The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 114, No. 3March, 2014

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. E-mail letters to or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Letters must be no more than 300 words.

Henry Foner (on saxophone) Jack Foner playing at the fur workers union resort in the Catskills, circa 1947.

Henry Foner (on saxophone) Jack Foner playing at the fur workers union resort in the Catskills, circa 1947.


Henry Foner’s letter to the editor in the February issue of Allegro brought back memories of events in which Henry played a crucial part, events that were important in the history of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and indirectly in the history of freelance orchestras in New York.

In the years before the Members Party replaced the old guard who had been running Local 802, freelance orchestra musicians here had no job security and no standing to negotiate contracts. Scales, working conditions and benefits were decided in private meetings between union officials and management.

In the early 1980s, when the Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a tenure agreement, Local 802 leadership offered no support in the negotiation process and refused to allow me as orchestra committee chairman to meet with union attorneys. After the Members Party, led by John Glasel and John Palanchian, took over the leadership of Local 802 in 1983, they brought in new legal representation, who assisted us in our negotiations. Liza Hirsch DuBrul, one of the local’s new attorneys, astutely made the connection with Henry Foner, a Brooklyn Philharmonic board member, a past president of the furriers’ union, and a member of an illustrious family of scholars and labor movement leaders. She arranged for me to meet Henry at an Abraham Lincoln Brigade dinner at which he was the keynote speaker. With Henry’s assistance, negotiations resumed, culminating in a tenure agreement, the first in the local for an orchestra of its type. The agreement never would have been reached without Henry’s intercession with the orchestra management.

That first CBA was an enormous accomplishment which helped establish a pattern for many orchestras that subsequently negotiated their own tenure agreements. Although very few Local 802 musicians have heard of Henry Foner, we all owe him our gratitude for his efforts on our behalf.

–Jon Taylor