“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the one we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama
To my dear colleagues: We know elections matter, both on a national and local level. We can try to deny it, but politics touches everything in our lives, from which roads, bridges, and hospitals get built, to the price of bread, to who we can marry. If not for Joe Biden and the Democrats, our precious pension would still be in danger of being cut.
Union politics matter, too. The 2021 Local 802 election was…unusual, certainly the strangest in my memory. Turnout was about 40 percent lower than the 2018 election. This was disappointing but not surprising given our nascent emergence from the pandemic, record unemployment among members in the past two years, the top office being uncontested, and other factors. Typical in-person campaigning was off limits due to Covid protocols. Mercifully though, most campaigning did not occur on social media. With virtually no other means to communicate, candidates relied on direct email to members and by word-of-mouth on the few job sites that remained open. To those who found even that much campaigning intrusive, I invite you to reconsider your position. The people you elect to lead Local 802 will have a great deal of influence on your work life and livelihood. We negotiate your contracts, make decisions on how business is done within the union, and determine how your membership and work dues are utilized. Anyone running for office should be challenged with the same kinds of questions one would ask at a job interview. Who are we? Where do we stand on the issues that affect your workplace? What is our vision for Local 802? Perhaps most important, can we be trusted with this solemn responsibility?
Union politics are not for the faint of heart. To run for office is to subject oneself to intense scrutiny, assaults on one’s character, and the ego bruising of a defeat. It sounds a lot like an audition, come to think of it. Loyalties shift, friends disappear and others emerge, sometimes from unexpected places. I commend and congratulate everyone who had the courage to take those risks. To those who did not prevail this time, I hope you are not deterred from trying again. If running for office isn’t right for you, there are other ways to stay engaged. Attend membership meetings (here is the next one), new member orientations, register on our new membership portal, join rank-and-file committees, and learn more about your local. Our union is a democracy. Without care and attention, democracies can easily die. We must not allow that to happen.
The devastation of the pandemic not only impacted our election, but is still seriously impacting our industry, our income, and our mental health. In the last few days of December, we saw cancellations all over the city, impacting the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, NYC Ballet, and Broadway. At Local 802, we are in the process of rearranging the configuration of our offices to make sure everyone can continue working as safely as possible. The Omicron variant has thrown a detour into our reopening, but this, too, shall pass. Contracts are still being negotiated, concerts and shows are still being held and planned, and musicians are getting back to work.
For those of you who need financial help, there are options. The Actors Fund offers emergency financial assistance for musicians. Another option is the AFM’s Lester Petrillo Fund, for disabled musicians.
I want to sincerely thank you for re-electing me to another term as your financial vice president. Those who know me know how seriously I take this responsibility and I am humbled by the trust you have put in me. I look forward to working with the new Executive Board and officers as we navigate the many challenges ahead.
Let’s remember that Local 802 just celebrated our centennial. Over the course of those 100 years, we got through the Great Depression, two world wars, flu pandemics, numerous recessions, 9/11, and a host of natural and man-made calamities. To paraphrase the late, great Stephen Sondheim, we’re still here. My hope is that you stay connected and involved. Even during hard times, we are all capable of making positive changes and contributions.
The winter solstice is over. Tomorrow there will be more light.
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