First, let me say farewell by thanking those individuals who have helped me most during the last three years:
- Danny Engelstein, a gifted negotiator whose pragmatic approach has been under-appreciated
- Bill Dennison and Jay Schaffner, who have worked tirelessly for the good of the local for many years
- Those members of the Executive Board who have done their best to help me improve conditions for the membership
- And last but not least, those individuals who have supported my efforts on behalf of the members of Local 802.
I am most grateful to all of you.
It is not easy to be president of this union, particularly at a time in history when work is on the decline due both to the effects of technology and a terrible economy.
Having served successfully as financial vice president of Local 802, I had hoped that I would be able to bridge some of the differences within the union, but in large part that has not been possible.
It is disheartening to live with the knowledge that there are many members who know little of me other than what my opponents have expressed and who therefore have, in my opinion, an inaccurate picture of my actions and motives. Nonetheless, I believe that the future will validate many of my efforts and concerns.
I did not come back to work at Local 802 because I had a great desire for power or position. I retired early, as I always had planned to do, and would never have entertained the notion of becoming president if I had not sincerely believed that our union had been run off the rails.
I know firsthand how difficult it is to earn a living as a musician. I am therefore cognizant that I owe much of my economic security to the union; it may be a flawed institution, but it is still our best hope to maintain our livelihoods through our working years and into retirement.
Having said that, change is inevitable and the failure of our union to adapt to change has eroded its ability to positively influence circumstances for its members. That is a problem that we have scarcely begun to address and this failure will be our undoing unless we act to increase the union’s scope of influence.
Finally, I would like to state that my greatest disappointment is that I did not succeed in convincing enough members that preparing for negotiations without taking into account the relative leverage we can bring to bear against the employer is a fool’s gamble.
If we do not make the right choices in negotiations, we will not only lose the ability to win improvements, we will also lose much of what has been gained in the past. This has happened before and can happen again.
I believe the most important role of leadership within the union is to assure that decisions of the membership are made in an informed fashion with the full knowledge of the risks and opportunities at hand, even when doing so is unpopular.
To fail to do so is dereliction.
To insist instead that a more determined exercise of militancy will substitute for real leverage is a fantasy.
To demonize those who are willing to confront reality is demagoguery.
For the moment the membership has chosen its path. Only the future will demonstrate whether it is a wise one.
My desire for the local, however, is the same as it always has been – that it be an effective voice for all its members, seeking the greatest good for the greatest number of members, as all successful unions do.