The Executive Board is now in the midst of a strategic planning process, which was outlined in some detail by President Moriarity in last June’s “President’s Report” (click here for column). We have reviewed the union’s substantial achievements over the last ten years and have compiled information from reports submitted by department supervisors.
While the board has still to finalize plans to strengthen our work in the various fields we represent, it has taken one important step to address a common theme that emerged from the departmental reports – the need for an education program, both for interested rank-and-file activists and for Local 802 officers and staff. The urgent need for such programs has already led to the creation of a new Education Department, which will be under the supervision of the Financial Vice-President’s office.
Over the last year or so, Local 802 has provided training and member education on a somewhat piecemeal basis. This is far from adequate to meet the changing needs of the union and the challenges we face. Our membership rolls have not expanded in recent years and this – taken in conjunction with the fact that new employment opportunities for musicians are opening up in fields that are either completely nonunion or in which the percentage of union work is dropping – threatens the union’s very existence.
We must develop new strategies for dealing with the increasingly large, multinational corporate entertainment entities that we find ourselves negotiating with. One important component of an education program must be to conduct research that can assist both negotiators and committees in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the large employers.
The Education Department is currently working with Cornell University’s Labor Studies program to develop seminars for committee activists, dealing with various topics. Among the issues the seminars will address are: how committees function as part of the bargaining process and in between negotiations; creative bargaining; engaging in tactics other than strikes; corporate campaigns; enlisting the support of the public; basics of “shop steward” training; the first steps in the grievance process; and how to document and prepare for grievance hearings. We would like to have at least one member of each committee attend some formal training in arbitration.
EDUCATION FOR ORGANIZING
Organizing has been the priority of labor organizations nationwide since John Sweeney took office as president of the AFL-CIO in 1995. He has called for unions at every level to devote 30 percent of their resources to organizing the unorganized. Local 802 took up the call and has made organizing an integral component of its activity. In conjunction with our organizing activities, we have conducted presentations of the AFL-CIO/Cornell University MEMO program on a regular basis. (MEMO stands for Membership Education and Mobilization for Organizing.)
The seminar explores the importance of collective bargaining and concerted action, factors that affect our bargaining strength, the relationship between organizing and our ability to maintain hard-won wages and conditions in our contracts, and how organizing affects the lives of our members and newly organized musicians.
More than 100 rank and filers, committee members and new members (who are encouraged to attend MEMO in lieu of the traditional orientation meeting) have attended the seminar since presentations began in November of 1999. Presentations of the seminar will continue to be an important component of the Education Department. The next MEMO seminar will take place on Friday, Feb. 16, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. All members are encouraged to attend, and to participate in the union’s organizing activities.
Our increased emphasis on organizing has made it clear that we need more literature about the union, which can be made available to members and non-members alike. The Education Department is putting the finishing touches on a new Member’s Handbook. It describes all the departments in the union, the fields they cover, and whom members can turn to for answers to specific questions. In addition to the handbook, a series of brochures will be designed explaining the pension and health benefits programs, TEMPO802, Legit 802, the Music Performance Trust Fund, how to incorporate, making a recording date union, workplace and sexual harassment, and other topics. We hope these publications will make the union more “user friendly.”
As the department evolves, the opportunities for creative projects will grow. Educating the public as to the importance of live music has become crucial. One possibility is to design a project – in tandem with the Music Performance Trust Fund or the Council for Living Music – that utilizes the talents of our members to reach the public. Outreach to the various conservatories and presenting the MEMO seminar to students would provide a positive first impression of the union.
I hope that you will bring your ideas to the department. As with all the activities in the union, member participation is key to our success.