Building A Communications Network Among Musicians On Broadway

Volume CI, No. 7/8July, 2001

Tina Hafemeister

With Local 802’s increasing emphasis on strategic planning – both on the overall, unionwide level and for specific contract negotiations and bargaining units – mutual communication between the union and its members has taken on a new importance.

Experience and research show that the long-term success of any strategic action program undertaken by a union depends on a well-functioning, effective communications network in which no single member is responsible for communicating with more than five to ten other members. The union’s effectiveness as a democratic, activist organization depends on such communication. With this in mind, Local 802 is working to develop a formalized communications network, beginning with orchestra members in the Broadway pits.


For each Broadway show, there will be one or two orchestra coordinators (generally the elected Theatre Committee representatives), and between two and six canvassers. The coordinator will interact directly with the canvassers (and the orchestra conductor, when needed), while the canvassers will be in direct contact with orchestra members.

The orchestra coordinator will be responsible for coordinating the network and the information that flows through it. In the beginning, he or she will be responsible for coordinating the creation of the network. Later, the coordinator will evaluate the network on an ongoing basis, and suggest improvements as needed. In setting up the network, the first thing musicians will be asked for is their phone number and e-mail address. They may also be asked to act as canvassers.

The canvassers are the closest link with union members in the pit. Each canvasser will take responsibility for contacting two to four members, assigned by the coordinator. This link with members is absolutely crucial for the communications network’s success.

The members not only receive information passed from the center of the network, they also initiate information that needs to flow to the center. Members may be contacted through the network to mobilize around an issue or participate in an action, but they should also be able to use it to contact union leaders, staff and other members regarding issues, problems and actions.

A unique aspect of the network is that members are urged to make face-to-face contact whenever possible – it should not be just a “telephone tree.” The information communicated may often include written material, such as flyers and petitions. A personal, face-to-face contact not only ensures accuracy, but also involves every member in a very personal way in the union’s activities. An effective network will provide information quickly, efficiently, accurately and inclusively.

Many Theatre Committee reps have already received a communications network form, specifically designed to accommodate the size of their show’s orchestra, at a recent Theatre Committee meeting. Those who have not yet received a form will be getting one in the mail, followed by a phone call from the union. When your orchestra coordinator asks you to become a canvasser, please consider doing so. The communications network will be effective only if everyone commits to participating and making it work.