March is Women’s History Month, and this year we are kicking off a deep dive into our own gender demographics here at Local 802 in the hopes of starting to strategize how we can achieve a more equal balance between our male and female membership, as well as increase diversity in all ways. As it stands, about 25 percent of our members are women and 75 percent are men. This basic equation has stayed about the same for more than 10 years. In this issue, Lynne Bond inaugurates a new series that will look at gender and racial disparity in our union and what approaches we might take to achieve better equality. Nothing could be more important as we seek to diversify our union and keep our numbers strong. There will be much more to come. Thank you, Lynne, for proposing and initiating this important discussion. One of Lynne’s recommendations is that it’s time to revive a Local 802 Women’s Caucus and Diversity Committee. As we go forward with this series, please give your feedback to Lynne and the officers. You can also submit a letter to the editor by e-mailing Allegro@Local802afm.org.
Also in this issue, you can read Marlena Fitzpatrick-Garcia’s story about Latina “poeticians” as well as interviews with three women who each work in highly diverse fields: Mindy Kaufman, Claire Khodara and Marcia Butler. Also, please read the testimonials of some of the Local 802 members who attended the Jan. 21 Women’s March on NYC. As always, Women’s History Month has its roots in the textile industry, where women historically endured terrible working conditions. It’s the month in which we remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which was the largest industrial disaster in the history of New York City. Most of the victims were immigrant women. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the textile workers’ union (the ILGWU). This year’s commemoration, which is the 106th anniversary of the tragedy, will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, March 24 at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street at the site of the original building. For more information, see www.RememberTheTriangleFire.org.
March is also the month in which Cesar Chavez, the founder of the farmworkers’ union and a defender of human rights, was born. For information about activities and how to get involved, see www.ChavezFoundation.org or www.ufw.org.
OUR PENSION SITUATION
As Allegro was going to press, Local 802 was holding its quarterly membership meeting where the topic of our pension fund was the top item on the agenda. Our club room was packed to capacity, and trustees and pension fund professionals were answering questions from our members.
One of the top questions continues to be, “What are the pension trustees doing to get the best investment returns?” On its web site, the pension fund answers that question this way:
“Trustees are pulled in two seemingly opposing directions when it comes to fund investments. On one hand, the trustees want a high return on the investments to ensure the assets grow at least enough to pay benefits in the future. On the other hand, obtaining higher returns frequently means taking higher risks, which could, depending on the actual investment results, threaten the viability of the fund and call into question its ability to meet its benefit payment obligations. The goal is to attempt to devise an asset allocation that maximizes returns and minimizes risks. Our current asset allocation includes the following: equities (domestic, international developed, emerging markets, private equity); bonds (investment grade, high yield and emerging market debt); treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS); real estate, natural resources and infrastructure.”
Another question that comes up is “Are we getting good advice on our investment funds?” The pension fund answers that question this way:
“The fund currently uses 25 professional investment managers with proven long-term track records to manage these assets. To facilitate their oversight of investments, the trustees have established an Investment Committee composed of five management trustees and five union trustees. The Investment Committee relies heavily on the fund’s independent investment consultant and fiduciary in selecting and monitoring each of its investment managers. The investment consultant is responsible for reviewing the fund’s asset allocation, and for providing ongoing advice and specific recommendations to the Investment Committee and the trustees with respect to overall performance and the performance of its managers.”
Finally, another common question is “My 401(k) plan is doing well. Why isn’t the pension plan?” The pension fund answers that question this way:
“Despite having investment returns similar to institutional investors (including pension plans and 401(k) plans) with similar diversified asset allocations, the plan has an ongoing shortfall because it is constantly paying benefits. That is part of what makes the plan different from a 401(k) plan that you might be watching over the same period of time. While many 401(k) plans have been able to return to pre-2008 levels, many pension plans have struggled to make up the difference as money goes out of the plan for benefit payments while plan liabilities continue to grow.”
As always, the latest information can be found at www.afm-epf.org. More pension questions and answers can be found specifically at www.afm-epf.org/MailingFAQ.aspx. I will keep you posted on any new pension news.
We are always pleased to respond to members about any pension questions (or anything else). Click here to read an op-ed from Local 802 member Scott Ballantyne and my response.
UNIONS (AND ARTS) UNDER FIRE
It was a sad day for workers on Feb. 1 when Rep. Steve King of Iowa introduced a national “right to work” bill (H.R. 785). As we all know, unions are required to represent all workers equally in a union contract, but “right to work” means that workers don’t have to pay their fair share of union dues, thus drastically weakening the union. Needless to say, if this national legislation were ever passed, it could severely weaken the labor movement.
In other alarming news, the Trump administration is seriously mulling over the idea of defunding the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Local 802 sent out an action alert on Feb. 21 with a sample script of how to call your elected officials to save the arts. You can see it at www.local802afm.org/802-notes. Please do whatever you can to stand up for unions and stand up for the arts. Contact Local 802 Political Director Chris Carroll to volunteer with our political efforts.
Although President Trump’s travel ban has been blocked for the moment by federal courts, the future of the ban is unclear. One thing is for sure – we are firmly against it. Musicians come to New York, and live in New York, because it offers the opportunity to perform with the most talented artists and be part of the most creative artistic community in the world. With our cultural diversity as our greatest strength and our community’s inclusiveness as our most vital value, the thousands of musicians of Local 802 devote our energy to strengthening the role the arts and culture play in every component of our daily lives. History has shown again and again that musicians and artists are among humanity’s most effective diplomats. This travel ban runs counter to the values that musicians, performers and artists of New York City hold most dear. It compromises the ability of artists and musicians to share their work and talent across national borders. Our country must not build walls and barriers that cause needless suffering to families and hinders art’s ability to bridge cultural, economic, linguistic or social divides. If New York is to remain a cultural capital of the world, we must stand firm against these types of rash, discriminatory, and xenophobic measures. We stand in solidarity with our members in New York and with musicians around the world in opposition to this damaging policy.
The Theatre Department recently achieved contracts for musicians in the shows “Love for Sale” (at the Huron Club/Soho Playhouse), “Sweeney Todd,” (at the Barrow Street Theatre), “Beast of the Jungle” (an experimental lab), “The View Upstairs” (at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre), “Girl Behind the Curtain” and “All Aboard.” As always, any time you are called to play musical theatre of any size (including an experimental lab, a reading, a developmental production or a full show), please make a confidential call to the Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. We will help you make sure you are earning the wages and benefits you deserve.
The AFM International Executive Board recently received a proposed agreement from an AFM local that would allow musicians to get paid under a union contract when they record or contribute a sample to a sample library. The problem is that these samples could be eventually wind up as part of a live performance, for instance as part of a backing track or triggered by a laptop or other device. Ultimately, samples can replace live musicians. The Local 802 Executive Board has unanimously opposed this agreement.
CONGRATS TO GRAMMY WINNERS
Congratulations to all Local 802 members who won a Grammy this year, including Steve Reich, Ted Nash, Yo-Yo Ma, John Scofield, Bob Dylan and the Broadway musicians who played on the cast album of “The Color Purple.” If we missed any Local 802 winners, please let us know. We’re proud of you! Congrats!
SOFTBALL – AND BOWLING!
Spring is just around the corner, which means ball season is coming up. Starting in April, you can watch our teams in action Mondays at noon and 2 p.m. at the Heckscher ballfields in Central Park (enter at 62nd Street and Central Park West). Come out, enjoy the beautiful weather, and support our teams! For more information, contact Clint Sharman at Clint@TromboneMan.com or Louis B. Crocco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also – let’s roll! Local 802 now has a bowling team. We meet on Thursdays at 11 p.m. (you read that right – 11 p.m.!) at Frames, the bowling alley on the top level of the Port Authority bus station. To join the action, contact Louis B. Crocco at email@example.com.
SAVE THE DATE
Our next Jazz Mentors program will be offsite, at the New School, on Tuesday, March 14. We’re excited about bringing our program of jazz panelists “on the road.” Details will be posted at www.Local802afm.org/jazz-mentors.
In our interview with Jack DeJohnette in the February issue, the second photo on page 24 was taken by James Adams, not Jim Brock. We’ve already made this correction online.