Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Some Pro Union Responses...

JP Farrington writes:
So the way you get to the bottom of things is you go to Chaim and ask him if the union's allegations are true? That's real investigative reporting. Hard to understand your complaint about the union doing nothing for musicians, when after several years they are actually trying to do something and musicians like you take them to task for it. Everything the union says about Chaim I am sure is true, including the contradictory statements that he is paying scale and not paying scale. He's doing both! That's the point. He entices certain musicians he likes for certain chairs and exploits the rest. He is the typical exploiter. Divide and conquer. But hey, don't take my word for it. Ask Chaim. I'm sure he'll tell you the whole truth. Then you can proudly carry his water for him. God save us musicians from your kind of truth seeker.
Actually, I asked Rosenblatt about some allegations the union made that were, in the main, absurd on their face. There is a lot of resentment at Rosenblatt/Evenal within the industry for their undercutting, yet, in several years of hearing complaints, and playing on other bandstands with these musicians, I have yet to hear of even ONE musician who claims that he was paid under scale, let alone that he was shorted, stiffed, booked for two gigs on a Sunday, then switched to a twi. etc. These are complaints I hear regularly about certain bands. When people talk about offices that have stiffed them, the top offenders have been union bands. (To be clear: I'm not claiming that all union bands mistreat their workers. Only, that the biggest offenders in this regard in the "frum" industry have all been union shops. Everyone in the field knows this.)

It seems to me that there ought to be a case the union can make, without misrepresentations or distortions. If you'd like to write a guest post about why "frum" musicians should join the union, I'd be happy to post it.

Jordan Hirsch writes:
I think that the complaints of union inaction against Barock are well founded, to a point. One of the things you have to realize is that the union can only go after employers for stiffing musicians if the musicians inform the union about it. In fact, when that has hjappened in the past, the union has been very effective in getting the money. But a lot of times, musicians are reluctant to go to the union because they are afraid of retaliation by their employers. Unfortunately, the union was not focussed on the Jewish Club date field for about four years, in the previous administration.

But all this talk of above scale makes me laugh. There would be no scale to pay above if the union, with the support of musicians, did not negotiate for it. The Union, in fact, any Union, is only as good as the interest of the members in getting involved. When musicians have gotten involved, the Union has done amazing things. By the way, it is not just scale that is secured by the Union negotiators, but Pension and health benefits. In other words, the Union can make it possible for the music business to be a professional endeavor, not just a way to pick up extra income. Chaim Rosenblatt does not pay a cent into anyone's pension. Unions are a fantastic way to make the needs of the musicians heard, but it can only happen if the musicians are willing to be involved.

You are too young toremember when scale was $89.00 for four hours, and overtime was paid at a little less than time. Now scale is much higher, and will get higher still if musicians are willing to make a commitment to working together. And overtime is paid at time plus 20%, which frankly happened because I was on a commitee that made it happen. Scale does not just magically appear, it has to be fought for.

That's just the beginning of my response. Feel free to ask me any questions.
I've invited Jordan to guest post. I hope he does.

Jordan's response actually highlights one of the issues with the union, which is, that although it is supposed to protect members from exploitation by management, it really can't when management is booking a lot of work.

With regard to the idea of musicians not complaining to the union for fear of retaliation.... even without complaints, the union ought to have known something was wrong and acted. We're talking years of non-payments here. It shouldn't take a complaint (and this was public knowledge in the industry) to get the union to do something.

I agree with Jordan that there would be no scale without the union. I'm going to leave the discussion of scale for a separate post.