The League and the union are locked in heated negotiations over a new pact regulating musicians' work in Broadway orchestras. The main sticking point has been the union's insistence on minimums, a long-standing contract requirement that sometimes makes a Broadway musical employ more musicians than the show needs.
William Moriarty of Local 802 told Playbill On-Line that no progress had been made on minimums or any other contract issue. The musicians union contract expires on March 2.
As previously reported, theatre producers are preparing for a possible strike by exploring the use of recorded music in Broadway shows. Local 802 has spotlighted this possibility in their print and radio ads.
"They're using the idea that we're trying to use recorded music to deflect from the real issue, which is minimums," argued a League spokesperson. "The stance of the League is: It is the right of the composers and the creative team to determine how many people are needed to play a particular show."
The spokesperson added: "We're committed to live music." The union contends that minimums are needed to ensure the presence of live orchestras on Broadway. The thinking goes that the potential exists for a producer to say only a handful of musicians is needed, and the musicians chosen might then be keyboardists working at synthesizers creating a larger sound — a sound that would normally be created by 20 people.
Moriarty said the union planned no more ads, but was preparing to meet with Coalition for Broadway Unions and Guilds (COBUG) on Feb. 19. COBUG was created in January and is made up of 13 Broadway unions and guilds. Moriarty has been busy corralling the other unions' support of Local 802's position. The local is banking that, should there be a strike, fellow theatrical unions will stick by them and not cross the picket line.
So far, however, the major unions have been noncommittal. Actors' Equity has yet to take a stance. Equity's Alan Eisenberg told Playbill On-Line that a decision might come if talks "get down to crisis mode, whenever that is." An Equity council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20.
Equity has not met with Broadway producers. The league requested an appearance before the council, but the wish was not granted.
As previously reported, another issue on the bargaining table is the involvement of music copyists. The League has tried to force copyists from the bargaining unit before and is making a concerted effort to achieve that end this time around.