American exceptionalism

I’ll admit to finding the Right’s fixation on the concept of American exceptionalism quite disturbing. But there is no other country in the world in which the article below could appear in a union publication. There’s likely no other city in the world in which it could appear either, of course – but, as the Right hates to admit, New York City is quintessentially American.

Volume 111  No. 2
February,  2011

Let’s Stabilize the Jewish Club Date Field
Organizing Matters

by Michael Donovan

The contract expired last year – it’s time to get the ball rolling again

Local 802 has recently been working on stabilizing the Jewish club date field. The contract expired last year and after looking at the employers’ onerous proposals along with the downturn in the economy, we set up a meeting with the rank-and file-musicians who work in this field. We began negotiations again on Jan. 31. The Jewish Club Date Committee met prior to the negotiations.

Neginah Orchestra owes $78K to union health fund

An unfair labor practice was filed against the Neginah Orchestra last October in order to recoup $78,000 owed to the Local 802 Health Fund. Since the expiration of the contract, Neginah has failed to pay the required health benefit contributions for its musicians. Though the contract had expired on July 31, 2009, Neginah was still legally obliged to preserve the status quo. The charge is pending before the Public Employee Relations Board, the successor to the New York State Employment Relations Board.

Shelley Lang faces union lawsuit

In addition to the ULP, Local 802 attorney Harvey Mars has filed a civil lawsuit against Neginah’s owner Shelly Lang in federal court. The suit contends that Lang breached his fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The suit alleges that Shelly Lang misappropriated funds intended for musicians’ health benefit contributions and that by so doing Lang should be held personally liable for those monies as well as for penalties and interest assessed under ERISA. The case went before the Eastern District Court in Brooklyn on Jan. 25. We’ll keep you posted.

Collection efforts against Barak Orchestra

Last June, a federal court judgment in the amount of $39,631.21 was obtained against Barak Orchestra for health benefit contributions owed to the Local 802 Health Fund. The fund is engaged in active collection efforts to satisfy this judgment.

Dean Karahalis faces unfair labor charge

Dean Karahalis, president of the Concert Pops of Long Island, has yet to file a contract for the Tilles Center concert of Oct. 2, 2010. Musicians performing in the Idina Menzel show had work dues deducted from their paychecks that were not forwarded to the union. An unfair labor practice charge has been filed against Mr. Karahalis, who had promised to file the job as well as the recent “Video Games Live” performance on Jan. 29, also at the Tilles center.

Aaron Teitelbaum does the right thing

While the field still remains in flux there are a few bright spots. One such bright spot is the filing of contracts from the newest signatory, Aaron Teitelbaum Productions (ATP). Aaron, the former office manger and contractor for Neginah Orchestras, has formed a new Jewish club date office. Principal Business Rep Peter Voccola had a number of conversations with Teitelbaum regarding having ATP file jobs as a union signatory. Teitelbaum had conversations with his musicians and all agreed that by being a union signatory, ATP would have access to the best musicians working in the Jewish field. Teitelbaum agreed that ATP will file contracts retroactively from July 1, 2010 and pay health benefits on those contracts. It was also agreed that ATP would pay pension on contracts starting Oct. 1, 2010, which is when the season resumed work. Aaron also wanted to make sure that his core musicians would not lose their health benefits in the process of changing employers, so Teitelbaum agreed that ATP would file LS-1 contracts to keep the musicians on Plan A of the health benefits plan.

Marianne Bennett may sign with union

Business reps Rich Schilio and Peter Voccola recently met with Marianne Bennett of Marianne Bennett Productions to discuss the possibility of her becoming a signatory to the Club Date Agreement.

Recent contract wins

  • The Patti Lupone Show at the Tilles Center on Dec. 11 was under a single engagement contract. Lupone’s Laura Skolnick came to Local 802 and had the contract explained to her by Pete Voccola and Rich Schilio.
  • Yaakov Shwekey’s Beacon Theater performance on Dec. 19 was performed under a union contract.
  • The Three Irish Tenors’ December reunion tour at the Beacon Theater on Dec. 16 was performed under a single engagement agreement.


Most musicians who play single engagements in New York know that there is a separate Jewish wedding scene in New York – especially in Brooklyn. And at these kinds of weddings, the bride, groom and guests want a specific type of music – not typical club date music. Therefore, the Jewish single engagement scene is a distinct part of the club date industry. It’s actually so different that Local 802 has a separate agreement covering Jewish single engagements. Many observant Jews – even many secular Jews – don’t get married from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown (the Sabbath). Therefore, Sunday is the big wedding day in this field and it pays a premium in our contract. (As a contrast, in our standard club date contract, Saturday night scale is the premium payday.) Since many musicians work in both fields, the union tries to maintain a close relationship between the “secular” club date contact and the Jewish single engagement contract. If you work for a club date agency – Jewish or otherwise – that isn’t paying pension or health benefits, make a confidential call to the Organizing Department at (212) 245-4802, ext. 141. Help us make your job better.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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  • New York City also has something like a 40% abortion rate, which skyrockets even more within certain minority demographics. Meh…if this is quintessentially American, I’ll pass.


    The Right

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