Next year promises a dramatic change in the dynamics of New York City politics. Recently enacted term limits mean that the mayor, comptroller, public advocate and 36 of the 51 City Council members are not eligible to run again. While this massive turnover in City government may lead to a measure of political instability, it may also present a unique opportunity for those of us in the labor movement to have a fresh voice in city politics.
This year, members of Local 802 need to demonstrate political vigilance. By keeping informed and making contacts, the union can develop ties both to newcomers to electoral seats and those who are seeking higher positions. As union members and labor activists, we need to understand the importance of political involvement. Politics affect the quality of our lives. Many of our issues require government support, so we need to continue to support those candidates who have stood by us, and those who pledge to support our issues.
On the state level, a priority will be pressing Governor Pataki to write into law the recommendations of his own task force on independent contractors. The Governor established the task force in 1998, to deal with the growing concern of employees being classified as independent contractors. The task force, made up of representatives from both labor and business, found that New York State needs to create a Commission on Independent Contractors, a Labor/Management Council, and a Certification Board to effectively deal with the growing misclassification of employees. “Employee misclassification can only be remedied when the Governor supports the solutions reached by his tax force,” said 802 President Bill Moriarity, who was a member of the task force. Local 802 will continue to work with the New York State AFL-CIO on this issue.
On the city level, we’re supporting a New York City Council resolution, introduced by Met Council on Housing, that gives the city home rule over protections for tenants in rent-regulated apartments. In 1971 New York State passed a law denying the City control of the rent regulation system. As a result, the rent status of more than one million New York City apartments is decided by New York State. The resolution now pending before the City Council argues that lack of city control over our own apartments is unfortunate and unreasonable. As we continue to make our voices heard for the rights of tenants, we need to prepare ourselves, as well, for the battle to preserve rent regulations due to sunset in 2003. Only by showing a high level of activism in the next couple of years will we be able to have a strong influence in 2003.
These are just a few of the issues that Local 802 is involved in. We are also fighting for increased art funding, appreciation of the art of live music and affordable healthcare for everyone, which Local 802 considers a basic right.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Local 802 has always been aggressive and effective in our fight for worthy legislation. We have been successful because of our belief in creating and utilizing political activists in our union. We continue to educate our members through the “Legislative Update” column in Allegro, reporting on upcoming issues that have an impact on this union and the labor movement in general, and asking our members for action when necessary. Elected officials have declared over and over again that political activism has made a difference. Local 802 has seen how receiving a hundred phone calls, or even post cards, from union members on a specific bill will influence an elected official’s position substantially.
TEMPO 802 is the Musicians’ Political Action Committee. It is funded by voluntary contributions from 802 members and friends who understand the fundamental importance of political action. Member involvement with TEMPO 802 is critical to its success. First and foremost, we need our members to participate in the upcoming elections – by attending rallies, participating in phone banks, leafleting, and organizing events. Getting involved in a campaign at the grassroots level helps us increase our visibility. Candidates for elected office need to see how active we are as a union.
Another way to support TEMPO 802 is through a contribution. The union cannot use general funds to assist candidates for political office – yet such support is a necessity for the men and women who will represent our interests. If every member gave $20 a year, that would add up to $200,000 for political action. As members prepare to pay their first installment of dues for the year 2001, Local 802’s officers and Executive Board members are urging them to contribute whatever they can to guarantee that our interests are defended in the political arena.
Please contact TEMPO 802 if you would like to participate or would like to discuss political issues. This next year is important to the life of our union. We need to assure that pro-union and pro-art candidates get elected to higher office.