It’s Been a Privilege

Volume CX, No. 1January, 2010

Bill Dennison

It has been an honor to be a part of Local 802 for the past 18 years and to serve as an officer of our union.

I have been proud to work with leaders like Bill Moriarity, Mary Landolfi and John Glasel, all of whom served our union with skill and wisdom.

Their first concern was always the well-being of the members.

Likewise it has been a privilege to work with a dedicated, knowledgeable staff whose contributions often go unrecognized.

They include supervisors Jay Schaffner, Jim Hannen, Joel LeFevre and Peter Voccola, and my administrative assistant Maureen Cupid-Pierre.

Without them and the rest of the staff our union simply could not function.

Following past practice, the outgoing officers were invited to write a final column or, alternatively, answer exit interview questions posed by Allegro, which I chose to do.

In your opinion, what was your greatest accomplishment during your term?

All accomplishments at Local 802 are a result of the collective efforts of officers, staff and you the members. I certainly would not claim any for myself.

Certainly one of the most important developments over the past decade has been the increasing level of mutual assistance, trust and cooperation between and among New York’s entertainment unions. That unity is essential if we are to make any real progress in the coming years to advance the interests of those who work in our industry.

What was your greatest challenge and how might you have done it differently?

I think the greatest challenge union leaders face today is how best to honestly inform and educate members about the realities of the industry in which they work, the balance of power in collective bargaining and the risks and rewards of the battles they enter into. I think this is particularly difficult in the rapidly changing music business. We all have to do a better job in this regard.

What advice would you give to the next administration?

Level with the members. You cannot build a successful administration with misinformation about the past or about the difficulties ahead. When 802 members are given the facts, when they are told the truth, I believe they will make the right decisions.

What are the biggest challenges facing Local 802 and the New York City music scene?

The biggest challenge every union faces, including Local 802, is coping with change. The problems we face today are different from the problems we faced five years ago, and five years from now they will again be different.

It’s been a global economy. It’s now a digital economy. It will soon be an online economy.

How do we protect those who create content in a world in which content is expected to be free?

With challenges come opportunities.

Does the cheap and easy availability of recorded product increase the value of live performance? If so, how do we take advantage of this?

How do we build a live music campaign that broadly encompasses all those who have a vested interest in live performance and the contribution it makes to our city’s economy?

The other major challenge facing 802 is representing all of our members in their varied fields of work.

We have made progress in our efforts to make union benefits and protections accessible to jazz musicians and teaching artists.

Much, however, remains to be done and that effort should continue.

It is also true that far more efforts are needed to balance the racial and gender makeup of orchestras and in Broadway pits.

What are your parting words to the members?

Whatever area of the business you work in, stay involved or get involved in your union. If you leave the union to others, you’re not going to be happy with the results.