Tag Archives: tino gagliardi

The Music Performance Trust Fund Is Back!

I am very happy to report that the new revenue stream from online interactive digital distribution bargained by the Federation in 2017 is paying real dividends. A recent report from the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund reflects that this revenue is now more than $1.5 million, which translates to an additional $250,000 available for distribution from the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF). This new revenue stream has brought the MPTF back from the dire straits in which the fund found itself just a decade ago.

The newly revitalized MPTF is a valuable resource that locals across the country can take advantage of by pursuing projects and partnerships with community organizations for events that meet the guidelines for MPTF grants. Among the possible projects are educational programs, park concerts, and music festivals. Free to the public events are perfect for the mission of the MPTF and offer our locals the opportunity to strengthen relations with diverse constituent groups in their municipalities and regions. 

From an organizational and recruitment perspective, MPTF projects open the door for local officers to connect with musicians performing within their local jurisdiction. They will be able to discover what bands are popular and drawing big audiences in the local clubs and whether or not they have a connection to the union. If not, local officers can provide them with information and guidance about tapping into MPTF resources. This can be an effective introduction to what our union can do for them. By building a local MPTF event, such as a music festival, you are not only creating real relationships with the communities you serve, but also offering meaningful opportunities for local musicians to perform, all under an AFM agreement.

Many public events are funded in part by grants from state and local arts councils. Approaching organizations that rely on such public funding with an offer to bolster their events with musical groups offering diverse styles of music, along with 50% funding for the musicians employed, will get their attention. AFM President Ray Hair’s February 2019 President’s Message in the IM goes into further detail on these types of community-based organizations. I urge everyone to take a look.

The reinvigoration of the MPTF provides all AFM locals with a real opportunity to build bridges and create authentic connections, not only with our communities, but also with the musicians who call those communities home. Regardless of genre—jazz, classical, hip hop, folk, rock or any of the other genres in which our members expresses themselves—nothing brings people together like live music.

I have been asked by President Hair to help connect with locals that may have been missing out on the wonderful resource available to them from the MPTF. My goal is to support your efforts in this regard, whether they involve finding ways to make existing projects fit within MPTF guidelines or developing new and creative initiatives that advance the mission of the MPTF and enhance your local community. Email me at tgagliardi@afm.org. I look forward to working with you to help you remind your communities of this fundamental truth: Live music is best!

Tino Gagliardi Honored by City & State

tino gagliardi
In September, AFM IEB Member and Local 802 (New York City) President
Tino Gagliardi (far left) was honored as one of the 50 most powerful leaders
in New York’s labor community.

In September, AFM International Executive Board Member and Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi was honored by City & State as one of the 50 most powerful leaders in New York’s labor community. He, along with 50 other labor leaders, was honored at a September 6 reception at Battery Gardens.

Gagliardi was also profiled in a special commemorative magazine, which read in part: “The music industry is vital to New York City’s identity—and its economy—but many artists have been forced to leave in recent years as income from music industry jobs has fallen while the cost of living has steadily risen. Tino Gagliardi has advocated for the ability of musicians to make a fair living and protected live performance and recording industry standards. Local 802 has 7,500 members, many of whom perform on Broadway, work on late night television, or at a variety of clubs and venues across New York City.”

Local 802 Awards First Grant to Emerging Artists

Local 802 (New York City)’s new grant program, the Emerging Artists Project, is poised to award its inaugural grant after a long selection process. Sixteen highly esteemed musicians listened to and rated all the applicants and an in-house committee evaluated the application materials (performance history, business plan, audience base, social justice, and education components).

The Roxy Coss Quintet was chosen as the winner of this year’s prize. The quintet is made up of Roxy Coss (saxophone/leader), Alex Wintz (guitar), Miki Yamamoto (piano), Rick Rosato (bass), and Jimmy Macbride (drums). Coss is also the founding director of the Women in Jazz Organization. The exciting quintet edged out 51 other applicants and will receive $10,000 per year, for four years. The grant may be used any way the band sees fit, allowing them to grow into a fully professional and cohesive ensemble over the four-year term. Coss, as leader, has signed a one-year agreement with Local 802 covering all their work, establishing minimum pay scales for all future dates, and including contributions to the AFM-EPF. All members of the quintet have agreed to become members of the union.

Local 802 is facing many of the same systemic problems as other unions across the country: declining membership, a decline in the amount of covered work, and a new generation of professionals who do not understand the benefits of a union or of collective bargaining. A crucial element of our mission as a union is to support live music and encourage those who perform it.

Even at this early stage of the Emerging Artists Project, we can say that it is beginning to address those systemic issues and further our own stated mission. Among the 52 completed applications we received this year, the pool of musicians totaled almost 400. Of those, almost three-quarters have had no previous connection to, or contact with, the union and were not members.

Most of the applicant groups described themselves as multi-genre or alternative, areas where we have few contracts. We had bands who took inspiration from ’60s film soundtracks, bands who combined Bollywood and jazz, and bands who played hip-hop music influenced by classical traditions. It is an exciting mix that performs at a very high level.  These are perfect examples of the kinds of musicians we want to attract to the union. This project has shown itself to be a useful tool in doing just that.

We have many people to thank for the success of the Emerging Artists Project. Many people at Local 802 worked tirelessly to launch this project, including staff and officers. We would like to thank the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, based at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City, for partnering with us in this launch. St. Luke’s will be providing discounted rehearsal space and recording studio space and time, as well as mentoring the winning ensemble, should they decide to avail themselves of it. Special thanks go to Local 802 Executive Board Member and harpist Sara Cutler. She was integral to the conception and implementation of this program. I personally thank her for her indefatigable work in ensuring that this program succeeds.

As president of Local 802, I hope to oversee more initiatives like the Emerging Artists Project within our union. As unions face unprecedented pressure across the country, it becomes more important that we think and act creatively to counter those external pressures. This is a good start.

New York Philharmonic Achieves Salary Increases

In March, musicians and management of the New York Philharmonic approved a new three-year contract. Musicians will see a 4.5% salary increase over three years. The musicians, members of Local 802 (New York City) will contribute more toward their health care costs.

“Contract negotiations are never easy, and as a new music director and leadership team take the helm at this institution, it is our hope that this agreement will mark the beginning of a new era, which strives to retain the talent that fuels the institution’s worldwide renown,” says Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi.

Cellist Nathan Vickery, chair of the negotiation committee, adds, “The New York Philharmonic will maintain the high artistic standards that make it world-renowned only when the musicians who make the music each and every night are supported.”

Pension Fund

Pension Fund Information Update

As an officer of the Federation who is also a trustee of our Pension Fund, I am devoting this column to the Pension Fund. Like all of you, I am concerned about the safety of my pension and, like you, I am worried about the Pension Fund’s future. But I assure you that every member of the Board of Trustees is doing our best to protect and preserve the Pension Fund into the future. Please know that the opinion I express here is solely my own and I do not speak on behalf of the other trustees or the fund.

When I became a trustee in August 2010, the fund was beginning its efforts to rebalance its finances and repair the damage done by the 2007-2009 recession. On March 31, 2009, we had an $800 million gap between the pension benefits already earned by members—that is, our liabilities—and the market value of our assets. Over the next five years, the market value of the assets increased by $500 million to $1.8 billion, but our liabilities also increased, by $300 million to $2.4 billion, narrowing the gap between our assets and liabilities by only $200 million (from $800 million to $600 million). That is the single biggest issue facing the Pension Fund.

In 2014, our actuaries provided an Asset-Liability Modeling Study that showed that over a 20-year period, our liabilities were projected to increase dramatically, such that even if we achieved our 7.5% investment return assumption, our funded percentage would be below 50% by 2034 and there would be a serious risk of future insolvency. On the other hand, the study showed that an investment allocation with a higher investment return target would reduce the probability of future insolvency. After lengthy discussion, the trustees increased the allocation of investments to some with the potential for higher returns, recognizing that an investment mix with a higher return potential (albeit with accompanying higher volatility) reduced the probability of insolvency. One of the investments we hoped would give us part of the additional return did not achieve its expected results (although today it is one of the highest performing asset classes in the portfolio). This widened the gap.

So, we have a very serious imbalance in our finances. While there are other contributing factors that exacerbate our situation—the loss in union membership (and corresponding contributions) that mirrors the decline in our participant base; the aging of our population (common among all mature pension funds) reflected in the increase in pensioners and their longer lifespans; and the growing amount of work not done under union contract—the increasing size of this gap between assets and liabilities is the most critical problem we have to solve. Resolving it is essential to our survival.

As an International Executive Officer I participate fully in the AFM’s legislative and political activities. Matters concerning federal legislation are overseen by AFM President Ray Hair and his legislative aide, Alfonso Pollard. I have worked with them consistently regarding the pension bills that have already been submitted, including the Butch Lewis Act introduced by Sherrod Brown and endorsed by the Federation.  The Pension Fund’s actuaries are currently reviewing that bill to confirm that it would help the fund. If so, I will urge my fellow trustees to fully support the bill, and I have every reason to believe that they will enthusiastically do so.

In the meantime, absent new legislation, the only way to address the imbalance between our assets and liabilities is to reduce the liabilities in a manner consistent with current law: the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA). If the fund enters “critical and declining” status, the MPRA allows the trustees to apply to the Treasury Department for approval of an equitable plan of benefit reductions. Should such reductions become both necessary and legally allowable, that plan would be designed consistent with the strict requirements of the law to reduce benefits of those under 80 and those not disabled, but in no case below 110% of the PBGC guarantees. If a participant’s benefit is already below the PBGC guarantee, that benefit cannot be reduced further. 

Since it is unlikely at the moment that investment returns alone will resolve these funding issues, the other trustees and I must consider MPRA restructuring in order to preserve the Pension Fund, reducing benefits for some in order to maintain the viability of the fund for all. While once the fund could afford to pay the high benefits it promised to some of us, it can no longer afford to do that, and recognizing and addressing that fact appears at the moment to be the only option to preserve the fund and as much of our benefits as possible. Since benefit restructuring under the MPRA cannot reduce benefits below the PBGC guarantees, it is clearly preferable to relying on those PBGC guarantees, particularly in light of the PBGC’s own impending insolvency in 2025.

I urge all members to register on the Pension Fund’s website and carefully review the information we post there. We are committed to keeping you informed.

nightlight office

Nightlife Office and Advisory Committee

by Tino Gagliardi, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 802 (New York City)

Across this country, musicians are playing in bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, and other performance spaces in an effort to hone their craft, share their artistry, and make a living. American art, performance, and music have been born, bred, raised, and developed in the nightlife establishments of our cities. These musicians play an outsized role in shaping the cultural heritage of our nation. As a result, the nightlife that drives municipal economies and our nation’s culture, owes a great deal to the musicians and performers of our nightlife industry. Yet, does our society adequately support those individuals who make it vibrant and strong? No.

In New York City we are working on changing that. New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal (Democrat, District 37) recognizes the role that the city’s nightlife industry plays in its economy and began working on legislation that would create an Office of Nightlife and Nightlife Taskforce to address issues frequently faced by nightlife establishments and their communities.

Though this office was originally conceived as a combination industry liaison and issue resolution facilitator between the city, small businesses, and communities, we at Local 802, saw this as an opportunity to provide support for a frequently ignored community of workers that has traditionally been exploited, discriminated against, and undersupported.

With the council member’s support and partnership, we were able to expand the original scope of the office and taskforce, advocating for language in the legislation that would commit the office to addressing workforce issues like wage theft and misclassification, and require them to make policy recommendations that would benefit performers and workers by addressing some of the industry’s unique issues. On August 24, the bill passed. We are closer to the creation of an Office of Nightlife than ever before.

Advocates and performers who live and work in the nightlife scenes of other cities should pay attention—the Office of Nightlife could be worth replicating.

This Office of Nightlife could provide a new type of government partner for performer advocates to work with to address issues that countless musicians face on a nightly basis: exploitation, misclassification, pay-to-play schemes, and more. The challenge is providing the tools with which the office can effectively and efficiently do its job.

There are many agencies and offices that regulate small businesses and mandate specific employment practices and safety requirements. However, the tools available to these agencies often do not apply to the unique nightlife industry or are ineffective in addressing common business practices at bars, restaurants, clubs, and hotels. How do we mandate fair employment at a performance space where it is arguable who the employer legally is? This is just one example of how complicated the nightlife industry is.

If this office is to be impactful, and if other municipalities are to follow New York City’s example, the Nightlife Office must work with locally elected community leaders and administration to develop regulatory mechanisms that empower the director to protect performers who are otherwise unsupported and unprotected. Without impactful regulatory and enforcement frameworks, the city will lack the ability to prevent pay-to-play and unfair employment practices, and will be unable to help us in our work to ensure that all musicians have the opportunity to make a fair living that dignifies the contributions they make to our common cultural heritage.

Luckily, New York City is the perfect test case for such an office. Mayor Bill de Blasio has shown that he understands that the city’s nightlife is an important part of our economy. As a former consumer affairs commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin has experience developing both consumer and worker protections. Council member Espinal has shown sensitivity and appreciation of the challenges that workers and performers face.

These leaders must be applauded for their advocacy and vision. We are extremely hopeful that this office will soon play an important role in advocating for musicians. We will work closely with these leaders and this office to support our union’s agenda—raising the wage floor for musicians and ensuring that New York City remains a place where musicians are celebrated and where performers can live, work, and raise a family. This work is important, not just for New Yorkers, but for musicians across the US.

Building a Partnership with Municipal Government

Conversation leads to common goals and the strength to preserve live music.

“We are only as strong as we are united,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, shortly after his re-election at the NYS AFL-CIO Convention August 22. Naturally, I couldn’t agree more. Musicians need to stand together, if we are to fight against the exploitation of our work and the continued degradation of live music. In solidarity and partnership, there is power.

That lesson should not be applied solely to our membership and our organizing efforts, but  also to our advocacy and partnership work with municipal governments and agencies. By building strong relationships and cultivating new allies and partners, we will identify opportunities to ensure that our towns, cities, and states are places that musicians can create music, while also affording to live and raise a family.

The rewards are great, and it always starts with a conversation.

Here in New York City, we recently had the opportunity to start a new conversation with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) when Commissioner Julie Menin was appointed to lead the agency in March. Though we already had a minor relationship with Commissioner Menin prior to her new appointment, we thought it of vital importance that we extend a hand as she settled into the role. Since that initial meeting the relationship has flourished.

We explained the intricacies of the music industry and the challenges musicians face—from misclassification to affordability, real estate, and the difficulties new technologies present to intellectual property rights. After she detailed her office’s assets and discussed her agenda, it became clear that we shared multiple goals and priorities. We both wanted to bring live music to more people throughout the city, and we both agreed it is vital that live music performance flourishes.

From that point forward, the staff of Local 802 (New York City) and the staff at MOME were able to work together on MOME’s Broadway in the Boros initiative, an unprecedented project to bring Broadway performances to public spaces outside of Manhattan, thereby expanding access to the excitement of Broadway and the power of live music.

From the beginning this was a complicated project; there was no model to follow. Which contract was applicable? Who was producing the show? What constraints do procurement laws place on the payment of musicians? Who should be hired and who is contracting the performances?  All these questions had to be ironed out. But, because of that initial conversation, the team at Local 802 and the staff at MOME were able work stronger together; we knew we shared common goals and could trust one another’s intentions.

Today, the initiative has drawn to a close and we are working with them to agree to a long-term contract in the event that they choose to expand the program to future summers. We certainly hope they do because, not only did this program bring live music to new audiences and new communities, not only did it pay fair wages and contribute to pension and health benefits, but it was an initiative that will serve as an example that municipal governments and agencies can follow in the future.

Musicians are stronger when we are standing together, and even more so when we have allies and partners to stand alongside. When you can find a shared goal, like the preservation and promotion of live music performance, partnerships can flourish!

Support Fair Play, Fair Pay

On April 13, I had the honor of joining members of Congress Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), many well-known musicians, AFM President Ray Hair, and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President David Pomeroy to introduce HR 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015. This federal legislative protection has been a long time coming, and would have a great effect on our members in greater New York, and throughout the country.

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Organizing Means Raising the Profile of the People Making the Music

You can be a musician, and have power in numbers, too. As a union, it is our job to ensure that musicians get fair treatment and are recognized by their employers as the valuable employees that they are. But to do so, we must continue to engage our members and make sure that the general public knows that, if they care about music, they must care about musicians. In any campaign, we must ensure that musicians are both the faces and the motor that keeps it going.

This was very much the case during negotiations with the Metropolitan Opera this year. The MET Orchestra Musicians brought the energy and the exacting nature that they bring to their work every day to the negotiating table. They approached the talks with rigorous, data-driven analysis and found areas where management could achieve real cost savings, while performing grand opera.

It was grueling work for all of us, but it was great to see the level of collaboration amongst the musicians and their solidarity with their coworkers at the MET. It was also clear to anyone who was following the process that opera is still very much alive and well, and that the MET Orchestra Musicians had the support of elected officials, friends, and fans from around the world, all of whom chimed in to express their solidarity.

The musicians were able to raise their profile, via their own website and through social media, and are continuing to engage their fans and build their audiences this way. I am proud of the family they are, of the hard work that they put into their craft every day, and of their incredible and continued teamwork during negotiations. While the agreement calls for sacrifices on both sides, it is unprecedented among arts organizations in that it calls for a new level of financial oversight and includes a mechanism for artists to collaborate in finding meaningful efficiencies.

When Local 802 (New York City) member Jimmy Owens testified at a City Council hearing about the plight of older musicians in jazz clubs, he did something no one but a musician could do: he reached for his flugelhorn, and played “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” to a rapt audience. It was a moment that reminded everyone present about the power of live music. The attention he and other musicians garnered helped the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign achieve a new goal this year. In October, the New York City Council passed a resolution supporting Justice for Jazz Artists, which seeks, through collective bargaining, to improve the lives of musicians working in New York City’s jazz clubs by addressing workplace issues, including providing retirement security.

Once again, the musicians were front and center. Local 802 members testified at a City Council hearing about the hardships of older jazz musicians who have not received pensions, performed at the resolution’s passage, and later, gathered with council members on the steps of City Hall. The musicians’ commitment and passion garnered much attention, and now more people than ever are supporting this campaign. This kind of support will help push New York’s major jazz clubs to do the right thing, and will hopefully lead to similar campaigns in other cities.

In the coming year, it is important for us to bring the same energy to other campaigns. We must ensure that working musicians are treated fairly in venues such as casinos, which have a growing presence in New York and in areas throughout the country. We must also ensure that, in areas where there are generous state and federal government tax incentives for film companies, there are also strong campaigns. We must educate the public about the problem of companies who receive such benefits outsourcing musicians’ jobs to London and Bratislava. Once again, it will be important to ensure that our musicians are front and center in these efforts, and to build strong coalitions with other stakeholders who care about these issues. Musicians have power, and our members were reminded of that fact this year. It is our job to make sure they don’t forget about the power they have and what they can accomplish when they work together.