Fighting back against the war on women

Financial Vice President's report

Volume 122, No. 7July, 2022

Karen Fisher

Anyone within earshot of my office on June 24th would have heard a cry of anguish followed by some very choice words aimed at the disgraceful and infuriating Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade. I, along with most Americans, am still reeling from this terrible decision.

What do we do when faced with injustice? As labor unionists, we turn outrage into constructive action.

A few years ago, while on my way to an appointment in Englewood, New Jersey, I saw a small but loud group of anti-abortion protesters screaming at innocent women as they walked into a nondescript building. After the shock of seeing something of this nature in blue Bergen County, I did some research and discovered that this had been going on every weekend for years. Along with the protesters, there was also a line of people in bright orange vests escorting the women past the mob through the doors to safety. I immediately volunteered to become one of those escorts. Over several weekends, I did what I could to help the women who were being harassed, threatened and intimidated by those religious zealots crowding the entrance to the building. I remember the faces of many of these women as they arrived at the clinic. Some were stoic, a few defiant, but the majority just looked sad. The protesters didn’t know their stories, nor did they care that they were contributing to the anguish these women were already feeling. In fact, they seemed to revel in it.

Shortly after graduating college, I won my first job with an orchestra in Guanajuato, Mexico. Besides the expected challenges of living abroad such as learning the language and navigating the tax system, I found that women were treated on the whole as less than men. We were harassed constantly, especially on the street when walking alone. I also learned that abortion in Mexico was not safe or legal at the time. A friend told me a horrifying story of a botched abortion in Mexico City that left her scarred and infertile. From that moment, I kept enough cash on hand to cover travel to Texas for myself or any friend in crisis to obtain an abortion should the need arise. I recall being very grateful to be an American and to have the autonomy and means to obtain this safe, affordable and legal medical procedure. I was grateful to be empowered to make the life choices that were right for me and I felt sorry for women living under cruel regimes around the world who did not enjoy the same rights that we did in the good ‘ol U.S.A.

Astonishingly, striking down Roe was not the only regressive decision handed down by SCOTUS this week. More blows to our liberties are in the works. Despite these threats to our freedom, I remain grateful to be an American citizen; however, I’ve lost all faith that the court will redeem itself in my lifetime.

Our country has joined the ranks of oppressive nations, allowing an extreme religious minority to infantilize women and dictate our most personal decisions. Incidentally, last year Mexico deemed it unconstitutional to criminalize abortion nationwide. It is now legal and accessible (with some restrictions) in several Mexican states.

What else can we do? If you are able, volunteer time and money to organizations like Planned Parenthood. We must continue to vote for candidates who will fight for choice. Achieving and keeping a Democratic majority in all three branches of government and actively participating in local government are crucial ways of righting this wrong.

On June 24, the highest court in the land discarded 50 years of established precedent and set us all back a lifetime. American women instantly became as vulnerable to the agenda of the far right as the people I felt sorry for 30 years ago. On the eve of Independence Day, Americans are once again facing a tyrannical force — this one grown and nurtured right on American soil — determined to keep women under their control. Fifty years ago, Roe v. Wade represented a victory for our right to personal privacy and self determination in our lives, our families and our work. Unfortunately, the struggle is not over.

(Bonus reading: statements condemning the Supreme Court decision from the Local 802 Executive Board, the AFM, and the AFL-CIO.)


Scandia Symphony ratified a new, three-year agreement on June 27. The contract features a 3 percent increase in non-major venue rates for each year of the contract and an agreement to increase health benefits to comport with the new classical single engagement rates.

The Queens Symphony ratified a new, three-year contract on May 20.

The musicians of the School of American Ballet recently ratified a one-year agreement. The new contract includes a 7.5 percent increase in wages and a 58 percent increase in health benefits (yes, you read that right: 58 percent!)

Local 802 and the NY Pops recently reached a settlement agreement in response to a grievance filed by Local 802 wherein nine musicians received compensation and benefits for a concert that had been rescheduled following a cancellation due to Covid concerns.


The Health Benefits Shortfall Fund portal will open to participants on July 20 at 9:30 a.m. If you are a rostered member of any of the orchestras below, you may make a request for shortfall funds at that time:

  • ABT
  • ASO
  • Bronx Arts Ensemble
  • Little Orchestra Society
  • Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
  • NY Pops
  • Queens Symphony
  • Riverside Symphony
  • Orchestra St. Luke’s
  • Orchestra Lumos (formerly Stamford Symphony)
  • Westchester Philharmonic

Finally, I am looking forward to scheduling a meeting of the Classical Musicians Forum either at the end of September or October. Please look for an announcement in the September Allegro.