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Justice for Jazz Artists, What No Minimum Wage & No Pension?
John O'Connor, Vice President AFM's Local 802
Keisha St. Joan, jazz vocalist
N.Y. City’s musicians’ union has been leafleting outside The Blue
Note, a major jazz club, in a campaign to gain pension benefits
and a minimum wage for jazz artists. The disagreement between
the union and club owners dates back to 2005, when union
leaders and the night clubs successfully lobbied the NYS
Legislature for a reduction in the sales tax on tickets with the
extra revenue to be used to pay for pension and health benefits
for the artists. While jazz has been recognized by the U.S.
Congress as “America’s National Treasure,” and clubs like the
Blue Note, Birdland, the Jazz Standard, Iridium and the Village
Vanguard are still filling seats and charging hefty prices, the jazz
players find themselves facing old age with no pension and little
in the way of Social Security, since much of their pay was in cash
and off the books. “It’s just a sin that we have no pension,” said
Keisha St. Joan, 72, a jazz vocalist who was distributing leaflets.
“I will not have a pension before I die.”
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