Cultivating Community and Building Collective Strength for the New Year

Music & Politics

Volume 117, No. 1January, 2017

Chris Carroll
Christopher Carroll

Christopher Carroll

United, we are strong! On Dec. 2, over 50 Local 802 members arrived at our quarterly membership meeting to discuss politics, legislation, the election and our communities. We discussed the Trump administration’s likely impact on the National Labor Relations Board, Supreme Court and Labor Department, and talked about national policy implications, including immigration, environmental protection, abortion access and criminal justice. Throughout the entire conversation, our members, friends and colleagues repeatedly referenced issues like nationalism, xenophobia, misogyny, polarization and fear – as well as tolerance, equity, compassion, truth, honesty and opportunity.

This meeting was step one, a step toward building community and coalescing around values and ideals from which we can identify support and make goals. But this was just the beginning.

If cabinet nominations and White House staff appointments are an indication of policy and priorities, it has become abundantly clear that America’s relationship with government agencies is about to undergo a fundamental and profound shift. President-elect Trump has thus far nominated individuals who are either inexperienced or altogether skeptical of their respective agency’s existence in the first place. The man nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency believes that government should not have an activist role in protecting the environment and should not be an advocate for sustainability. The man nominated to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development is a doctor whose only credential is that he grew up in a poor neighborhood in Detroit. The woman appointed to lead our public schools thinks that public schools should be made private. The man appointed to lead the Energy Department claimed that he would cut the entire agency when he ran for president in 2008. The man appointed to lead the Department of Labor believes workers are often paid too much and has led corporations with a track record of unfair labor practices and worker wage theft. The list goes on. We are now at risk of losing our ability to rely on the institutional support that government agencies have previously provided. As a result, we will have to rely on external and alternative means to advocate for our priorities and protect our values.

So what does that mean, and how will we do it?

We must stop prioritizing winning campaigns and start prioritizing building communities. We must encourage and cultivate communities of individuals who can take action. We must establish priorities and put together pools of skill sets, interests and resources to achieve political and legislative gains. We must build a collective voice that has the strength to make change. We must work together to take advantage of our organizational infrastructure, our access to political and government officials, and our legislative agenda by collectively raising our voice and building communal strength.

Everyone who is concerned about our political and social climate must be a staunch advocate for our values. Become an ally to those who are frequently exploited by contributing to and volunteering for causes that promote community growth, inclusion, equity and tolerance. Convene discussion groups and attend meetings about policy areas like immigration reform, environmental protection, social justice and intellectual property protection.

Musicians came together to dicuss politics, legistration, the election and our communities at Local 802’s Dec. 2 membership meeting. Photo: Walter Karling

Musicians came together to dicuss politics, legistration, the election and our communities at Local 802’s Dec. 2 membership meeting. Photo: Walter Karling

What we’re doing at Local 802

This year, we will be advocating for policies, legislation and agendas at every level of government. Our work will be guided by the specific needs and realities of our careers and industry, but also by the social, cultural and community values that musicians hold dear, including excellent public education, gender equality, social justice, labor rights, economic fairness, and a compassionate approach to immigration.

At the city and state level, our agenda includes electing council members and other officials who understand the needs and values of New York City’s musicians. These include ensuring that publicly funded and supported organizations, festivals and events pay musicians and performers fair wages and benefits, and encouraging film and studio recording producers to score and record here in New York. We are proud that we’ve already endorsed Mayor Bill de Blasio for a second term and are grateful for his assurances that he will support our work and continue to be a staunch ally in our efforts to negotiate fair contracts and ensure New York City is a place where musicians can live, work and raise a family.

Next November, New York voters will be asked if they want to convene a constitutional convention to amend the state constitution. There will be no bigger challenge than our work to defeat this initiative. While some New Yorkers might welcome the chance to circumvent our state legislature, doing so would mean working men and women across the state would risk losing workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and the right to organize and collectively bargain. It could very well send New York down the path of becoming a “Right to Work” state.

At the federal level, we will continue to support the AFM and our partners throughout the industry to amend and update copyright laws and intellectual property protections, as well as help pass the Fair Play Fair Pay act.

What’s next?

There is much to do, much to preserve, much to advocate for and much to achieve. If we are to reach our lofty goals, we must first develop, cultivate and expand our community. We must work together, collaboratively identifying our priorities and working to preserve and protect our values.

With everything we do, if we are building and strengthening our community, we will be strengthening our voices. There is power in community. There is power in pooling skill sets. There is power in collective action. There is power when we act as a community. We just have to wield it.

As a Local 802 member, here are three things you can do

  1. Contribute to Local 802’s political action fund TEMPO 802. It’sa vitally important way to support our political activity. By law, political contributions, campaigns and lobbying cannot come from Local 802 general funds or dues, meaning that our financial strength is determined entirely by voluntary contributions. We need your help! You can make contributions to TEMPO 802 in three ways: when you pay your Local 802 dues, online at or by calling (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.
  2. Become directly involved in our political and legislative agenda by becoming a District Captain.  Help us advocate for the needs and priorities of our communities, our careers and our families. District Captains are individuals who have shown an interest in politics and legislation and who are willing to be a “first call” when we need to meet with local elected officials, go out campaigning, or take political action. To become a District Captain in your neighborhood, call (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.
  3. Connect with fellow members to discuss politics. Join your colleagues at a new event called Mobile Office Hours at a coffee shop near you! Starting soon, Political Director Christopher Carroll will be inviting members to discuss politics, legislation and our neighborhoods in coffee shops across the city. This is a great opportunity to share concerns and meet musicians who share priorities, passions and values. We will be in a different neighborhood once or twice each month. To find out more, watch our media or call (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.