AFM Local 802 endorsements for 2021

Throughout 2021, the Executive Board of AFM Local 802 will be endorsing candidates for our local races. The candidates we’ve selected below have demonstrated a deep commitment to music, the performing arts, and the rights of workers throughout the city. At this moment in time, it’s more important than ever to become involved in local politics, and we are confident these committed public servants will be essential partners as we rebuild our industry and our city.

  • For more information on how the AFM Local 802 endorsement process works, contact AFM Local 802 Executive Board member Elise Frawley, who chairs the union’s endorsement committee.
  • Members of the press can contact AFM Local 802 Communications Director Mikael Elsila.
  • Add your name to Local 802’s political volunteer list.
  • The all-important primary election is June 22, 2021. That is a crucial election that will practically determine the winners of the general election.  For information on registering to vote, obtaining an absentee ballot or the early voting period, see https://www.elections.ny.gov

About AFM Local 802 

AFM Local 802 represents thousands of highly-skilled musicians who drive New York City’s thriving cultural and tourism economy. Its members – who perform on Broadway, at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Radio City, in recording studios, as teaching artists, on late-night TV shows and in other televised bands, in hotels, clubs, festivals and venues across NYC – are protected by collective bargaining agreements ensuring proper classification, fair treatment and a living wage. For more background, see www.local802afm.org 


MEET OUR ENDORSED CANDIDATES

(in alphabetical order, below)

This page will be updated throughout 2021

You can help elect leaders who care about musicians and all working people!

Add your name to Local 802’s political volunteer list


Amit Singh Bagga, Democrat for City Council District 26, Queens

Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, Dutch Kills

We are pleased to endorse Amit Bagga as City Council Candidate for District 26. Amit brings the knowledge and passion needed to advocate for those who live and work in Western Queens. A native New Yorker, the son of immigrants from South Asia and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he understands the varied lived experiences of the constituents of his district. Amit’s breadth of experience on campaigns at the federal and local levels have connected him with labor unions across the city, and his experience executing city and federal policy will be a strong asset as we rebuild in a post-pandemic world.

Amit’s priorities if elected to office are building a fair economy that is truly inclusive of all, including immigrants, low-wage and gig workers, delivery and taxi drivers, along with small business owners; creating and implementing Affordable Housing for All: renters, small homeowners, NYCHA residents, and folks experiencing homelessness; fighting climate change with green jobs that offer good wages, ladders for growth, and all the protections that workers deserve; and bringing healthcare to Western Queens by opening a Health and Hospitals facility to bring Western Queens long-overdue hospital beds and preventative care.

Amit feels a particular connection with musicians as a trained vocalist, and intends to use his platform to push for fair working conditions in various music venues of Western Queens, where many of our members work and live. He supported the repeal of the Cabaret Law of 1926, which mandated establishments have a license for live music, singing, or dancing. It is considered to have been racially discriminatory, being particularly punitive of black and brown communities as it largely targeted jazz clubs. Over time, it made it difficult for musicians across the city to earn fair wages in venues such as bars and restaurants. Amit’s depth of knowledge of city policy will not only be a boon to the musicians of Queens, but will serve to eliminate antiquated and discriminatory policy that prevents musicians of all genres from contributing to the vibrancy of our city’s culture.

“There is no task as solemn or urgent as rebuilding an economy where all New Yorkers have access to opportunity, no New Yorker is excluded, and no employer is solving a difficult economic equation on the backs of workers — which includes all of our city’s musicians,” states Amit. “You don’t go to the Village Vanguard to sit in the dark or Carnegie Hall to stare at an empty stage — you go for the world’s greatest musicians who breathe life into these spaces and into our city. As a candidate with deep roots in musical performance, I am honored to have the support of Local 802 in our collective fight for employment with dignity for all New Yorkers.”

The Local 802 Executive Board feels strongly that Amit possesses the necessary skills to navigate a multicultural community with diverse socioeconomic needs in a post-pandemic world. For more, see https://amitforcouncil.com.


Erik Bottcher, Democrat for City Council District 3, Manhattan

Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, West SoHo, Hudson Square, Times Square, Garment District, Flatiron, Upper West Side

For the City Council seat representing our home turf, we are proud to endorse Erik Bottcher. He has an impressive track record of community engagement and organizing, advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and the rights of marginalized populations, as well as a depth of knowledge and experience afforded to him as the current Speaker Corey Johnson’s Chief of Staff. His work under Governor Andrew Cuomo to organize across New York State was instrumental in passing the Marriage Equality Act of 2011, preceded by years of activism on behalf of LGBTQ+ and transgender New Yorkers. He has fought for affordable housing and tenants’ rights in District 3, where many of our members also live. He has committed himself to labor rights as well, recently standing in solidarity with Chipotle workers as they walked off the job protesting unsafe working conditions. Above all, he believes in the vitality of arts and arts education. We feel he is an outstanding leader to navigate the difficult months and years ahead as we rebuild midtown and downtown as the global hub for music and entertainment.

“Council District 3 contains the highest concentration of theatres and cultural organizations of anywhere in the world, and they and their workers must be protected. This is a responsibility I take very seriously,” states Erik. “The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the fact that the performing arts industry is a major driver of economic activity. The closure of Broadway and Off Broadway theatres, live music venues and other cultural institutions has had an economic ripple effect that has been devastating for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.” As Councilmember, Erik has pledged to work with Local 802 and interested parties to safely navigate the reopening of venues in his district, while protecting the interests of workers whose talent drives billions of dollars of revenue to the city and state. If elected to this position, we look forward to engaging with Erik as members of the midtown and downtown community. You can read more about his campaign and vision for District 3 at www.erikbottcher.com. If you want to volunteer with Erik’s campaign, contact hannah@erikbottcher.com.


Gale Brewer, Democrat for District 6, Manhattan

Central Park, Lincoln Square, Upper West Side, Clinton

Gale Brewer, current Manhattan Borough President and City Council candidate, is perhaps the most accomplished elected official and public servant working today. Through her many positions, she has always been a fierce advocate for musicians and friend to Local 802. As such, we are delighted to endorse her for the City Council seat in District 6. Gale formerly held this seat from 2002 – 2013, notably during the transformative years after 9/11. These unprecedented times call for leaders with both the vision and experience to help uplift our cultural sector and steer our city through a post-pandemic world. We believe her expertise will help musicians on the Upper West Side face this crisis head-on, as the the district rebuilds from its roots in the performing arts.

Gale has a long track record of supporting musicians and other arts workers at cultural institutions, both in her district and throughout the borough. She was an advocate for musicians in past negotiations with the Metropolitan Opera and the Kauffman Center. As Borough President, she has shown a commitment to the arts through private-public commissions of Black artists for public arts projects, and is a strong supporter of #SaveOurStages. As a member of the Department of Cultural Affairs Grants Program, she has allocated tens of millions of dollars to arts education and performance. She supported the repeal of the Cabaret Law, but feels it needs to go further to ensure businesses and venues are able to support live music and dancing according to local safety laws. While she understands the role that arts and entertainment unions traditionally play with regularly employed performers and musicians, she feels a universal portable benefits program to support freelancers’ wages and benefits is crucial to workers’ survival. She has supported rezoning for affordable housing, notably artist housing in East Harlem, and will continue to make affordable housing a priority of any new development or rezoning in her district.

Gale states: “The arts in NYC generate $110 billion annually, employ 293,000 people who are paid $30.4 billion in wages (NYC Comptroller, 2017) and will be a primary engine of the city’s recovery. The performing arts are one of our greatest shared spaces and as such can and should play a leading role in all communities as a means to healing and recovered optimism.

As a Council Member, I will work closely with state officials to help ensure that any economic development strategy in NYC guarantees the rights of musicians, performers, and artists to be paid and treated fairly. In a post-Covid world, any economic development strategy should focus on these goals.”

We look forward to working together to continue our shared mission of advocating for musicians, who are undoubtedly the cultural and economic drivers of the Upper West Side and New York City as a whole.


Jennifer Gutierrez, Democrat for City Council District 34, Brooklyn

Williamsburg, Bushwick, Ridgewood

We are proud to support the candidacy of Jennifer Gutierrez for District 34, which straddles northern Brooklyn and Queens. Currently the Chief of Staff to Antonio Reynoso, she has proven herself to be an effective leader and empathic community organizer. Jennifer understands how the tapestry of families, immigrant communities, artists, and small businesses interweaves to create one of the fastest-developing parts of New York City. Her dedication to public advocacy has directly helped musicians access their rehearsal studios during the pandemic, as well as navigate the unemployment system for contracted workers. Her experience at the Council and dedication to community organizing will be a boon the District, musicians, and the city as a whole.

As a Councilmember, she would like to increase capital spending on housing by both expanding construction subsidies to develop more affordable units and purchasing land to place in community land trusts that would prioritize affordability in perpetuity.
She would like to expand the community school model, which ensures schools are providing comprehensive services to students, their families, and the community at large. She has seen firsthand how much of an impact rezoning can have on communities, and seeks to pass Comprehensive Planning to devise principles to better guide rezonings and prevent displacement and gentrification in communities of color.

“The arts are incredibly important to me and to all my neighbors in District 34. We have a rich history of music, art and dance in Bushwick and Williamsburg, and as a result there is a large arts community that calls this district home,” Jennifer states. “Because of this, I know that the arts are not simply part of our neighborhood identity, but are part of our economy. New Yorkers in the arts are using their creativity, their passion, their craft and their vision to not only create incredible art, but put food on the table and a roof over their head. As a result, we need to ensure that the economic impact of the arts isn’t discounted. This is especially important as we look to reinvigorate our economy and help New Yorkers that have been devastated by COVID-19.” We enthusiastically endorse Jennifer and look forward to engaging with her on behalf of our members and allies throughout Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood.


Julie Menin, Democrat for City Council District 5, Manhattan

Upper East Side’s Yorkville, Lenox Hill, Carnegie Hill, Roosevelt Island, Midtown East, Sutton Place, El Barrio in East Harlem

We are pleased to endorse a longtime partner and advocate for Local 802, Julie Menin, for City Council District 5. Julie’s range and depth of experience throughout city government, higher education, and the arts makes her uniquely qualified to lead in this trying time for our industry and New York City at large. A native of Yorkville, she was immersed in the arts from a young age, and pursued a career of public service in the interest of the artists who bring vibrancy to our city.

“The City Council plays an important role in sustaining our City’s entertainment industry. It is vital that we work hard to maintain the culture of New York and the industries that support it as we open the economy,” states Julie. As a public servant, she has extensive experience in helping rebuild the city from challenging times. She chaired Community Board 1 in Lower Manhattan as the city was rebuilding after 9/11, working closely with the largest public employee union, DC 37. She has served as the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, working with organized labor on implementing the Paid Sick Leave Law. As Commissioner of MOME (Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment), she was instrumental in negotiating labor protections when Avatar transitioned to the Berklee School of Music Power Station. She launched Broadway in the Boroughs, using live musicians for performances throughout the city. She also brokered a deal to bring the Grammy’s to New York in 2018, the first time in 15 years. She has made herself accessible to and a fierce advocate of labor unions throughout the city, particularly entertainment unions. Her impressive resume and drive to protect workers, from members of IATSE to the Freelancers Union, is unparalleled. We enthusiastically throw our support behind Julie Menin for City Council. You can read more about her campaign at www.juliefornyc.com and volunteer for phonebanking here.


Keith Powers, Democrat for District 4, Manhattan

Upper East Side, Carnegie Hill, Yorkville, Central Park South, Midtown East, Times Square, Koreatown, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Tudor City, Turtle Bay, Murray Hill, Sutton Place

Keith Powers, current council member and longtime friend of Local 802, has been a faithful advocate for musicians throughout his term. He’s a fixture at our rallies and always available to address the needs of our members, whether they perform at Rockefeller Center, Carnegie Hall, or one of the many hotels or small-to-midsize venues throughout his district. Keith is a native New Yorker, having grown up in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, where his parents and neighbors lived in affordable housing thanks to city rent regulations and union jobs.

Close to neighborhoods with music venues, he spent his formative years going to rock shows, and carried that interest with him all the way to his political office. He and fellow council member Justin Brannan formed the “CBGB Caucus”, after the famed punk rock venue, to advocate for independent venues to receive Federal Paycheck Protection Program benefits. Keith has also been a vocal advocate for the Save Our Stages bill, co-writing a column in AMNY about the devastating affect of the pandemic on performing arts venues and their workers. Many of you may have seen him at the Respect Us rally in Times Square in October 2020, where he supported Live TV musicians’ fight for a fair contract inclusive of streaming residuals (which was attained the following month), or at Lincoln Center for our rally to support musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

He currently chairs the Criminal Justice Committee on City Council, where he supports closing Rikers Island in favor of smaller jails throughout the five boroughs. He helped create the car-free thoroughfare across 14th street, helping to ease congestion in the area and free up a main artery of Manhattan’s grid to public transportation and bikes. He is actively introducing legislation to aid New Yorkers with tax relief and other benefits, in particular small businesses, during the unprecedented crisis of Covid-19. His ability to adapt and problem solve in tangible ways, as well as his experience on the council, will be a tremendous asset as he embarks on a second term. We are thrilled to throw our support behind him once again, and look forward to working with him as we rebuild our industry and our city.


Lincoln Restler, Democrat for District 33, Brooklyn

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill, Williamsburg

Lincoln possesses a rare combination of institutional knowledge and forward-thinking progressive idealism that captures the essence of coastal northern Brooklyn. A native of the district, his upbringing was rooted in attending concerts and the multitudinous cultural offerings in and around the city. Using his experience working on policy in city government, he has made it his mission to advocate for workers, particularly musicians, to ensure New Yorkers can live and work in dignity. We are proud to throw our support behind his candidacy for Council District 33.

Lincoln is passionate about implementing progressive policies that boil down to common sense. He would like to pass legislation to create the first guaranteed paid time off benefit for all workers and expand Paid Sick Leave protections to include gig workers. He is supportive of universal portable benefit models, including retirement security accounts for all. He has seen the devastating effects of rezoning in his district without comprehensive affordable housing plans, and will make affordable housing a priority by pursuing laws to bar landlords from keeping vacant properties off the market for an inordinate period of time.

In discussions, Lincoln made clear his support of labor in the performing arts. His concern for the wellbeing of musicians was evident by his dismay with certain employers’ treatment of our members during the pandemic. He displayed a knowledge of the arts sector that belied someone who is an active audience member and fan of live performances, an important perspective to hold as we weather the pandemic and look to organizing in the months and years ahead.

“New York City is the cultural capital of the world, home to a vibrant cultural and artistic fabric that makes our communities and neighborhoods simultaneously unique and interconnected. But not only is the arts essential for our neighborhood vibrancy and diversity, it is essential for our economy,” states Lincoln. “Prior to the pandemic, the music industry alone accounted for over $21 billion dollars in economic output. That’s tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of wages. This is a story that needs to be told more often in the halls of government. The dynamism of our economy and New York City’s status as a center for tourism is integrally linked to the arts and music. As a Council Member, I’ll work hard to ensure that the arts aren’t treated as a nice to have, but are recognized as a need to have. The only way the arts can be truly sustainable and have the fullest impact possible on our economy is if the workers that are touched by it, from the performer on stage to the building service workers helping to maintain the hall, are compensated fairly and at a level that allows them to pay their rent and support their family.”

We look forward to working with Lincoln through his candidacy as we advocate on behalf of musicians along the Brooklyn waterfront, from Greenpoint through Boerum Hill.


Carlina Rivera, Democrat for District 2, Manhattan

East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Lower East Side, Murray Hill, Rose Hill

Carlina Rivera is an impressive council member and dedicated ally of Local 802, and we are delighted to support her as she embarks on a second term. Representing neighborhoods from east midtown through downtown, she is aware of how musicians have added to the vitality of her district through performances in small to mid-size venues. Born and raised on the Lower East Side, she is passionate about providing safe and affordable housing for her community through legislation and organizing. She ran for office after witnessing the devastation Hurricane Sandy caused throughout her district, and has prioritized protecting Manhattan’s waterfront through the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. She is also Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, fighting for gender equity and parity in the workplace.

As a native of the Lower East Side, the arts and music were a vital part of her upbringing. She supports East 4th street’s Fourth Arts Block cultural district, which includes the innovative Off Broadway theatre, New York Theatre Workshop. Carlina pledges to work with venues, which range from such institutions as the Public Theatre to Rockwood Music Hall, and the musicians who perform in them as the city re-opens, ensuring organizations and businesses that receive city funding treat their performers fairly. Beyond the arts in her neighborhood, she helped pave the way for the Union Square Tech Training Center, a complex on East 14th Street that would offer digital skills training and space for startups, creating new jobs and careers for New Yorkers once construction is completed. Balancing development throughout her district, she has also committed to preserving landmarked buildings to maintain the unique neighborhood character that draws creatives and crowds alike.

During the pandemic, Carlina has been a fierce advocate of small businesses, supporting legislation that capped fees delivery services can impose on restaurants, preventing property from being repossessed, and finding ways to funnel federal grant money to eligible businesses. She is also active in helping homeless and food-insecure New Yorkers find the resources they need, a cause she was passionate about that led her to run for office.

As the city reopens, we look forward to working with Carlina to help revitalize this important cultural sector of Manhattan. New York would not be what it is without the creative incubator that the musicians and artists of District 2 provide.


Pierina Sanchez, Democrat for City Council District 14, Bronx

Morris Heights, University Heights, Fordham, Kingsbridge

Pierina Sanchez is a rising star in public service, having made a name for herself in a relatively short career as a knowledgeable, dedicated, and enthusiastic policy expert and advocate for members of her Bronx Community. We stand behind Pierina wholeheartedly as candidate for City Council District 14.

Growing up in the Bronx as the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, she experienced firsthand the housing and employment inequities that plague our city and discriminate against black and brown communities. Driven at a young age, she attended Harvard University on a full scholarship and earned a Master in Public Affairs from Princeton University. Her pursuits of public advocacy have led her to City Hall and the White House, and finally back to her hometown to fight for affordable housing and combat income inequality. She believes strongly in the vitality of the arts and music, with Afro-Dominicana music and dance being an essential part of her upbringing. As a member of City Council, she wants to ensure musicians from all genres and backgrounds are protected and earn fair wages in the workplace, and will insist that city-funded performances adhere to area standard wages to ensure musicians are able to work in dignity.

“Here in New York, the arts are a manifestation of our values, our priorities, our past and our present. The arts are a gift for the future, and a message about who we are and what we stand for. We must provide artists of all backgrounds with the opportunity and support the need to continue their legacy of communicating our New York values, and by doing so we will simultaneously be supporting our economy and our communities,” states Pierina. We couldn’t agree more. We are proud to support Pierina for City Council District 5. You can learn more about her campaign at www.pierinasanchez.nyc.


  • For more information on how the AFM Local 802 endorsement process works, contact AFM Local 802 Executive Board member Elise Frawley, who chairs the union’s endorsement committee.
  • Members of the press can contact AFM Local 802 Communications Director Mikael Elsila.
  • Add your name to Local 802’s political volunteer list.
  • The all-important primary election is June 22, 2021. That is a crucial election that will practically determine the winners of the general election.  For information on registering to vote, obtaining an absentee ballot or the early voting period, see https://www.elections.ny.gov