On Oct. 24, Local 802 held its fall membership meeting. Instead of chairs set up in traditional rows, there were clusters set up under signs with months on them, with the purpose of encouraging roundtable-style peer group discussions in small groups. As musicians entered the room, they were directed to find their birthday months.
The topic was member-on-member workplace bullying and harassment. (See Harvey Mars’ story for more background.) A subcommittee of the Theater Committee is working on a bylaw amendment to help clarify for Local 802 what role the union should play in fighting bullying and harassment. Local 802 often finds itself in the position of being the recipient of complaints – but is also obligated to represent both the accused and the accuser when both are members. The goal of this meeting was to introduce a bylaw amendment proposal, to hear from members what bullying looks like in their workplaces, and to better shape Local 802’s definition.
After the topic was introduced, the people in the small discussion groups related their experiences and visualized what a healthier workplace would look like. The groups then reported back to the large group. Themes that arose in the four groups were written on a projected screen. Musicians then anonymously wrote questions on cards which were then read aloud by a facilitator. Those questions were answered by Harvey Mars, members of the Trial Board, and members of the subcommittee working on the bylaw amendment.
Several big themes emerged, including the following: how victims feel isolated; fear of retribution from the accused and from other musicians caught in the crossfire; imbalances of power between conductors, regulars and subs; and a general feeling that there should be a clear pathway for victims at Local 802. Some questions remain: how can anonymity be preserved when the workplaces are so small? How should Local 802 handle representing both the accuser and the accused? How does one define bullying without legal guidance in civil law?
About 60 people participated in the meeting. The subcommittee is working with the feedback and has decided to expand the project to include still more input. The bylaw proposal may be ready to come before the June membership meeting. This is the beginning of a much larger and longer conversation that Local 802 hopes to continue.
“Membership meetings provide a degree of transparency to the members. They’re a community place for our elected officials to directly hear our concerns and are an important platform to exercise our rights as union members. At a recent Theatre Committee meeting, it came to light that an important bylaw amendment was being crafted. If the membership at large does not meet a quorum of attendance at membership meetings, our voting power will be forfeited and the Executive Board will be the only party responsible for enacting something that concerns all of us. I volunteered to help spread the word about the Oct. 24 membership meeting because I believe that these meetings are important platforms for union discussion and information and are vital to the democratic nature of our union.” – Audrey Flores