By FREDI WASHINGTON PV's Theatrical Editor April 13, 1946 p. 26
JUST SO LONG AS THE INDEPENDENT CITIZENS' COMMITTEE of the Arts, Sciences and Professions is in existence, the memory and works of the late President Roosevelt's first memorial, this young, vigorous committee gives mute testimony to its determination that the program for which he died shall be carried out.
Just one of the ways in which the ICC is fighting for these works, is its current fight to get vetoed the dastardly, anti-labor Lea Bill which would lose for the American Federation of Musicians members, many of the gains made under Mr. Roosevelt's administration. This bill has been passed by the House and Senate, and comes, within ten days, to President Truman for his acceptance or rejection. To have the President reject the Lea bill is the aim of the committee and for this purpose, a large delegation of musicians and artists made a trek to the capitol last Monday.
This was not the only purpose of this call meeting by the Music Division of ICC last Sunday night. The question of discrimination within the American Federation of Musicians and those managers and agencies who control the work of musicians on the airwaves, night clubs, movies, etc., held a significant spot on the agenda. To bring home the picture of what is actually happening in this regard, Phil Moore, ex-MGM staff arranger, composer and band leader now appearing at one of the 52 st spots, told of the jimcro setup within the union throughout the country.
Moore said: "There are two musicians' unions in Los Angeles, as there are in practically every principal city in the country except New York--one white, one Negro." The two locals operate in the same jurisdiction and get on well as long as the members stay in their own zones--zones that are set up by the white locals. The best spots in every branch of music are reserved for the white musicians. Of course the scale (money) is higher than for those third rate spots reserved for the Negro. Even in cosmopolitan New York, said Moore, "there is only one Negro working with any consistency in the New York theatres. There are but two 'Class A' night clubs--the Zanzibar and Cafe Society Uptown--who hire Negro bands."
As far as radio is concerned, the one Negro, Eddie Barfield, who had been a regular (purely token) in a studio band at American Broadcasting (WJZ) for nearly four years, was let out recently. Here the stories conflicted as to the reason for the dismissal. Moore's information from ICC who had investigated the matter, was that the studio was giving a veteran back his job. William Fienberg, secretary of Local 802, who was present, said the reason given the local was that the director was replacing the instrument (sax) which Barfield plays, with violins. In any case, it was generally conceded that the real reason was discrimination since Barfield holds seniority over any number of white musicians who have been hired more recently than Barfield.
This is pretty generally the situation which obtains for Negroes, whether it be radio, movies, dance halls, theatres or night clubs. It was pretty appalling to learn from Phil (though surely you know but just hadn't summed it up) that in this vast country of ours, "there are only four or five 'Class A' spots, including night clubs, hotels, and ballrooms today, that will play a Negro band."
You might ask then, where do bands like Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, etc., work when they are in not in New York? The answer is, these are the bands (and, mind you, they are considered the best on the Negro side of the ledger) which get a crack at the few "Class A" spots, but they must wedge them in between the Negro vaudeville houses, southern warehouses, civic auditoriums, etc., in order to make up the vacuum of better spots to ply their trade and earn a decent living.
Reams of copy could be written about this one phase of the business alone, but for the moment we will concentrate on what the committee intends doing about this disgraceful situation. Well, in the first place, there will be a full investigation of the Barfield case, carrying with it a demand that he be reinstated in his job. This will be done jointly by Local 802 and ICC. Then the Music Division of ICC will ask Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians, to bring to the floor of the next convention, a request that there be but one local in each town throughout the United States.
This would abolish the jimcro unions now in existence. Also an effort will be made to see that the union itself puts up a fight to open more "Class A" spots to Negro musicians, put the radio industry on the spot as well as the advertising agencies which control commercial programs and in general break down all the stock reasons which are so cleverly devised for keeping out of good jobs, Negro musicians.
It was not made too clear how this will be done but if one is to judge by past performances of ICC, there is every reason to believe that no time will be lost in putting into operation a well laid program to bring about the desired results. We ought not to forget, though, that while ICC has the facilities for organizing such a plan, it is the duty and indeed a necessity that every musician who holds a union card, join ICC's Music Division and give his moral and active support to the fight.
And while they are about it, it might be well for musicians to interest themselves in their union affairs and find out for themselves what goes and why. Remember, boys, you pay the dues, but you are not getting the same results from your dues as your white brethren. Had you thought of that?