Let me express my congratulations to all the winning candidates in our recent election, my gratitude to the membership for placing their confidence in me and my thanks to those members of the former administration who assisted in the transition process. Many challenges lie ahead for Local 802 and it is my intention to work with the entire membership toward our common goal: improving the future of the music profession and of all members. Let me outline a few of the steps that have been taken already.
The other full-time officers and I are already meeting to revise the budget and restructure our staff. The focus will be to adjust our finances in response to the increases in health benefits and to immediately rejuvenate the Organizing Department. The future strength of Local 802 depends upon the successful pursuit of nonunion employers who undermine the wage and benefit standards of our members and further weaken our benefit funds. By next month, I hope to have a plan in place that brings in an experienced director of organizing and focuses on two areas: nonunion concert work and nonunion club dates. We must particularly take into account the fall-out from the bankruptcy of the Steven Scott office.
Vice Presidents Blumenthal and Dennison and I have also begun a review of our needs in the areas of legal resources, public relations and political action. Given that the search process has just begun, it is too soon to determine exactly what recommendations we will bring to the new Executive Board, but my intention is to have a legal team in place by the middle of January who will have the full confidence of both the board and of the bargaining units that are due for negotiations in the near future. As far as public relations and political action are concerned, I intend, as I stated during the campaign, to find a person who can bring much more rank-and-file participation in this area. We must devise and implement a plan to efficiently use the funds set aside for public relations, rather than allowing those funds to be used in an unfocused, ad hoc manner. We also need those members who are interested in politics to become involved on behalf of our union. We have good relationships with a number of legislators; we need those relationships to be strengthened and multiplied so that we are in a position to lobby for the legislation we need to protect the livelihoods of our members.
It is also gratifying to report that many officers from other entertainment unions have already begun to reach out to us to continue positive relations. I welcome their partnership in fighting for the livelihoods of our members. In the long term, it will take a coordinated battle on many fronts to preserve live music for future generations. That means fighting for many things: support for live music from audiences as a result of carefully crafted public relations activities; support from friendly legislators in the form of funding for the arts or “truth in advertising” legislation to reveal the presence of emulation (and to shame producers into reducing their use of it); support from and for other unions; and, ultimately, strategic partnerships and mergers, if necessary, to increase our bargaining leverage. We must take on this fight. Now that the election has clarified the direction the membership wishes to take, let us fight together against our common enemies.
In closing, let me say that we must heal the divisions that the last year created among us and I believe that is the desire of parties on both sides of the election. You have my pledge that I will try to foster that healing and that my door is open to all of the membership as we go forward. It is my sincere hope that, at the end of the next three years, our members will conclude that they chose well when they placed their confidence in this administration.