As negotiations approach, part-time jazz faculty reflect on the power of a union contract

Volume 120, No. 4April, 2020

“Having union representation has allowed the New School jazz faculty to bargain collectively to achieve vast improvements in academic working conditions that individually would have been impossible for me to acquire on my own. Local 802 has been instrumental in negotiating better faculty wages, job security, access to health care and retirement plans, employer contributions to our union pension plan, representation on academic committees and many other advances related to our employment. Thank you, Local 802!” — Armen Donelian

“I’m extremely grateful to Local 802. I’m an original faculty member on the negotiating committee and I’ve continued to be an active faculty member and involved in all negotiations. I’m grateful to 802 for many reasons, most importantly for the health benefits. I’ve been the sole provider of health insurance for my family since 1998, and I’m very grateful for the insurance and benefits. I’m also grateful to Recording Vice President Andy Schwartz, Principal Business Rep Todd Weeks and former Senior Business Rep Sarah Koshar for all of their hard work, as well as former Local 802 Vice President Bill Dennison and Local 802 counsel Harvey Mars for all of their efforts on our behalf. I’m very proud to be a long-time New School jazz faculty member (since 1992), and I’m honored to work alongside such esteemed musicians and educators, and I appreciate the camaraderie and mutual support I’ve experienced among the faculty. I support the union fully, I deeply appreciate its efforts, and I invite all my New School colleagues to be active participants in our union efforts.” — Amy London

“Our contract at the New School, which has existed for over 20 years, has become a model for part-time music faculties all over the country. It has enabled musician-teachers and administrators to work together in win/win harmony and for the benefit of all concerned, including the students.” — Bill Kirchner

“In terms of health benefits, it’s benefitted me immensely. I happen to be diabetic, so obviously I’m on meds and it’s helped me with the cost of them greatly. Everyone who’s part of the jazz program has access to these same benefits that also cover doctor, hospital visits, etc. Can you imagine being a musician without any health coverage? It’s like a horror story. We’re fortunate that Local 802 fought so strongly on our behalf for these benefits. It’s a fantastic success story.” — Bobby Sanabria

“The positive part of a contract is to give people a sense of being involved with management of the program. For that, we get health insurance, pension, and a say in how the program is run. That’s the most important part of having a contract. If you add the fact that the New School has jazz faculty who were not vested in the pension because of the kind of work they do, the contract gives them pension contributions and they are now taking a pension or are building up their pensions.” — Jimmy Owens

“Having health insurance through the union contract has been really beneficial for me and for my family. It’s made a huge difference for me to have that peace of mind. And the other thing I love is that I don’t have to bargain individually for my own pay. It’s all spelled out in the contract. That’s a nice feeling because musicians sometimes find it difficult to bargain and sometimes we undervalue ourselves. But we deserve to get paid fairly, and it’s nice knowing the union backs us up and goes to the mat for us.” — Allison Miller

“I’m grateful for the representation Local 802 has provided for the part-time faculty at the New School for Jazz. We wouldn’t have the important benefits and guarantees that we do without their help and commitment.” — Steve Cardenas

“The contract is good because over the last 22 years it has contributed to our pension fund.” –Andrew Cyrille

“I’ve been a member of the AFM beginning when I was 15 years old in San Fransisco. It’s been a long and worthy relationship. When I moved back to New York from Europe, I was pleased to hear that the part-time New School jazz faculty were covered under an 802 contract.” — Ed Neumeister

“I do feel it was a great thing to negotiate this contract with the help of Local 802 to make sure we get the best we can get and that we can keep on looking out for each other as a group. It helped us secure a better deal. It’s of most importance right now to have a body that represents all of us and in which we feel we can express our voices and feel safe doing that.” — Grégoire Maret

“My dealings with the union have been very positive from the start. They are always responsive and attentive to the needs and concerns of the musicians, as both teachers at the New School and as performers.” — Mary Halvorson

“This school, this program and this union contract were started by musicians for musicians. When I broke my pinky, the Local 802 contract saved my ass with health insurance. That’s when I started understanding the value of our contract. Just by teaching two courses per academic year, we are eligible for full medical coverage — which includes my husband, Omar Hakim. This is thanks to our union contract. That’s what I want our young faculty to know.” — Rachel Z

“I believe that the best thing about the contract is that everybody in the faculty is getting along and agreeing in harmony about what’s supposed to happen.” — Billy Harper