The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVI, No. 2February, 2006

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The views expressed here do not express the views of Local 802. Please keep all letters to 300 words and send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Esila, the editor, at


To the Editor:

I just saw Eugene Jarecki’s documentary “Why We Fight,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2005. I highly recommend this film to all of my fellow Local 802 members, their friends and families. Go to to see the trailer and get further info.

The film contrasts the core beliefs of Republican icon Dwight D. Eisenhower — president, war hero, and five-star general — against the ideology of the current crew of warmongers.

“The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists,” Eisenhower warned the nation in his 1961 farewell speech. Who knew that Ike would be a prophet?

“Why We Fight” exposes not just the lies and manipulation that led us to Iraq, but also the “political, ideological, and economic forces that drive us to fight against an ever-changing enemy.”

Jarecki’s research is irrefutable; his interviews are unforgettable. I hope you will see this film.

–Bill Ochs


To the Editor:

I have been on the Theatre Committee for 11 years and two Broadway negotiating committees. I have an idealistic, all-for-one and one-for-all view of unionism, rooted, I suppose, in my somewhat socialist political leanings, and no doubt naive. I sometimes refer to fellow members as sisters and brothers — imagine!

The recent events precipitated by the RCMH negotiations and the resulting dissent in our ranks are painful to me.

Certainly it ain’t gonna be all peace and love within 802, nor should it be. Discussion and disagreement are obviously part of a healthy democratic process.

I know and respect the people involved and trust that they all have been motivated by what should really be the only goal: the improvement of the welfare of their colleagues. (I’m sure, for example, that our Executive Board members aren’t in it for the money.)

Section 1(a) of 802’s constitution: “To conserve and promote the welfare of its members, to advance and protect their interests and enforce good faith, fair dealing and adherence to union principles.”

While I’m sure all involved would say that is what has motivated their actions, insofar as any of the recent activities may, in contradistinction to that section, be even partially rooted in murky political agendas, arrogance of or thirst for power, perpetuation of a one-party system (even a benevolent one), jockeying for position for the upcoming elections or any other nonsense, I would entreat all involved to remember why we’re really in this union.

Disagreement, yes. Ongoing infighting that obstructs the operation of 802 in violation of our constitution, no.

We can ill afford any dilution of our power and purpose in a climate that is increasingly hostile to the interests of labor.

Let’s learn from this, move on, and keep our eye on the prize, folks!

–John Arbo


To the Editor:

Last fall, Local 802 President David Lennon botched the Radio City Music Hall negotiations. Early in October, management removed its worst demands and offered small wage increases. Without informing the negotiating committee or Local 802’s Executive Board about the offer, Lennon inexplicably stomped out of the meeting and began a leafleting and P.R. campaign alleging that RCMH was trying to cut musicians’ wages.

Three weeks later, management was ready to settle, if only Lennon would publicly apologize for “lying to your members, the public and the press.” To get musicians back on the job, Recording Vice President Bill Dennison and Executive Board member Jay Schaffner, among others, suggested that Lennon sign a letter of apology — if he had, the five-year contract wouldn’t have contained its cut in wages, loss of job security and reduction from 35 to 25 musicians over its life. Lennon refused, and the world-famous Christmas Show began with taped accompaniment and the press reporting, “You couldn’t tell the difference.”

Since Lennon and seven Executive Board cronies couldn’t tolerate suggestions that “the emperor has no clothes,” they charged the two officers for what some of them have called “subversion” and tried to relieve both of their administrative responsibilities. After many members complained, Dennison and Schaffner were allowed to resume their duties and the charges were withdrawn.

Our bylaws require 90 days’ notice to members of the meeting to hear charges against officers. Yet Lennon’s January “report” claimed he okayed the 90-day delay “in deference to the wishes of the charged parties.” Furthermore, he and “The Magnificent Seven” had filed their charges after the bylaws’ 60-day limit. They were therefore defective and could never have been tried. Is this the best musicians (and all New Yorkers) can expect from Local 802’s leadership?

–John Glasel
The writer was president of Local 802 from 1983 to 1992.