Dues Increase Pays Off for Members

Financial Vice President's Report

Volume CIII, No. 12December, 2003

Tina Hafemeister

On Oct. 21, members voted to ratify an increase in annual dues and work dues by an overwhelming majority (see story here). The increase has set the stage for a new administration to take office with some financial security and the ability to implement new programs with some level of comfort.

With over $300,000 of the increased income dedicated to public relations, the union can now build on the public awareness of live music that helped make the Broadway campaign so successful. We must keep the union and its members in the public eye to maintain the momentum created by the Broadway campaign. To that end, the Executive Board has voted to retain the same public relations firm, Ken Sunshine Associates, beginning Nov. 1. The new administration that takes office on Jan. 1 will have to be prudent in its spending while expanding its public relations initiatives to cover club dates, the Lincoln Center orchestras, the freelance orchestras and continued efforts on Broadway.

In preparation for the Broadway negotiations, the union engaged Ken Margolies of Cornell University to facilitate strategic planning meetings with union officers and negotiators, staff and committee members. The in-depth process included an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of both management and the union, a careful crafting of proposals and the seeds of the eventual live music campaign. Strategic planning in preparation for negotiations should be a key activity for both the union and its members over the next year and the union now has the funds available to finance such planning. Two major contracts expiring in the spring of 2004 are the club date master agreement and the contract covering jazz instructors at the New School. In addition, the New York Philharmonic and Madison Square Garden agreements will expire in the fall of next year, as will the eleven freelance orchestra agreements. There is no doubt that strategic planning will benefit all of those bargaining units as they face difficult negotiations ahead.

In addition to new initiatives, some portion of the dues increase will need to be devoted to restoring staff positions left empty through attrition over the last two years and in some cases, expanding critical services that we provide for our members.

While the increased income to the union solves many problems in the immediate future, the leadership cannot afford to become complacent. Over the long run, expenses will continue to grow at a projected amount of 3 percent a year. The only real solution is to focus our energies on organizing unorganized musicians and nonunion work. We must increase our membership numbers. Not only will organizing increase the union’s financial stability, it is essential if we are to maintain the hard fought for standards in our existing agreements.