A New Perspective

Views from the Board

Volume CVI, No. 10October, 2006

Andy Schwartz

Greetings from the Executive Board. I am your newest board member, having been appointed to fill the vacancy left by Bill Rohdin, who has now become the assistant to the president. I am extremely grateful to be picked for this position — and even more so that the board approved the appointment unanimously.

My new level of union participation comes after two elected terms on the Trial Board and considerable involvement on the current Theatre Committee and State of Broadway subcommittee, and is the culmination of 34 years of membership in Local 802.

Although my perspective from the board may be limited due to my recent appointment, perhaps this newness will permit me to view the goings-on with some measure of objectivity and without excessive bias.

My first impression is that we have in place an Executive Board composed of highly intelligent and deeply committed members. The combined experience of this group is formidable, and the insight generated during discussions reflects a diversity of experience, strongly held beliefs, and considered opinions.

As many of you realize by now, our union is in the midst of great unrest, with accusations and charges flying back and forth between those officers and members who have chosen to align themselves in one of two camps.

In conversation with members I have noted that many are unaware of — or only partly informed about — the issues dividing us.

It is my hope that we will all make every effort to understand the forces at work at this time and to calmly and carefully assess what is put before us.

The future of our workforce should not be jeopardized by internal politics, and we must now focus our energies and financial resources on standing firm against the wave of number-crunching corporate entertainment entities that seek to marginalize us.

This should be our real fight — not a fight among our own ranks.

Parenthetically, having spent nearly five years as an administrator at a major international record company, I was able to observe first hand — from the “belly of the beast,” if you will — the prevailing business mindset that negatively affects all artists. It was a real education, and I hope to bring some of the insight gained in that environment to our discussions.

Of further concern to me is the apparent loss of civility in the boardroom. We are all first and foremost colleagues. Our interest in serving the membership should bind us together, regardless of our opinions. Without such cooperation, the business that you elect the board to handle falls prey to pettiness and political maneuvering. I hope that during my stay on the board I will get to see this correct itself, in the interest of all members.

As to the issues before us, there seems to be a consensus on the board that the complete and necessary staffing of our union is a major concern and must be addressed, and that the dues we collect must be channeled into new hires that will provide an energized level of service in all departments.

We also need to look at providing training in each department so that a designated staffer can step up should the illness or extended absence of a supervisor occur.

We must prepare for the upcoming Broadway negotiations, continue our efforts to preserve live music, and to develop a broad consensus on our negotiation priorities.

A personal project is the Music Industry/Music Education (MIME) Initiative, proposed by Theatre Committee chair Larry Rawdon and myself. We are encouraging Local 802 to put a consultant in place to act as a liaison with the manufacturers of musical instruments and with the existing music education alliances. The result could be the formation of relationships across the music industry to foster music education and to raise the profile of live music as delivered by the world’s best musicians: the membership of Local 802.

Potential aspects of MIME would include the sponsorship of ads in Playbill and elsewhere featuring individual musician-endorsers, calling an audience’s attention to the orchestral and pit musicians they may hear, but cannot acknowledge. The marketing power of some major manufacturers could be a significant boost to our live music campaign and help promote the careers of our members. I hope we can succeed in implementing this initiative quickly.

In closing, I want to thank the Executive Board for its support of my appointment, and I look forward to an elevated and collegial governing experience.