As many of you may already know, I have decided to resign my position as vice-president of Local 802, after a great deal of consideration. I have enjoyed working with and for the members of Local 802 during the last five and one-half years, but I find myself at a point in life when other priorities must come first. It has been an exciting, agonizing, rewarding, frustrating, exhausting and energizing time.
I like to think that some positive things have come as a result of my tenure as vice president. I think we are better organized than we ever have been in the freelance symphonic field. It is unthinkable today that a handful of volunteers would negotiate for the entire work force in that area of the music business. Instead, elected committee members speak for each orchestra and help the union determine what the bottom line should be in the negotiations.
Thanks to the efforts of the New Organizing Department and the Jazz Advisory Committee, we have begun to make some inroads in the jazz field. About a dozen leaders have come forward to enter into voluntary agreements, which provide pension benefits to the side musicians who work for them. Four times a year the JAC invites jazz musicians to an open house at the union, so that they can discover that the union isn’t the adversarial organization it once was. If progress can be continued in this way, the next generation of jazz musicians may not have to choose between retiring in poverty or working forever.
Having said all of this, however, there is still much to be done. All too often, orchestra committee posts go begging. Most of our members are content to let someone else take care of union business until there is a problem. The same is true throughout the union, and therein lies the crunch. It is important that we continue to try to broaden and deepen the forces of democracy in our union; Local 802 is made stronger whenever more people participate. We will never be as effective as we can be as a labor organization until there is a deeper involvement with and understanding of collective action on the part of a majority of our members, not just a few in leadership positions.
I believe that the members of the union will always get the leadership they demand and deserve. I say demand because one will never see progress unless one is prepared to fight for it. If you are willing to settle for whatever comes along out of complacency and disinterest, you will settle for something mediocre or worse.
But notice that I said deserve, as well as demand. Just as one should have certain rights in life, one must also accept the responsibilities which go along with those rights. If you wish to demand the best of the leaders you elect, you must also make the effort necessary to understand the issues so that any opinion you express and any position you take is a well-considered one. If every member of Local 802 cares enough to deserve and demand the best, our future will always be in good hands.
In closing, I would like to say thank you to those who view the work I have done here favorably. I hope, at the very least, that you realize that I have done my best, even when I was forced to make unpleasant decisions. I wish every success in the future, both for our organization and for each individual member.