As I sit in the office, February has just begun. The transition required by a new administration is well underway and I would like to report on the progress which has been made.
After a hiatus of over a year, we once again have an organizing director and he is a familiar face. Joe Eisman, who is well-known to many of you, has come back to work at Local 802 as both organizing director and assistant to the president. Several factors went into the decision to combine these positions.
First, Local 802 had a projected deficit when I assumed office and I believe that we have a responsibility to live within our means; after all, the last dues increase was only three years ago.
I also think we should move toward a more streamlined organization with more workers and fewer layers of supervision; combining these positions works toward that goal.
Joe’s knowledge of our union will allow him to be productive immediately and his experience at the hotel workers’ union during the last 18 months will bring the new perspective on organizing and contract administration that Local 802 needs to be more proactive for its members.
Currently Joe is assisting me in preparations for the Broadway negotiations. Members of that negotiating committee remember his work on the 2003 strike. The trust he established in that situation will make him a valuable member of the negotiating team in the coming weeks.
Our new public relations and political action director, Julia Smith, has been at work at Local 802 for a month. She comes to us after working as deputy campaign manager for Shelley Mayer (State Assembly candidate from the 93rd Assembly District in Yonkers) and union activist at UNITE HERE, SEIU and the Swarthmore Living Wage and Democracy Campaign.
Although Julia has never worked with the musicians’ union, she has already shown an understanding of our issues and is working on contacts that will help us move agenda items on behalf of our members. Currently she is in communication with legislative friends on the Congressional Transportation Committee — including Representatives Jerrold Nadler and John Hall — about the uneven application of anti-terrorism measures by the airlines in regard to musicians. She is also visiting with committees in different departments of the union in order to lay the groundwork for a political action committee. Any member interested in involvement in Local 802’s political initiatives should contact Julia at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.
The local has also begun the task of reorganizing our legal representation. Robert Archer will be assuming union co-counsel duties for the Local 802 Health Benefits Fund and the Theatre Sick Pay and Hospitalization Fund. Bob has represented Local 802 in some matters for many years and specializes in administration of Taft-Hartley funds. The administration hopes that he can assist us in strengthening the health benefits fund for the future.
Local 802 has also retained Daniel Engelstein from Levy, Ratner P.C. for negotiations and general legal advice; Danny brings a wealth of experience in representing unions to our negotiations and we expect that he will bring new and needed discipline to the negotiation of agreements and the process of reducing them to writing.
Of course, these changes in legal representation mean that other relationships must be severed.
Local 802 attorney Harvey Mars will be staying on in an expanded role, but longtime legal representative Leonard Leibowitz will be leaving.
I know I speak for everyone at Local 802 when I say that we all appreciate the contributions Lenny has made over more than 20 years of service to the local and that we wish him well in his future endeavors.
The steps I have outlined here represent only a beginning. By next month we will be in the middle of negotiations for the new Broadway agreement. Hopefully with every passing month the membership will be able to discern progress toward a more organized and invigorated union and that the conclusion of those negotiations will be the first fruit of a more fertile future for Local 802.