Yesterday, the New York City Council passed Resolution 207 A supporting our campaign on behalf of talented New York City 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 by providing retirement security though fair pay, pension contributions, protection of their recording rights and a reasonable process for addressing grievances.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Majority Leader and Cultural Affairs Committee Chair Jimmy Van Bramer, and Council Members Laurie Cumbo, Corey Johnson, Robert Cornegy Jr. and Carlos Menchaca joined musicians Bob Cranshaw, Jimmy Owens, Keisha St. Joan, Larry Ridley, Bernard Purdie, Art Baron, Scott Robinson, Joe Lovano, Jon-Erik Kellso, James Chirillo, Ras Moshe and Dan Block after the vote passed along with other musicians and campaign supporters in City Council chambers. Musicians and supporters continued onto the steps of City Hall to celebrate this milestone in the J4JA campaign.
In recognizing Justice for Jazz Artists, members of the New York City Council joined a growing number of voices calling for New York City’s major jazz clubs to do right by the jazz musicians who play regularly in these venues. In addition to high profile endorsements in the past few weeks, the campaign also received favorable press attention fromThe New York Times, The Nation, The Village Voice and many others.
The top jazz artists in the world live and work in New York City—yet many older jazz musicians are forced to retire in poverty. Even those musicians who play frequently in the most prestigious and profitable jazz clubs are denied basic benefits and pensions. While musicians who play on Broadway and in symphony orchestras are protected by union contracts, jazz musicians are not. Though the top jazz clubs in New York City profit greatly from the musicians that bring in their customers, they have refused to work with musicians in a productive way to address pensions or any other work-related issues. The vote yesterday was a great step in the right direction, but J4JA urges management of NYC’s affluent clubs once again to come to the table to discuss common sense measures to help musicians in need of basic economic fairness and security.
“Thank you to all the council members who voted to support us and all the working musicians out there,” said Bob Cranshaw, longtime bass player for Sonny Rollins and the most recorded bass player in Blue Note Records history. “A pension plan for those musicians who are working is essential, for our children and their children. Poverty is a real problem among jazz musicians. The jazz clubs and the musicians need to talk—that’s what we are asking—that the clubs sit down with us. We need to come together as a city and realize it is in the best interest of all of us to support and sustain jazz music and jazz musicians.”
“Jazz musicians need pensions—they need to enjoy the same benefits received by their brother and sister musicians on Broadway and in the symphonic field,” said trumpet player and educator Jimmy Owens. “I thank the City Council for your support, and now I urge the clubs to answer this growing call to do the right thing: meet with the musicians who play in your clubs every night, and who make you millions of dollars in revenue. The time is now! Answer the call!”
“I know personally of many jazz artists, people who were quite famous, who did not have adequate resources at the end of their lives,” said jazz singer and bandleader Keisha St. Joan. “I would like to thank the members of the City Council, especially Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Member Laurie Cumbo and Council Member Corey Johnson, and the many prominent musicians, elected officials, writers, journalists and others who have spoken out in favor of Justice for Jazz Artists and pushed this fight forward. It’s now up to the major jazz clubs to meet with the musicians and pay into pensions for their workers. If we love the music, we must love the musicians.”
John O’Connor, Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM Recording Vice President, said: “Today the New York City Council has formally recognized that musicians who have provided us with one of the world’s great art forms have been deprived of a major benefit that musicians working in other fields rely on. While we acknowledge the important role the clubs have made in advancing the art of jazz, we must also recognize that it is the responsibility of those who employ these musicians to help correct this historic injustice. Now it is up to the clubs to do the right thing, and meet with the musicians who have made them millions of dollars over the years, and discuss mechanisms that will fairly compensate musicians for their work and allow them to retire with dignity.”
Council Members Van Bramer, Johnson, and Cumbo spoke forcefully in support of workplace rights for hard-working jazz musicians:
“Today the Justice for Jazz Campaign has taken an important step toward ensuring jazz artists areafforded the respect they are due and can retire with dignity,” said Council Member Van Bramer, Chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee. “This campaign is about achieving equity by taking a
stand against the inequalities that currently plague New York’s jazz industry. Jazz musicians should not be denied their employees’ rights as their hard work contributes to enriching the lives of New Yorkers, stimulating the economy and maintaining our City as the preeminent international destination to experience culture and the arts. The passage of this resolution sends a strong message that momentum is building and we will not stop fighting until justice for jazz artists is realized.”
“For too long, jazz musicians who play at some of New York’s most well-known clubs have not had the opportunity to attain workplace protections, including pensions,” said Council Member Corey Johnson in City Council chambers following the vote. “The resolution passed by the City Council today endorses the Jazz for Justice campaign, and will hopefully get jazz club operators to negotiate with musicians that keep their club doors open and their pockets lined. Jazz musicians deserve to retire with dignity, and clubs should work with musicians to give them the protections they deserve.”
“Today, we send the message loud and clear: jazz artists who contribute to the unique cultural experience
that attracts tourists and locals to venues across New York City annually deserve economic stability to support themselves and their families,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo. “The venues where these musicians work must help protect the livelihood of our musicians and ensure that the arts continue to flourish within our communities.”
J4JA thanks the New York City Council as well as our tireless supporters who spend their time fighting for a better future for those who keep this great art form alive.
Fairness. Dignity. Respect. Now’s the Time.