The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVI, No. 5May, 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. Letters must be 300 words or less. 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:

It was heartening to read John Arbo’s letter in the February issue, which expressed his idealistic view of what our union should be like. His quote from Local 802’s constitution — “to conserve and promote the welfare of our members, to advance and protect their interests and enforce good faith, fair dealing and adherence to union principles” — brought to mind a situation concerning the Metropolitan Opera retirees that mocks these principles.

For several years, the Met Opera has placed certain current Saturday afternoon broadcasts with archival broadcasts from previous seasons. It would naturally be expected that all Met musicians who participated in those old broadcasts would be paid for their work. Some of these musicians are now retired. All current members of the Met Orchestra are compensated whether or not they performed those broadcasts, but the retirees who actually participated received nothing. It is a fact that the same retirees are paid for previous TV tapes.

It is especially important that we act quickly to secure the retirees’ benefits since I understand that media negotiations are now taking place with the Met. They are seeking to initiate an ambitious program of “downloading or commercial release” (NY Times, 12/16/05) of archival recordings.

We, the retirees, have written three letters to President Lennon bringing this situation to his attention, but have never received a reply.

We appeal to you again for a meeting to explain the problem and to help propose an evenhanded solution.

If the union would call or e-mail me to set a date in the near future for a meeting with some of these retirees, I’m sure we can resolve the issue. My e-mail is; my phone number is (212) 864-1069.

–Philip Cherry


To the Editor:

After reading the president’s report and the Cary report in the March issue, I am left with one question, which one of your letter writers also alluded to: Who should pay the cost of the Cary report, which I’m sure is substantially more than the fine that was imposed? The person whose actions necessitated the report — or the members, who had nothing to do with any of it? I did not see this addressed in either report.

–Scott Robinson

To the Editor:

After reading the report on President Lennon’s use of 802’s credit card, I thought that was the end of the matter. Yet, several decided to write letters to the editor.

An ex-president of Local 802 wrote that the local needs no written policy governing the use of credit cards because this is already defined by “law.” While the application of law in this matter may have seemed clear to that ex-president, it was not clear to the special counsel, who wrote:

“While personal use of the American Express card is not per se unlawful, especially when there is no explicit constitutional or written policy prohibiting it, it is a question of degree.”

It was apparently also not clear to President Lennon, who made no attempt to hide his personal use of the card from anyone. Indeed, the special counsel made particular note that President Lennon was not accused of submitting false expense reports to cover up personal use of the card.

In contrast, an Executive Board member wrote that steps should be taken to assure that there will be no repeat of such issues, an idea that echoes the special counsel’s recommendation that Local 802 adopt a detailed written policy governing personal use of the credit card. Most people would agree with this. It’s just common sense and should have been done a long time ago.

Two other writers were less constructive, declaring that President Lennon should resign or that we should “fire him.” I must admit that I am quite puzzled by these over-the-top reactions to what was, at worst, a lapse of judgment. But then again, I will not be running for union office this fall.

In any case, I don’t know how much more can be said. I think it’s time to move on to more important issues.

–Bob Haley