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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
RE: RADIO CITY
To the Editor:
April’s “Musicians’ Voice” included a letter from a member of Radio City Music Hall’s orchestra committee. Positioned first among seven letters, it was the only one of the batch to rise to the defense of Local 802’s embattled president. (Could these facts be related?) The letter accused another unnamed correspondent of writing in Allegro about “events that never happened.”
Since I suspect the writer was referring to a letter of mine, I take issue. The facts cited in my discussion were derived from Jay Schaffner’s “time line,” which he admittedly assembled from indirect accounts like reports to the Executive Board. Although various orchestra committee members have alleged that Jay’s effort was inaccurate in several respects, they never itemized any supposed errors. Similarly, this latest letter hints darkly about “fictional scenarios” without any specifications.
The writer also accused the “unfortunate correspondent” of “political agendas.” If this referred to me, I plead guilty, since any criticism of an incompetent leader is by definition political.
Neither the writer nor any other Lennon supporter has ever tried to explain how our local’s president was able to convince anyone that walking away from a negotiation with a wage increase (however small) on the table, telling everyone that management was trying to cut musicians’ pay (of course, employers always aim for that), and then refusing to negotiate further for three whole weeks could be characterized in any way other than “botching” the talks. Who could seriously believe that such a strategy might constitute enlightened union leadership, especially in view of the negotiations’ disastrous outcome?
The writer was president of Local 802 from 1983 through 1992.
RE: “VIEWS FROM THE BOARD”
To the Editor:
I must commend Mary Whitaker for running against the Members Party in 2003. I am glad that she was able to follow in my footsteps, as I forced the first actual election at Local 802 after 12 years with no opposition. For many years, people were put into office or “re-elected” by acclamation. This was not democracy in action.
I ran for Executive Board because elections are healthy for unions, as they encourage rank-and-file participation and involvement — not because I had anything against the Members Party. (Thankfully, there was opposition to the Members Party in the next election.)
The fact that Ms. Whitaker bucked the Members Party gets my unqualified admiration.
However, her column in the May issue contains some rather distressing statements that bear closer examination, the most alarming of which is “…this same vice president revealed to the Executive Board that there had been personal use on a credit card by the president.”
My concern is that the recording vice president knew of this — but the board didn’t. Could he indeed have been the only person who knew and had the temerity to come forward with that knowledge? No one else knew of the credit card use? If others did, why didn’t they come forward?
I find it difficult to believe that it escaped the notice of everyone else, especially during the preparation of financial statements and LM’s.
Lastly, someone like Ms. Whitaker who declares she has “no political ambition” and “hates politics” has no business running for office, let alone holding office. That would be the same as a professional musician who hates music.
I am evidently a member of a local where financial disclosures can take years to be revealed to the membership and elected officers can hate politics. What next?
MEMORIAL DAY FOR ALL
To the Editor:
On this Memorial Day, let’s remember not just the veterans but the victims.
Over a period of eight years, I was assistant conductor of the Vietnam Symphony Orchestra in Hanoi. Everyone in the orchestra had lost family. “Killed by the Americans,” they would mention simply, with Buddhist acceptance.
Think about the many grieving families in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Could we even imagine what it would be like if U.S. towns and countrysides were bombed?
But I also have the deepest compassion for those of us veterans who followed immoral orders and didn’t know how to refuse. Like the poor pilot who dropped an atomic bomb incinerating 100,000 civilians in Hiroshima and went half-crazy afterward.
Tears of joy come to my eyes quite easily when I see the newsreel of Mohammed Ali proudly saying that he would not participate in an unjust war against the Vietnamese. History will show that he is a veteran of that war as much as those who participated in the violence of genocidal terrorism. Mohammed Ali had the courage to stand up for an honest America.
Six of my bunkmates in basic training are buried in North Korea. I can shed tears for them. They were young men. They wanted to live — just as all the relatives of my Korean students would have rather lived than die in a war over the economic confrontation of our country with the Soviet Union.
I want Memorial Day to remember everyone who died in wars — both the killers and the killed. I’m in touch with political leaders to work towards this goal. If you’re interested in joining my efforts, e-mail me at email@example.com.