Mobilizing Members for Organizing

Union Launches Member Education Program

Volume C, No. 1January, 2000

On Nov. 18, musicians from a number of fields took part in a member education program Local 802 has just initiated to raise members’ awareness of how unions operate, and develop greater support for organizing. The first MEMO training session (MEMO stands for Membership Organization and Mobilization for Organizing) involved 17 members of Local 802 – activists in the Broadway, off-Broadway, club date, freelance and music prep fields. The session was led by Board Member Tina Hafemeister and Assistant to the President Bill Dennison.

“The program helps our members understand where we fit, as part of the labor movement,” Hafemeister said. “And it focuses on how, when workers unite, they can change their own lives – and the broader society.”

One very positive aspect of the program, she said, was the opportunity to share experiences, among a group of players active in many different fields. “The musicians learned a lot about each other, and how they function in their specific fields. But they also realized that although, as musicians, we have particular problems, the kinds of things that will give us strength are the same things that would give strength to any worker. And it became clear that union density is really the key.”

“The central point of the MEMO program is to give members an understanding of where power comes from: how the union is able to best fight for its members to gain power,” Dennison told Allegro. “The bottom line is that power comes from organizing. Our members quickly understand that pressure from nonunion employers and orchestras is a threat to our ability to win decent contracts. It becomes clear that organizing not only makes sense for musicians who don’t have the benefit of a union contract – it also is crucial to maintaining decent wages and conditions for union jobs.”

Participants found the program interesting and stimulating. “We had a very good group that had a lot to say, and I thought Tina and Bill did a good job,” said John Arbo, a member of the Theatre Committee.

Freelancer Audrey Terry, a fairly new member of 802, came to New York from Utah, where she served on the board of Local 104. She said the discussion of organizing techniques “made it seem very straightforward. I would definitely recommend the program to others.”

The next session will be held on Thursday, Jan. 20. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Tina Hafemeister or Bill Dennison at (212) 245-4802.