Twenty-five union members braved cold and rain on Jan. 20 to take part in MEMO – Membership Education and Mobilizing for Organizing – a four-hour seminar devoted to discussing ways to increase the union’s power. The MEMO program, which was developed by the AFL-CIO in conjunction with Cornell University, is designed to get membership support for organizing.
The basic theory behind it is simple: If unions do not spend more resources organizing nonunion competition, our overall bargaining power will decline. MEMO combines the disciplines of history, economics and sociology in a fun, participatory style.
Musicians from every corner of our industry put aside four hours of their busy schedules to attend: symphonic, recording, single engagement club date and Broadway players participated, and gave the seminar high marks.
At a time when “frightening things are happening in our industry, I found MEMO to be very valuable,” said violin player George Wozniak, who works on Broadway. “We should all be looking out for our future.”
“Most of us know what our union does for us as individuals,” said bass player Ken Rizzo. “This course was empowering, because it demonstrated how we as union members improve the entire society.”
The seminar is divided into five parts. Part One discusses why unions must bargain collectively and take concerted action. Part Two centers around the connection between collective bargaining and organizing new members. Part Three makes the link between the fortunes of the larger labor movement and the fate of working people. This section explores the core theory of the program – that as the labor movement has grown, society has improved. The program examines factors that have weakened America’s labor movement over time, and looks at what is being done to reverse the trend. Part Four discusses how a successful organizing program at Local 802 will improve the lives of both newly organized and current members. Finally, Part Five describes the union’s New Organizing Department and invites participants to become active in all our organizing projects.
MEMO operates on many levels. The Jan. 20 program provided the context for a group of 802 members who work in many different fields to think more deeply about the industry many have been involved in for decades, and to use their experiences as union activists in developing a commitment to organizing and some ideas about how to go about it.
The program was also presented at the Feb. 1 Executive Board meeting, providing fodder for the process of longterm strategic planning the board is currently involved in.
But MEMO also has great value as a tool for introducing new members to the ideas of trade unionism – helping them to understand how musicians benefit from union representation, and why it is so important to enlarge our ranks. Local 802 will be incorporating the program into the new member orientation sessions held every month, with the goal of providing at least 300 musicians with the training during the next year
Bill Moriarity told Allegro that “With this program, we hope to begin a serious discussion among our members on what needs to be done to more effectively fight for issues we care about. I encourage all members who care about the future of our union to attend a MEMO seminar.”
The next MEMO Seminar will take place on March 16, from 11a.m. until 3 p.m., in the Club Room.