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Musicians Win Union Coverage for HBO Miniseries

The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) confirms that Home Box Office (HBO) has agreed to cover musicians working on the period drama “The Gilded Age,” under the AFM’s TV Film Agreement.

Musicians who were hired to sideline on the production were told their compensation would be based on union rates but then discovered there was no contract in place and that they would not be guaranteed appropriate pay, benefits, and other protections for their services. When musicians demanded recognition and representation by their union, they were called to a meeting and fired.

“The producers of the HBO miniseries ‘The Gilded Age’ hired a large group of accomplished musicians, well-versed in the musical style of the period, to give their show authenticity,” states AFM International President Ray Hair. “When our musicians realized they were not working under an AFM contract, they stood up to a global media company and made them do the right thing. HBO will now be prevented from bullying musicians into accepting substandard wages, benefits, and conditions.”

“Emerging from the pandemic, we’re all eager to work, see colleagues, and play for live audiences. It is more important than ever to stand up together as artists, stand up for the quality of music we offer, and not be taken advantage of as musicians,” says William Hakim, violist and member of Local 802 (New York City). “I feel so proud to have stood unified with all my amazing fellow musicians, in the face of losing the work, being told by the HBO producers and casting that it was never going to happen, and then emerge victorious. I am proud that any future work that musicians provide for this show will now be protected under an AFM contract.”

Musicians from the tri-state area are scheduled to film May 26-27 in downtown Troy, New York.

The AFM is grateful for the solidarity of our sister unions SAG-AFTRA, Teamsters Local 817, Writers Guild of America East and the New York State AFL-CIO. Additionally, the AFM recognizes “The Gilded Age” actors who stood with the musicians and insisted their rights as union members be respected.

The AFM also wants to thank the New York State legislators for standing up for musicians and the rights of all working people. Statements of support were received from New York State Legislators: Assemblymember John McDonald (108th Assembly District), Assemblymember Patricia A. Fahy (109th Assembly District), Assemblymember Carrie Woerner (113th Assembly District), Assemblymember Phil Steck (110th Assembly District), Senator Neil D. Breslin (44th Senate District), Senator Brad Hoylman, and U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko (20th District of New York).