The ratification of the new Broadway agreement marks the close of the first significant chapter of this, my first term in office.
I believe that the overwhelming vote in favor of the contract indicates that musicians working on Broadway agree with the focus which the negotiating committee placed on health benefits and view the contract as a success.
We won substantial increases in health benefit contributions, which will offer more comprehensive coverage to those who qualify for the new plan and will give more members access to the health benefits plan as a whole.
Furthermore, we were able to provide access to the new plan at a level of 5.7 shows per week — the same number which had been required for Plan A in the past. Given the health insurance crisis in our country, this is a worthy achievement that we should celebrate.
Now we must set new goals and recognize new challenges for the administration and the organization.
The first challenge will be defending the interests of Local 802 and its members at the AFM Convention this month.
By the time this article is published, the convention will be over and I hope that the Local 802 delegates will be able to report that the draconian dues increases proposed by the AFM have been defeated.
Because of these dues proposals, Local 802 is maintaining a neutral stance toward candidates for office at this time.
I cannot endorse any candidate unless he or she agrees that our members are already paying their fair share toward the support of the AFM and that increases in work dues for theatre and symphonic musicians are unjustified.
Candidates for any office who earn the support of our delegation will have to commit to maintaining the current dues structure and will also have to demonstrate that the interests of Local 802 will be recognized appropriately under future AFM policies.
I am hopeful that remaining neutral until the convention begins will allow us to play a part in mending the divisions that currently exist between the Los Angeles RMA and the AFM. I think that my article in last month’s Allegro demonstrates that our local sympathizes with at least some of those concerns, but, in the end, I must give first priority to the interests, both financial and political, of the members of Local 802.
When I return, there will be other negotiating priorities, principal among which is the New York Philharmonic contract, which expires in September.
Obviously this is a high priority and Local 802 will give that orchestra our full support in achieving their objectives. That orchestra is fortunate to have a seasoned negotiating team and I look forward to working with them.
We must, however, find time for Local 802 to pursue other objectives.
First, we must begin the process of building an effective political action committee.
We have always had a certain involvement in political affairs, but this activity is more essential than ever to the success of our union.
Whether it is joining with the teachers’ union to fight for arts education, advocating for governmental funding for arts organizations or supporting live music in the future, we will have to rely on political allies to succeed.
The Web survey conducted by our political director, Julia Smith, will help us set priorities, but the local will need the involvement of rank-and-file members if we want to build greater power in the political arena.
Another top priority must be the creation of a credible public relations campaign in support of live music, not just on Broadway but on behalf of the entire union.
Our efforts in this area before the 2003 Broadway negotiations were a critical component in gaining widespread support for our contract campaign, but there has been no adequate focus in the intervening years.
We will need a better effort in this area to keep the importance of live music before the public.
That means building a committee willing to work with the administration and staff on these issues and eager to devise strategies that utilize our limited resources in the most creative ways possible.
This is only a short list of the tasks before the local.
I hope that we can build on the success of the Broadway negotiations in approaching all of our future challenges and I look forward to working with all of you in surmounting them.