By FREDI WASHINGTON PV's Theatrical Editor April 27, 1946 p. 26
IT WAS THE ISSUE of April 13 that this column devoted itself to the violently anti-union Lea Bill which openly cripples the American Federation of Musicians and strikes every union in the country below the belt. At that time, the bill had been passed by both Houses and remained only for the President to sign, making it law. The Independent Citizens' Committee, Local 802 (belatedly) interested musicians and their friends flooded the White House with telegrams and protests in an effort to get the President to veto the bill. The attempt failed and so now we have more anti-labor legislation, and we might just as well know and with full impact, just what this bill means in terms of the working man's bread and butter. Before we get started on this business of bread and butter for working men, let us understand that musicians are working folks and they, like those who dig ditches are dependent on organized labor for decent working conditions and pay. This talk of artists living in a world all their own with special privileges, is just so much tommy rot. There are a few, yes, who live on the fat of the land, but, like the rest of humanity, the musician's lot is cast mostly with that of the common man.
There are far too few musicians who are aware of what is happening to their livelihood. Those who do understand are mostly guys like Teddy Bartel, a trumpet player and ex-GI who saw three and one-half years' service in the Pacific. At an impromptu meeting in the hiring hall of Local 802 (largest local in the union) Bartel told some of his fellow-musicians: "Don't think this isn't going to affect other unions. They say it's just Petrillo, and it's just musicians. But it takes away our right to strike and that means we don't have any bargaining power to better our conditions. And if they can do that to musicians, they can do it to any union. They're out to get labor don't kid yourself."
Brother, Bartel knows what he is talking about. A Congress, most of which seems to know little and care less about the needs of the people it represents, passed this law using James C. Petrillo, president of the national musicians' union as a blind.
Congress says Petrillo is a dictator, he is unreasonable, he is unfair to the employer, he must be stymied. And because there are a lot of folks holding down legislative seats in Washington who know nothing of musicians and their problems other than what they have heard from some irresponsible source, they are all putting a crimp in Petrillo's style. They did not know nor did they take the time to find out that what they actually did by passing the Lea Bill, was to make it possible for managers to fire musicians throughout the country and lower minimum wage standards. There is nothing to stop radio from using transcriptions or recordings free of charge while displacing live musicians.
The Lea act makes it a crime punishable by a year's imprisonment and up to $1,000 fine to force radio broadcasters to hire more employes [sic] than they want, pay for services not performed, pay unions for use of phonograph records and rebroadcasting records of a previous program, or interfere with broadcasting of foreign, cultural or educational programs.
Edward Ross, drummer, told Betty Goldstein of the Federated Press: "Figure it out yourself. The union had a rule if a radio station used a record instead of real music, it had to employ a certain amount of men anyway. If a big radio corporation, making a tremendous amount of money, figures it can make some more by not employing musicians and using canned music, they'll do it. Now we can't stop them. We'll lose our jobs."
Yes, boys, I'm afraid we are going to find the big boys who run the show are going to take full advantage of their new right-of-way. And you Negro musicians need not think that simply because you are not employed as regulars in the radio and movie studios in numbers, that this law will not affect you. It will. Your job security is definitely tied to that of all musicians. If you think this insidious campaign will not trickle down to dance halls, night clubs, theatres, etc., then you've got another think [sic] coming.
Remember, one of your biggest sources of income is recordings. Don't think this law will not affect your minimum standards. Your fight for more outlets for your talents and a chance to better your earning power is made fifty percent more difficult by the passing of this law.
We have talked before about the indifference of the Negro musician to his own welfare. It is this indifference to a great extent, which makes possible the fact that only two Class "A" spots are open to them in this city. If we don't watch out, the reaction to this law will close all "A" spots to Negroes.
What are you going to do about it, boys? There is but one thing to do as I see it and that is take an active part in your union. Press for equitable distribution of jobs through your union. Call for a reclassification of job locations. Demand that your union stop going along with those brokers and promoters who tie up the best spots for their sole attractions which do not include you. This CAN and MUST be done if you are not to be the first fired and the last to be hired.
I'm concerned 'cause my husband toots a horn, too.