With this issue, Local 802 begins the second year of a two-year political action campaign. Its goals are to strengthen our political action fund, TEMPO 802, and to involve more of our members in political action.
We made an excellent start in 1999. Contributions to TEMPO 802 are up substantially (although they still fall short of where we need to be). With the union’s assistance, more 802 members have registered to vote (although we still need to register hundreds more). But this is a work in progress – and the 2000 election year will require a great deal of work.
Why is it so important? Think of the impact these issues have on all of us:
- At the national level, Congress and the new President will determine whether patients have a strong bill of rights to protect them against HMO abuses; whether Medicare will be expanded to include prescription drug coverage – or cut back sharply; whether the minimum wage is raised. Our rights in the workplace – to organize a union, to be protected against on-the-job injuries, and to have our unions engage in political action in the interests of working families – have been under furious attack for decades.
- At the state level, Local 802 has been deeply involved in many important battles – for example, to prevent workers from being misclassified as independent contractors and stripped of employee protections, and to preserve and strengthen the workers’ comp system.
- And at the local level, all of us have a huge stake in preserving rent regulation and improving our public schools.
Some of these issues deal directly with our working lives, and many affect us as part of the larger community. A wrong vote on any of them by our elected officials could be devastating. That’s why 802 has been increasingly active in labor’s efforts to make working families’ voices heard in the political arena.
EXPLAINING THE ISSUES
An important part of this involves bringing the issues to our members. “I don’t think members want us to tell them how to vote,” said Local 802 President Bill Moriarity. “But they do want information about the issues that can help them understand what is involved, and why the union is taking a particular position, so that they can make up their own minds.”
To help provide this information, every issue of Allegro for the past year has included a political action page, featuring a column that explores one issue in depth. Some of the articles were written for Allegro by the lawmaker who introduced a particular bill – including a column last June by Rep. Jerry Kleczka (D-Wisc.), outlining his Independent Contractor Clarification Act, and the September column by NYS Sen. Eric Schneiderman, making the case for passage of a “Clean Money, Clean Elections” bill in New York State. Other contributors are the heads of organizations leading campaigns that Local 802 endorses.
We’ve also been publishing a monthly update column by 802 Legislative Director Judy West, reporting briefly on the month’s key battles and suggesting ways for 802 members to make their voices heard.
Labor’s efforts to explain what is at stake have proven highly effective in New York – as evidenced by November’s overwhelming vote against revising the New York City Charter (a campaign Local 802 was very active in) and the defeat of efforts to call a NYS Constitutional Convention, a year earlier.
VOTER REGISTRATION IS KEY
“Before members of Local 802 can make their voices heard, they must be registered to vote,” said Judy West, 802 Legislative Director. “Right now, there are more musicians unregistered than we would like to see.” She told Allegro that the union plans to launch a phone-banking campaign on Monday, Jan. 10. “We urge volunteers to come in and help out by calling their union brothers and sisters whom we believe are not currently registered.” The phone banking will begin at 5 p.m., at 802 headquarters, and will continue for several months. (For more information, or to let us know you want to take part, please send in the coupon below.)
West notes that, beyond the critical elections this year, New York voters will be replacing all city office holders in 2001 – including 38 of the 51 members of City Council, who are not eligible to run again because of term limits.
GETTING OUT THE VOTE
Nationwide, the shift of power in the last congressional election was widely credited to the labor movement’s mobilization. Unions registered 1.2 million new voters and union members turned out strongly to vote. They were 23 percent of all who voted in 1998, although union households account for just 17 percent of the voting population.
“They’ve got the money, but we’ve got the people . . . and the power to elect people who will stand up for working families,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, after those elections. In 2000, the entire House, one-third of the Senate, and the presidency are at stake, along with governorships and state and local offices.
The impact that union members’ involvement has already had on the nation’s politics is described on page 7.
LOBBYING OUR LAWMAKERS
The need for political action doesn’t end after an election. Having helped to put candidates in office, we work to keep them accountable by applying pressure to them as they go about their daily work. Local 802 encourages members to communicate their concerns to their legislators about specific bills. With other members of Unions for the Performing Arts, 802 travels to Albany to lobby for UPA’s legislative agenda and to testify at hearings. The union brings members to visit lawmakers in their district offices.
THE BOTTOM LINE: SUPPORT TEMPO 802
While the labor movement can never raise as much money as corporations and the wealthy (who outspent unions eleven to one in 1998), members’ contributions make it possible to register voters, publicize the issues, and get the vote out. Because of our numbers, a modest contribution from every member would add up to a substantial treasury.
“We have a lot of work to do over the next several years at the city, state and federal levels to protect our members’ interests,” Local 802 Financial Vice-President Mary Landolfi told Allegro. “If Local 802 is not involved in legislative and political debates, who speaks for musicians?”
Recording Vice-President Erwin Price pointed out that a $1 contribution a week from just 2,000 members would total $100,000 in a year. “Certainly a dollar or two a week to make sure that musicians’ interests are taken into account is a worthwhile investment.”
As members prepare to pay their first installment of dues for 2000, Local 802’s officers and Executive Board are urging them to contribute generously to guarantee that our interests are defended in the political arena. “Our representatives in City Hall, Albany and in Congress take actions that have an big impact on our lives, and we need to let then know what we need from them,” Executive Board member Bill Crow told Allegro. “TEMPO helps us to do that.”