As union musicians, we have to remember that the fight for workers’ rights is global. Last month, as most of us know by now, the world grieved for the 1,127 garment workers killed by criminal negligence in Bangladesh, in the deadliest garment-factory disaster in history.
These workers were considered expendable by the Bangladeshi government and the multinational corporations who take advantage of them. We hope that the tragedy brings about real, long-lasting reform. Consumers around the world – like us – need to use our purchase power to tell clothing retailers that we won’t stand for this kind of avoidable loss of human life. Tragedies like these make us realize that we should never take our situation here for granted. It’s easy to forget that most of our clothing comes from low-paid, overworked people living halfway across the globe. As we marched together on May Day as a union (see photos here), we felt solidarity with other workers all over the world. Let’s remember the big picture.
We can’t rest easy while others are exploited. Let’s do our best to work for justice. For more information on the worldwide campaign for garment workers, see www.CleanClothes.org.
SICK PAY LAW
We are justifiably proud that Local 802 was able to revise the brand-new NYC sick pay law to ensure that musicians will be covered under it. As you can see in Harvey Mars’ Legal Corner article, the law gives many employees in NYC the right to paid sick days for the first time. In an early draft of the law, the definition of “employees” wasn’t defined broadly enough to include musicians. Thanks to successful lobbying on our part, the language that we preferred made it into the law. This was truly a Local 802 success story: using our political influence, we were able to change the law. This is another example of why politics really does matter to our members.
The case of 54 Below may go down as one as one of our shortest organizing drives in history. The venue is a nightclub/cabaret space located beneath what used to be the legendary Studio 54, at 254 West 54th Street. Local 802 had been monitoring the club since it started and as it became more apparent – through the number of musicians being engaged and the type of acts that were performing there – that it was time to contact the club owner and discuss contract terms for the musicians engaged. Unfortunately, management didn’t agree to formal talks at first. Over a few months’ time, after several difficult conversations with the club owner, it was decided that we would have to ask our colleagues not to work for the club until fair treatment of the musicians was established. We threatened to picket the venue and put it on our Unfair List, which we recently re-activated in Allegro. After notices to the Broadway community went out and a membership-wide alert was e-mailed, musicians began to turn down and cancel performances absent a union contract. The day before the club was to be officially put on our Unfair List, 54 Below called us and talks began. That’s the kind of power our union can command when we all stick together and demand fair wages with benefits. Hopefully, by the time this issue is in your hands, we’ll have an agreement that protects musicians with guaranteed wages, benefits and job security. For more, see John O’Connor’s story “Follow the Money.”
Speaking of organizing, we are supporting the workers at the Guitar Center music store who have come together to form a union, despite a vicious anti-union backlash by their company. See Guitar Center story and please do what you can to help out.
The AFM Convention takes place this summer, when delegates from around the country come together to discuss, debate and vote on the future of our union. The complete list of recommendations and resolutions on the table was published in the May issue of the International Musician, which members can see at www.afm.org. I would like to review a few of them here:
Recommendation #1 includes a $10 per capita dues increase as well as a 0.25 percent increase in work dues for national agreements. These extra dues will not go to Local 802, but will be sent directly to the AFM. Although dues increases are never popular, I would like to tell you that I am in favor of this very modest dues increase because the future of our parent union depends on financial stability. It is also important to note that there has not been any increase in dues to the Federation in over six years. This revenue is essential in order to continue to provide services integral to the locals that need it the most.
Recommendation #1 also proposes that the AFM Convention meet every four years, instead of every three. This effectively gives the AFM officers an additional year in their term. I believe in this age of instant accessibility through e-mail and the more convenient modes of communication made available to us, that it is time to consider the benefit of a quadrennial convention. It will save the union money (in convention costs) and it doesn’t infringe on any of the democratic rights of members. Most parent unions meet every four years – with some meeting every five years, which is the maximum for parent unions.
Recommendation #3 would provide that if an AFM local is negotiating with an employer who wants to withdraw from the AFM pension fund, that local has to notify the AFM, and a rep from the AFM president’s office has to be present. This is important because of what happened in Philadelphia: the Philadelphia Orchestra declared bankruptcy solely for the purpose of relieving itself from the musicians’ pension obligations. If these kinds of scenarios happen again in the future (and we hope that they don’t), we want to be certain that the AFM leadership is at the table.
Recommendation #10 proposes that every AFM local should take an active role in organizing new members. This is an essential component of our continued success and growth.
It might be worth noting that this could be the last time the AFM Convention will be at the Las Vegas Riviera hotel and casino. This is due to the fact that management refuses to negotiate a successor agreement for the musicians who perform there with AFM Local 369 (Las Vegas).
If you want to attend the AFM convention as an observer, please visit www.afm.org/convention right away.
OUR FUTURE AUDIENCES
We are pleased to feature two stories in this issue of Allegro that have to do with one of the most important aspects of our future: creating new audiences who care about live music and are willing to fight for it.
The first is a story about Inside the Magic, a program that brings kids to special productions of Broadway shows, where they are able to meet the actors, musicians and technicians. This year, about 3,000 children from 25 public schools saw a special production featuring excerpts from “Annie” with a live band at the Palace Theatre. These kids will never forget their first experience at a Broadway show and how it felt to hear a live music accompaniment.
The second story is about the Music Performance Trust Fund, and how one of our members, Ellen Bardekoff, is successfully utilizing the fund to produce free concerts that are open to the public. The MPTF was recently revitalized, thanks in large part to the efforts of AFM President Ray Hair, and it’s once again becoming a great resource for musicians. For more information on how to apply for MPTF funding, please contact Aimee Covo at (212) 245-4802, ext. 150 or Acovo@Local802afm.org.
JUNE MEMBERSHIP MEETING
At the Local 802 membership meeting on June 12 (see calendar event), we will be honored to host Paul Frank, the AFM’s director of organizing. He’ll present a video about the celebrated strike against Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theatre in 1997. The story is amazing. The Seattle theatre musicians’ committee had begun preparing for negotiations a year ahead of talks, anticipating management’s demands for concessions. By the time management hit them with proposed wage cuts and other takeaways, the union musicians were ready. Through their organizing and outreach to the local labor council and Jobs with Justice chapter, thousands of supporters showed up in the streets for days on end, while the musicians held fast, not only holding back concessions but demanding improvements in their contract. The strike and accompanying protests were a brilliant success and the video is nothing short of inspirational.
The kind of success that the Seattle musicians had is unusual, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Disney was the employer, after all, and they are no easy opponent. And yet the musicians won a decisive victory. The video serves as a lesson on how to put together all the ingredients that increase the chances for success: planning ahead, building solidarity, capitalizing on the public’s love for musicians, researching the employer, building an escalating plan of action. These are the kinds of organizing building blocks that have not always been used by the AFM or its locals. But under the leadership of President Ray Hair, the necessity of looking at workable organizing strategies is now fully on the table. Hiring Paul Frank as an organizing director is a good start. Frank was at the Federation when he led the successful campaign to get Tejano recordings under contract in what was known as the STAR campaign.
NEW CONTRACTS AND SCALES
I’m pleased to report the following new contracts and scales:
We achieved a successor agreement with Live Nation, which owns the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island. Westbury musicians will earn an increase of 10.5 percent over the four-year contract. Cartage also goes up to $20 in the agreement.
Club date scales went up on April 15. The benchmark four-hour Saturday night scale increased to $345 from $340. Other wages and benefits also went up. For details, call the single engagement department at (212) 245-4802.
We reached an agreement with the producers of the Off Broadway musical “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
We achieved an agreement with BAM for a production called “Master Builder.”
At the risk of seeming self-congratulatory, I want to remind members that it’s a victory for any union to continue to raise workers’ wages and benefits during this deep recession. Local 802 continues to work hard for musicians. If you get called to play a job where the pay or benefits is not what you deserve, call our organizing department at (212) 245-4802. We have an excellent track record of helping musicians while protecting your identity and your job.
When it comes to live music, we are putting our money where our mouth is. Local 802 is once again making a very significant investment to co-sponsor “Piano in the Park” at Bryant Park this summer, which lets passersby enjoy the sounds of live music. See the schedule at www.BryantPark.org/plan-your-visit/piano.html.
WELCOME, JED BERNSTEIN
The New York Times recently reported that former Broadway League president Jed Bernstein will become the new president of Lincoln Center next year. We wish Jed the best in his new role and we look forward to working with him in his new capacity.
DO YOU USE LS-1 CONTRACTS?
LS-1 contracts for health benefits are due no later than Aug. 15 for engagements performed from Jan. 1 to June 30. Anyone submitting an LS-1 must contact Bettina Covo at Bcovo@local802afm.org before the due date to be sure your submission is complete. IMPORTANT: If you have not used an LS-1 in the past 12 months, there may be changes that you are not aware of that could affect whether or not the LS-1 is appropriate for certain situations. Please note: There are no changes if you teach or perform as a self-contained act (i.e. a pianist, harpist, guitarist, or organist performing alone).