If the start of 2017 has been any indication, this will be a busy year for Americans, musicians, New Yorkers and our union
President Trump is now in the White House. The new administration brings great apprehension to many Americans, musicians and the labor movement at large, all of whom fear that we’ve embarked on an era of nationalism, xenophobia, sexism, social injustice, inequity and regressive policy not seen in this country for decades. This year, and those that follow, will require constant vigilance and tireless social engagement if we are to ensure our elected leaders, both Republican and Democrat alike, protect and prioritize the values and priorities we expect of them.
New York State
Here in New York State, the 2017 session in Albany is only one month old, yet we have already been working to pass bills that will help New York’s musicians and stop bills that will harm New Yorkers, our families and our careers. Gov. Cuomo’s veto of a bill (S7709/A10283-A) that would have stripped away important workplace protections from performing artists, and the inclusion of a film production tax credit in the governor’s state budget proposal, are early and substantial victories in 2017.
The inclusion of the tax credit may bode well for the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit, which, though vetoed by the governor in December, was modeled after the film credit. There may yet be ways to ensure that this credit, which received overwhelming support in the Senate and Assembly, is made a reality for music producers and studio operators across the state.
New York City
Local elections are extremely important to our work and our communities, as well as the democratic health of our neighborhoods, cities, states and our country. New York City Council and citywide office elections are around the corner, and we must support and partner with candidates and elected officials who prove they understand the needs of artists and share our priorities and values – those of inclusion, tolerance, unity, equity, opportunity, social justice and compassion.
We have already endorsed Mayor Bill de Blasio for a second term in office with his strong commitment to support our efforts to ensure our city remains a cultural capital where musicians can afford to live, work and raise a family, and we have already endorsed Marvin Holland for City Council in District 9, which encompasses Central Harlem and Morningside Heights, as well as portions of East Harlem and the Upper West Side. Marvin is a true labor and progressive candidate who fundamentally understands the vital role collective bargaining, workforce protections and fair treatment policies play in our city. These are the types of people we need in local government: strong, progressive leaders who foster and strengthen an inclusive, tolerant and just society that provides equitable opportunity for all.
New York City’s Create NYC Plan, the city’s first comprehensive cultural plan for a creative, artistic and cultural environment, will continue to move forward. President Gagliardi was appointed to the plan’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee by Mayor de Blasio and as the sole representative of the labor community, we will continue to ensure that the needs of artists and musicians – the needs of the people creating and performing art and music in New York City – are not overlooked or under-appreciated.
New York State Constitutional Convention Ballot Measure
In November, voters across the state will find on their ballots a seemingly simple question: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend same?” The answer to that question will have enormous impact on every person living in the Empire State for generations to come.
Defeating the 2017 New York State Constitutional ballot measure is a priority for the labor community in 2017. New Yorkers must understand that though a constitutional convention sounds exciting and could present opportunities for quickly changing Albany, the risks involved far outweigh the rewards. Our right to organize, our workforce protections and union strength, musicians’ guarantee of employee status and workers’ compensation, the guarantee of free public education, are all enshrined in our state constitution. Are we willing to risk our hard-earned legislative gains, opening them up to a free-for-all attack by well-paid anti-labor lobbyists and organizations?
“When they go low, we go high”
This will be a busy year, and we will need all musicians to be engaged, motivated and involved. Musicians can expect our union to prioritize encouraging political engagement and the efforts of those of us who want to get involved in their communities. We will only be as successful as we are powerful, and only as powerful as we are collectively united. Our new administration must be held accountable for the values of all Americans, and we must influence national policy and politics by making our voices heard at local levels. Be ready to call your local, state and federal representatives. Become a District Captain. Contribute to Tempo. Attend Mobile Office Hours when they are in your neighborhood. Remember First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge and make it your mantra: when the enemies of our values go low, stand up, raise your hand, use your voice and go high.
O.K. What’s next?
Over 70 Local 802 musicians, friends and family marched at the Women’s March on NYC on Jan. 21, united for sexual and social equality, justice, inclusion, tolerance and compassion. Thank you to those of you who came, those of you who marched, and those of you who stood for the values that make our communities strong. Photos by Walter Karling.