The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 111, No. 5May, 2011

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.

Our Mission at Local 802 Ends At the Borders: the Big Picture Belongs to the AFM

I read John O’Connor’s report “Talking Politics” in the December issue with great interest. It is a very good opinion piece, but I believe O’Connor is wrong. Our mission as Local 802 does end at our borders. The big picture belongs to the AFM.

Good unionism means, in most cases, not intruding on other jurisdictions, even if it seems reasonable. Partly, this is a matter of respect.

So if we feel the urge to take on larger causes, what should we do?

Asking members to respond individually is one way to go. Some years ago, I remember a campaign to free a political activist musician being held in a South American country. (I did respond to this call and I think many other members did.)

Another way is to ask the Federation to respond when needed. This is key. This is one of the reasons the AFM is there, to take care of the big picture. The Federation by definition covers all of our jurisdictions and should be the conduit for most political action.

All of this may presume some sense of narrowness, but if you don’t draw lines how do you know your constituency? Think of it not as narrowness, but as keeping the big picture in focus.

In the past, “serious debate and continual analysis” didn’t seem to exist or it was only preaching to the converted. I do believe that this administration is different and I’m hoping that there is an understanding that we had defined boundaries as an AFM local and a larger platform within the Federation.

This changes only if another local or musical organization outside our jurisdiction asks for our input or help. We do have a moral obligation to show solidarity – when asked.

The reference to South African apartheid was dreadful, inappropriate and insulting to anti-apartheid activists and citizens of Arizona.

–Mickey Burke
(This letter was edited and condensed with the permission of the author.)