In ancient times, the Romans worshipped Janus, the two-faced deity who looked both toward the past and the future. From that root came our name for the month of January, but somehow we do not do as the Romans do, taking stock in January so that we can make plans for the future.
Maybe it’s a reflection of our American obsession with speed, but we evaluate our lives in December and are off to a running start with our resolutions the moment January begins. In recognition of our tendency toward impatience, I’d like to use my December column to measure what has been accomplished this year and what we should resolve to do better in the New Year.
We can point with pride to one accomplishment during 2007.
We rescued our health benefits fund from the brink of extinction. There have been bumps along the way in implementation and we still need to improve the computer support for that department, but because of the success of the Broadway negotiations, we still have a health benefits fund, more people are covered and the benefit level available has been improved for the first time in many years, albeit modestly.
Of course, this was not done without sacrifice. Broadway musicians diverted two wage increases to fund these changes. However, we brought back eligibility to anyone who averages 5.7 Broadway shows per week, which was the historic benchmark.
What still needs to be done?
We have to make health benefit contributions the priority in future negotiations so that contribution levels from all employers are similar.
We did that in the negotiation for Philharmonic substitutes, and the financial vice president is pursuing the same objective in the freelance concert negotiations, which are currently underway.
By prevailing on this objective, musicians will be free to move from job to job and preserve important contacts with employers as they have been in the past.
On a more long-term basis, we have to make our support of a single-payer healthcare system more visible. Until the United States catches up to the rest of the industrialized world in this regard, maintaining health insurance coverage will continue to divert us from other priorities in negotiations.
As I write, we are experiencing the first stagehands’ strike on Broadway in 121 years. It is imperative that we help Local 1 succeed in achieving an equitable contract with the League. I hope that, by the time the column is published, the theatres will once again be open, but we cannot emphasize enough the importance of Local 1’s contract fight to our own future success. The fact that the League is willing to challenge a strong union like Local 1 reiterates the importance of COBUG and multi-union cooperation in the future. I am pleased that my administration has succeeded in repairing our relationship with the other Broadway unions, particularly Local 1.
A few months ago, I wrote about our fledgling attempts to start a political action committee. The establishment of this group is a priority that I have highlighted in my column before, but it has had its first meeting at last. This is the small beginning that must be expanded in the next three years if we want to increase our influence on public policy. Our goal should be to expand this committee to twenty members in 2008. Are you a potential activist? If so, please step forward and help your union pursue its objectives in the political arena by contacting our political action director.
We have stepped into the 21st century with 802 Notes, our new e-mail communication system. 802 Notes gives the administration a way to provide information to members in a more timely fashion and gives members an advance look at Allegro each month. This month, 4,228 individuals received messages about the looming deadline for the new membership directory and changes and reductions to MPF funding. If you are not receiving 802 Notes, send an e-mail to 802Notes@Local802afm.org and we will add you to the list.
That’s a list of three accomplishments, a number the Romans would find propitious, but there are more.
At the AFM convention, our delegates prevented a dues increase and even reduced recording dues for musicians working under the Broadway Industrial Agreement, but it’s clear that we will have to be vigilant in order to protect our resources as long as the Federation continues to struggle financially.
We’ve started building a new organizing team, but our only success thus far has been on one-shot events. That is at least a start when one considers that a year ago the organizing department was defunct. But we must go further. Cable TV offers a rich resource of organizing targets for the future.
I’m also proud that we have sought ways to involve more of the rank and file in policy decisions. Membership meetings are now held on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. to attract more attendance. This effort has met with some success but it still has a long way to go.
Earlier this year some members expressed concerns about recording issues involving Off Broadway shows. I appointed a committee to review policies in this regard, and I want to thank all of those who are serving on that committee.
January starts a new year. I look forward to building on this year’s accomplishments and setting new goals that will make Local 802 stronger. Your input and participation will be important if our goals are to become the reality in 2008.