We are the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, American Federation of Musicians Local 802, one of the largest local unions of professional musicians in the world. We unite to fight for the common interests of all musicians by advancing industry standards that dignify our labor and honor and enrich our art. We seek to organize a community of all musicians and aspiring musicians, and we reach out to all who share our interests and our passion. We are committed to upholding the integrity of live musical performance and to advancing the vital role of music in education, and in the economic, cultural and social life of our community and beyond. We advocate for economic and social justice for musicians and for society as a whole.
In this issue of Allegro, Local 802’s new mission statement, unanimously adopted by the Executive Board in April 2005, is printed in its entirety. It sets forth the goals of our union as we face the most challenging times ahead in our industry. It speaks to the very heart and soul of who we are and for what we stand.
Further, the constitution of our union declares our primary purpose, “to ensure and promote the welfare of its members, to advance and protect their interests and enforce good faith, fair dealing and adherence to union principles.”
Those laudable goals are greatly jeopardized when internal strife threatens to divide and disrupt our union. As many of you know, charges were recently filed by two-thirds of the Executive Board against two officers of the board.
On January 13, 2006, Local 802 Officers Lennon and Blumenthal, together with Executive Board members Babich, Gagliardi, Gale, Shankin, Weiss and Whitaker filed formal charges against Recording Vice President Bill Dennison and Executive Board member Jay Schaffner.
On January 17, 2006, the Local 802 Executive Board, in accordance with its authority under the by-laws, and in an effort to maintain the orderly and efficient operation of the union, moved to reassign certain duties and responsibilities of the charged officials to the purview of the President or his designee(s).
I want to be perfectly clear that the charges were not directed at any disagreement, dissent or opinions they expressed openly at the Executive Board, or in any other appropriate forum. Rather, these actions were taken to address what we believed to be violations of Local 802’s by-laws and to protect and defend the two most important tenets of our union: the by-laws that govern us, and the sanctity of the rank-and-file committee system.
These charges were not filed lightly or arbitrarily. Nevertheless, since they were filed and the motion passed, considerable misinformation has
been circulated amongst the membership. In this column I will attempt to correct this misinformation and set the record straight.
It is our obligation to you, the members, that we ensure that the democratic process of a trial be conducted in accordance with the due process procedures set forth in the by-laws; not in the streets, through e-mail cyberspace, or in the halls of Local 802. That is why it was of the utmost importance that the Executive Board take whatever steps necessary to ensure that the political matters before us did not interfere with the orderly and efficient operation of the union. Thus, in its motion, the Board reassigned certain supervisory duties, without affecting the employment status or elected responsibilities of either of the charged parties.
We had hoped that the charges would be heard by the membership through the democratic process set forth in the by-laws. We believed that a hearing could be held expeditiously and in an orderly fashion, and that the business of the union could be transacted with a minimum of disruption. This proved not to be the case.
Within days of the filing of the charges, and before the charges could even be reported to the membership, a widespread campaign was initiated through e-mails and in-person meetings with rank-and-file groups. The case was stated without affording the members the opportunity to hear the charges and the evidence supporting those allegations in the appropriate forum as mandated by our by-laws.
As a result, without even learning of the allegations and the facts on which they were based, many members reacted in anger and dismay based solely upon the cynical description of the initiatives of the charging parties as being only to suppress free speech and punish dissent.
When the charged parties learned, however, that the members would be given the opportunity to read the charges in the upcoming issue of Allegro, they threatened to take legal action to prevent those charges from being published.
In addition, they informed me that they believed it improper for me to appear before any union body, committee or meeting to comment on the allegations.
Further, when I informed the Executive Board that I would be calling a membership meeting promptly, in accordance with the president’s authority to do so at any time, the charged parties insisted instead that the 90-day notification required for regular membership meetings be applied to this special meeting, contrary to the interpretation of this by-law by 802 counsel. Nevertheless, in deference to the wishes of the charged parties, I agreed to delay the meeting by giving 90 days’ notice.
When the campaign of misinformation began to cause even more disruption, we realized that three and a half months was an intolerable period of time to let pass before the charges could be addressed, let alone resolved.
During this period the actual charges would be withheld from the membership and conjecture and incomplete information would continue to circulate while the unity and solidarity of Local 802 would continue to be in jeopardy.
It became clear that the furor created thereby was making it increasingly difficult for us to tend to the far more important tasks of servicing the membership.
In light of the foregoing events, the charges filed against Messrs. Dennison and Schaffner were withdrawn on January 31, 2006, and the motion made and passed by the Executive Board on January 17, 2006, was reconsidered and rescinded.
It is disappointing and unfortunate that these serious issues could not be addressed in the manner and forum dictated by the membership, in our by-laws.
The facts giving rise to these charges will have to be dealt with in other fora, at other times – and they will be! But for now, we must resume doing that for which you elected us.