policies. 

These new policies have to stop what has become an historic shift of wealth from poor, middle-income, and even upper middle-income families to the very wealthy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2005 the top one percent of households received 21.8 percent of all pre-tax income, more than double what that figure was in the 1970’s. This now represents the greatest concentration of income since just before the Great Depression, when 23.9 percent of all income went to the richest one percent. As far as I’m concerned this is the issue. For working families — including the members of Local 802 — Obama is right on the issues that affect our pocketbooks and our jobs. Unless you’re a multi-millionaire, voting your economic interest means voting for the Obama-Biden ticket.

In regard to foreign policy, regrettably at times there is not a whole lot of difference between the positions of the two parties. But it’s hard to take seriously anyone who suggests we’re somehow safer under a Republican administration. Certainly the last eight years offer no proof. And for those who have had the opportunity to travel abroad, you know the rest of the world just shakes their heads in collective amazement when the names of Bush or Cheney arise. 

The other remarkable aspect of this election is the fact that an African-American has a good chance of being elected president of the United States. What an achievement for our nation! Barely 50 years ago integrated touring bands faced threats of violence throughout the south and far too many across the country were scandalized to see Roy Eldridge and Anita O’Day making great music on the same stage. Hopefully, we’ve come a long ways from those days.

The other important race where we can help make a difference is in the 29th Congressional District in the upper Hudson Valley, where 802 member John Hall is running for re-election. John has been a great addition to Congress. He knows our issues and deserves our support. 

I urge you to put aside some time to help in this critically important election season. You can help with phone banks as well as on the street work in nearby battleground states. We can make a difference.


Last month’s Allegro ran a series of articles on how to respond to the decline in recording work in New York. Several letters in this issue continue that important discussion (see Readers Speak Out in this issue).

Two weeks ago, Local 802 confronted a real-world example of the fight we are facing. See Recording Department Supervisor Jay Schaffner’s story Casualty of Capital.

It’s about a recent film scoring date that departed New York City for Prague because the union refused to allow musicians to be paid less than AFM scale.

It’s one of many circumstances where the union has sought to protect New York musicians from a merciless global economy that pits musician against musician worldwide.

The employer’s message is, “If you won’t work under the terms we dictate, we’ll go to Prague, Bratislava or Shanghai, where we can dictate the terms.”

In this case, for a high-profile film by Oliver Stone with a $30 million budget and agreements with SAG, DGA, WGA and IATSE, it’s shameful that the companies involved refused to treat musicians with the same level of respect they extend to others.

Local 802 thanks the many musicians involved in these recording dates who were supportive of the union’s efforts to obtain the appropriate AFM agreement for this work.

Dealing with the real world today requires this kind of determination. It also requires a smart and flexible approach to the various scenarios we face.

While Local 802 is prepared to stop work that undercuts AFM agreements, we’re also prepared to find reasonable compromises that result in both work and protection for musicians.

In 2006 (actually under the prior administration) the Local 802 Executive Board asked the AFM to consider a new videogame agreement with terms and conditions that more reflect the realities of that business. The AFM did so and the result is that more video games than ever are now being done in the U.S.

Under the last two 802 administrations, the union has consistently offered employers various options for doing low-budget and limited- pressing recording where circumstances dictate the need.

This has allowed small recording projects and Off Broadway shows, for example, to do recordings where it otherwise would not have been possible.

While we will continue to exercise this flexibility and continue our willingness to work with employers on the particular needs of their recording projects, we will not allow AFM national agreements to be undercut for the enrichment of a few multi-millionaire investors.