Union Makes Communication a Priority

Recording Vice-President's Report

Volume CIII, No. 1January, 2003

Erwin L. Price

In my last column for Allegro I focussed on member services that Local 802 offers, their availability and the means to access them. In this article I’d like to comment on the flow of information: from outside the union to the union, from within the union to staff and members, and from the union to members.

There are various kinds of information that we use as a labor union with a large and diverse membership. First, there is the daily news. Some daily news relates to musicians in particular and their work. Other news relates to members’ lives in general, like news related to housing, rent control, the Broadway industry or music recording companies.

At Local 802 we try to see that the information is passed on in a fashion that can be understood and utilized to good advantage by our members.

The sources we draw on, where we have a relationship, are many and varied. Some, of course, are more useful than others. There are always sources that are not pertinent to the union and its members, especially if a particular source favors management or corporate interests rather than union principles.

The job of the union is to inform the members and the staff and to keep them current on issues that are relevant to their work, lives, health, well-being and long-term security. During my involvement as an elected official these last twenty years, first as an Executive Board member and now as a full-time officer, the policy of the union has been to allow a free flow of information from all sources to members. This usually happens through articles and reports in Allegro.

Sources of information include daily newspaper reports and all news media, including TV and radio. Also helpful are magazines with current, up-to-the minute information about musicians’ lives and work.

Every week, our Public Relations Department assembles a packet of newspaper and Internet articles that relate to the union’s mission. A recent packet included a story about the Foner brothers, news about the Broadway industry, an article about the Mayor’s crackdown on noise, information about the layoff of Verizon workers, a feature on a jazz widow’s windfall and a story about lost health benefits for the middle class.

This packet is distributed to officers, supervisors and some staff to give us a “heads up” about what’s happening in the larger picture. We can pass along this information or simply use it to keep current.

Our daily tide of information also comes from the AFL-CIO, other music unions and entertainment unions, the AFM President’s and Secretary/Treasurer’s offices, various government agencies, the pension fund and the health benefits fund. Add to all of this the daily promotional notices for concerts, shows and appearances.

Sometimes, I feel bombarded by the amount of literature and daily e-mail. Our job is to distill, examine and decide whether this information should be used in any way or passed on to you for your use. Much of the irrelevant information finds its way quickly into the recycling bin.

The union communicates with members in a host of ways: e-mail, telephone, fax, letters, flyers and memoranda. Allegro is actually an official document, as is the AFM’s International Musician; both include notices of meetings, policy statements and rules and regulations of the union.

The complete minutes of the Executive Board are published monthly, and the minutes of the Trial Board and CAC are published each time they meet. The Executive Board, which usually meets weekly, merits the most space, and these minutes are the most detailed. The minutes are presented by the Recording Vice-President to the regular attendees who read and edit them very carefully, so that in finished form they reflect accurately the activity, discussion and decisions arrived at during the meetings. The union strives for accurate and complete reporting of events for the edification of the members. Votes are recorded on all motions and attendance is also checked carefully.

Education is a big part of the information and communication process. There are programs sponsored by the AFL-CIO such as the MEMO program and other programs at Cornell Labor College, the Meany Center and Queens College Labor Center. Local 802 has been proactive in encouraging members to avail themselves of these opportunities.

Keeping members up-to-date is a complex process that requires constant attention by officers, supervisors and staff. Our ultimate goal is to help make musicians’ lives better at work and at home. Communication is one of our best tools to accomplish this.