2009 is an election year at Local 802. Later this year there will also be important local and municipal elections in New York and New Jersey. Elections are always important whether at the national level or within a union local like ours. It is an opportunity for individuals to make a judgment on leadership and to affirm or reject current policies, to stay the course or change direction. If you don’t vote, someone else will be making decisions about your future, whether to your benefit or detriment.
The history of our country has been a history of expanding the franchise, from only well-to-do white men to all working men, later including African-American men and finally, in the 20th century, women. Despite these steps toward universal suffrage, there have often been unfortunate efforts to suppress the vote, either by making the process complicated and inconvenient, or by adding restrictive qualifications.
The current Local 802 administration is committed to maintaining an open and inclusive electoral process for our internal elections. We want to encourage every member to vote and hope to make the process as simple and convenient as possible. With that in mind, the Executive Board recently adopted a bylaw proposal submitted by members of the Lincoln Center orchestra committees that would provide a voting facility at or as close as possible to Lincoln Center. This is an important work site and is in the vicinity where a large number of members live, so this additional polling place should encourage higher voter turnout.
At the same time, the board rejected an omnibus bylaw proposal that would have made voting less convenient and more restrictive, based both upon our lawyer’s concern that the change would not survive scrutiny by the Labor Department and the belief of the administration that no sufficient reason had been shown to justify modifying voting conditions which have been in place for many years.
The recent past has been a contentious one at Local 802. As a result, there has been a greater level of political dissent than was the case in the prior twenty years. Sometimes political discourse provides more heat than light — people of good will on either side of a given issue often believe passionately that they represent the will of the electorate and are “right” on the issues. An election is the only method to determine the true opinion and attitude of the membership, and that is only true if a representative number of people turn out to vote. I hope that large numbers of Local 802 members will acquaint themselves with the issues and turn out to vote in December. Vote like your future depends upon it. It does.
PENSION FUND WOES
By the time this column appears, the news of yet another cut in the “multiplier” by the AFM pension fund will have become public. (The multiplier determines pension payout. A lower multiplier means lower pension payments.)
This cut is a consequence of the economic meltdown that this country’s financial sector has experienced since late 2008 and, although it is small comfort, it is important to understand that our pension fund is not alone. Many pension funds are similarly situated.
Although they are painful to contemplate, reductions in the multiplier are the mechanism by which the fund brings future obligations into line with projected resources.
The investments of the fund remain well diversified; in time, when our economy improves, the economic condition of the fund should as well. Until that time, participants should feel free to contact any trustee (including me) with any concerns. I, like all of the trustees of the fund, am committed to making sure that the fund is run in the most responsible manner possible at all times, but particularly during this time of economic distress.
WHAT’S MY PENSION?
Now that there are several multipliers, it is more complicated than ever to compute your pension. There is no time like the present for number-crunching and the pension fund can do it for you. Try the fund’s new Web site at www.afm-epf.org. Scroll down to the very bottom and look for the “Contact us” link. Click on it. Then fill out the online form. Use “Participant” as your category. (Don’t worry about the “Pension ID” field — if you happen to have your latest pension statement, you can find that number there.) Just use the comment box to ask your question, such as: “What will my monthly pension check be if I retire at age 65?” Include your social security number.
Members can also call the pension fund at (212) 284-1200. Press 0, then ask for pension benefits.
Finally, any member can call my office for help.