Meeting of the Minds

Much food for thought at membership meeting

Volume CIX, No. 3March, 2009

Jay Blumenthal, Bill Dennison, Mikael Elsila and Mary Landolfi

It wasn’t official, but the Feb. 11 membership meeting stirred up vigorous debate and put out a lot of food for thought. The crowd was just a handful short of quorum — and indeed, the subject of quorum was one of the topics during the freewheeling and energetic discussion.

Members also debated the merits of two bylaws that could have been voted on that evening, had 125 members showed up. The lack of a quorum means that the Executive Board is empowered to act on the bylaw proposals.

The first would have established a voting site at Lincoln Center. This fall is an election year at Local 802 and currently there are two polling places: the union headquarters at 48th Street and the Long Island office in Plainview. Musicians brainstormed how to set up a third site at or near Lincoln Center. The Executive Board had reported this bylaw favorably and there was general consensus that this bylaw was a good idea.

The second bylaw was more complicated and actually contained several different proposals, all related to the Local 802 election process. The exact wording can be seen at; search for the December Allegro. 

  • One of the more controversial proposals would require musicians to be members of Local 802 for a full year (instead of six months) before they could vote in a union election. Local 802 counsel reported there could be legal problems with such a change. More importantly, several members pointed out that musicians are required to join the union under Local 802 contracts after 30 days. To then prevent them from being able to vote seemed unfair. Proponents argued that musicians should be more invested in and knowledgeable about the union before they should be allowed to vote. 
  • A second proposal would preclude requests for absentee ballots to be made by e-mail. The prior Executive Board had allowed such requests.
  • A third part of the proposal would prohibit any candidate for office from accepting a campaign contribution from anyone or any entity that “employs members of Local 802.” The current bylaw prohibits such contributions from those who employ Local 802 members on “a continuing basis.” The latter distinction exists in the current bylaw presumably because most members occasionally “hire” a member, if only to sub for them. An absolute ban could be interpreted to prohibit contributions from any member who had ever hired a sub. 

Several other parts of the proposal were not controversial and union officers agreed that if separate bylaws were submitted, those changes could be accomplished.

The evening’s discussion also included questions about whether the quorum requirement at membership meetings should be altered.

Those who stayed to the very end of the meeting were treated to a short presentation by Jessica Shearer from Fair Share Tax Reform (Fair The organization is lobbying for the state to solve its budget crisis by making the wealthiest New Yorkers pay more taxes instead of increasing the tax burden on the rest of us — including musicians — in the form of numerous “nuisance” taxes and fees.

Local 802 supports this coalition and recently presented supportive testimony in Albany. One of the proposed new taxes currently under consideration is a tax on ticket sales which would negatively affect Broadway theatre.

The next membership meeting is on Wednesday, June 10 at 5 p.m.

As usual, members are invited to write letters to Allegro to share their thoughts. E-mail Allegro editor Mikael Elsila at