October 9, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The French production company that still owes over 100 union musicians roughly $40,000 in wages and benefits for performances recorded during last January's NYC Winter Jazzfest, was jeered as a bunch of “liars, cheaters and scoundrels,” on the streets of Midtown, Manhattan this week.
Leaders from Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, Councilman Corey Johnson [D-3rd District], and some of the players still waiting to for their earnings, protested on Thursday afternoon outside the Madison Avenue offices of Lagardère Unlimited, the multi-national media company that owns Mezzo TV.
French Production Company KIDAM sold Mezzo TV the rights to broadcast a series of Jazz concerts recorded last winter at the Bitter End and Subculture here in NYC. Those shows have subsequently begun broadcasting throughout Europe, even though the musicians involved with them have yet to be paid previously agreed upon wages and benefits.
“We have to call out liars, cheaters and scoundrels,” Councilman Johnson said. “And that is what is going on here today. KIDAM owes over 100 musicians wages and other monies associated with their work and they have failed to pay.”
A lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of the musicians is currently winding its way through the judicial process, but Local 802 decided that KIDAM and its broadcast associates needed to be brought before the court of public opinion as well.
“I think this is really indicative that even when a company signs an agreement to pay musicians, they’ll still just skip town,” said Maggie Russell-Brown, Local 802’s director of organizing. “If they’re doing this to the union — you can imagine what they’re doing without a union agreement. We’re going to put the call out that they’re not good to musicians — both in the United States and internationally.”
Bassist Melvin Gibbs, a working musician since the late 1970s, who has yet to be paid for his Winter Jazzfest performances, expressed profound disappointment in the French broadcasters.
“The relationship between Jazz musicians and France is a very important one,” Gibbs said. “France is a country that has always supported Jazz — it’s a part of their culture. So, this makes it more disappointing because you wouldn’t expect this from them.”
LaborPress is currently attempting to reach Lagardère for comment.
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