The American Federation of Musicians, Local 802 (Associated Musicians of Greater New York) is the largest local of professional musicians in the world. As of 2011, it represents approximately 10,000 members in and around New York City. Members work in many fields of music: rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, Latin, concert, theater, club date, night club, ballroom and symphonic. They are also instrumentalists, copyists, arrangers, orchestral librarians, proofreaders, and editors. Additionally, Local 802 regularly demonstrates solidarity with fellow unions (particularly other entertainment unions) and is deeply involved in lobbying for union rights.
Local 802 was chartered on August 27, 1921. Its immediate predecessor was Local 310 of the AFM which held an independent charter from the State of New York. When Local 310 struck New York theaters against the wishes of AFM President Joseph N. Weber, the AFM set up the new Local 802.
From 1921-1934 Local 802 was under AFM trusteeship. A Congressional investigation into labor racketeering in 1934 prompted President Joseph N. Weber to permit the local to elect its own officers. By 1935 Local 802 was operating autonomously and opened its Long Island office. Members of Local 802 were employed wherever there was live musical entertainment. The union had a closed shop, oversaw all musicians' contracts and zealously brought up members on charges whenever the union rules were violated. During the 1920's and 1930's this included not only symphony and opera performance, but theater orchestras, restaurants, night clubs, hotel ballrooms, catering establishments, parades, amusement parks, funerals and radio broadcasts.
In 1928 there were 15,500 members in Local 802; by 1940 the membership had grown to 21,300. At its height in the 1950's and 1960's there were well over 30,000 members of Local 802.
The AFM was in litigation throughout the 1960's with the NLRB trying to settle the definitions of employer and employee in the entertainment business. Some adverse rulings made it difficult for the union to organize hotels and nightclubs. In the early 1960's the side musicians who played single club dates objected to the slowness of bargaining benefits and wage improvements and demanded speedier negotiations with board leaders who were employers. At the same time many full time professional musicians felt that the union leadership was using the part time membership to maintain control.
A reform movement in Local 802 arose between 1964-1966, but was not successful in capturing any major leadership positions. Nevertheless, between 1966-1980, there were some important reforms: 802 contracts had to be ratified by membership; a credit union was established in 1967; an emergency relief fund was developed; and an active rank and file committee system was established in the by laws. Formal opposition to Local 802's leadership emerged in 1980, instigated by classical, club date and recording musicians. The caucus called itself the MEMBERS party, an acronym for Make Every Musician Benefit from Efficient Responsible Service. In the 1982 election the MEMBERS party, led by John Glasel, was able to make an almost clean sweep of the Executive Board.
One of the Glasel Administration's first acts was to create a department of public relations and legislative affairs under Judy West, who served as its director from 1983-2000. At the same time, organizing campaigns targeting jazz musicians were stepped up, becoming one of the major activities of Local 802 in the following two decades. Glasel was succeeded by Bill Moriarity the Secretary of Local 802 in 1993. In 2003, David Lennon was elected unopposed, but lost the 2006 election to Mary Landolfi. Local 802 has been led by Tino Gagliardi since 2010.
In recent years, Local 802 has worked to address the impact of computers and the internet on musicians' livelihoods. It has also been involved in attempting to solidify the precarious financial condition of its parent union.