President’s Report

What’s Really Going On Here?

Volume CVI, No. 7/8July, 2006

David Lennon

My statement to the members at the June 13 membership meeting:

I want to report to you that on Tuesday, June 6 the Local 802 Executive Board – by a vote of 5 to 4 – passed a motion asking for my resignation. This motion was passed after a five-hour board discussion for which I was not present.

As I informed the board this morning, given the gravity of this request, I am asking for a reasonable amount of time to respond to it.

It is true that when I ran for political office, I certainly understood and expected external attacks on the union – and even myself – and my obligation to defend the members against such attacks. That’s part of my job.

I was unprepared, however, for the ruthless internal attacks that, in my view, are not driven so much by fact or reason but by political agendas.

Nevertheless, whether I expected it or not, it also goes with the job.

I want you – the members – to know that I haven’t hidden my mistakes. I’ve had them published. I stand naked before you, because I’m not afraid for you to judge my total self, my mistakes as well as my and this administration’s accomplishments.

Part of my job – all of our jobs – is to see past the rhetoric and politics and keep our eyes focused on the future welfare of your union.

I implore you to evaluate today’s bylaw resolutions with your eyes wide open.

And I urge you to ask yourselves whether or not these proposed laws are intended to benefit the musicians of Local 802 or if there is another agenda at play here.

Ultimately, as I have always and firmly believed, it is you – the rank and file – who are the supreme authority of this local.

I know that you have tough decisions ahead. And I urge you to demand that you, the members, be allowed to make them and no one else.

It is your right and is what this union is and should be about.

In this month’s column, I had hoped to report to you on a groundbreaking media deal recently negotiated by me and the musicians’ committees of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Negotiations for the comprehensive media plan began in December 2005 and stepped into high gear over the past month. The new deal will increase musicians’ salaries by $8,000, $9,000 and $10,000 in the first three years, and up to $12,000 annually if the media plans continue into years four and five of the contract, in addition to a significant boost in their pension.

Unfortunately, that report will have to wait in order for me to address far more sinister activities at Local 802, intended to distract me and us from the work you elected me to do. I am deeply concerned over the internal divisions that presently exist at Local 802. In this report, I pose the question, “What’s really going on here?” because many members have asked me that question and deserve to have an answer. The quandary I find myself in, however, is that while dissidents can turn the union upside down all in the name of “democracy,” the president is not afforded such self-indulgent behavior. If the president tries to defend himself against self-serving, politically motivated attacks, he runs the risk of being labeled “divisive” or attempting to “stifle free speech.”

Let me start by again stating that I have made some mistakes and have taken full and public responsibility for any errors in judgment. You should expect nothing less from your president. I want to make clear that I in no way wish to minimize your concerns over these issues.

In my statement to the members at the June 13 membership meeting (printed on this page), when I said “I stand naked before you,” what I meant was that in me you have a president who will not hide his mistakes from you – as evidenced by my insistence on publishing the independent counsel’s report (the “Cary Report”) in the March issue of Allegro.

On page 4 of this issue, Recording Vice President Dennison offers his editorial column – and I emphasize the word “editorial.”

I wish to clarify what I believe to be gross inaccuracies put forth by Mr. Dennison. First, the board did not determine any “misconduct,” as Dennison would have you believe. Article V, section 7 (d) of the Bylaws clearly prohibits the Executive Board from conducting a trial against any officer for his orher “actions or conduct.”

Regarding the recent issue concerning AFM reimbursement checks, while some wish to cast the most dire light possible on these events, the truth of the matter is that I cashed two checks that I received which were made out to me, assuming they were reimbursements to me. I assure you that I would not have cashed these checks unless I had a good faith belief that these were reimbursements to me.

As Mr. Dennison well knows, the checks were made out to me. I received them. I did not “take” them. What I said to the board was that I did not specifically recall the manner in which I received these checks. I receive mail and documents through a number of ways: through the mail, my secretary, other staff members hand me things, on my desk or on my chair.

Further, the checks did not arrive accompanied by any backup documentation delineating “airline tickets, hotel and phone bills.” It merely referenced the “Futures Committee,” for which I co-chaired a subcommittee and attended nine meetings across the country over a period of one year. When I received the checks, I mistakenly concluded that they were reimbursements for international union business expenditures, which I had paid for out of my personal funds.

I assure you that I did incur expenses for international union business. Apparently my confusion at the time I negotiated the two checks in question was to mistakenly co-mingle in my own mind cash outlays that I had made for local union expenses with cash outlays I had made for international union business.

Lastly, Messrs. Schectman, Mars and Blumenthal did not bring the issue of my mistake to my attention. I brought it to their attention. And, upon discovering my error, reimbursed the local in full, immediately.

Although the board did ask me to respond to a few questions in writing, on June 6 the board held a five-hour discussion concerning my actions, without me present to defend myself or to answer to further accusations. Then, in a vote carried by half the board, a motion was passed to ask for my resignation.

Although the board has no power to remove or even hear charges against a sitting president, I take the board’s motion seriously.

In order to consider this request, however, I cannot and will not bypass the highest authority in this union – you, the members. I have faith that the members will hold me innocent of any intentional wrongdoing, unless and until proven otherwise. That is why I will be getting back out into the field to hear from you, to seek your guidance, and answer your questions, in order that my decision, whatever it may be, truly reflects the wishes of the membership.

I urge you to read Dennison’s report and ask yourself if it is an honest description of the situation or simply a political campaign speech.

What’s really going on here? Charges were filed against Bill Dennison and Jay Schaffner for what many of us believe were their deliberate attempts to undermine the position of the Radio City Orchestra rank-and-file committee, elected Executive Board and chief negotiators during one of the most vicious corporate attacks Local 802 has ever sustained. Since then, these two non-musicians have launched a highly organized and calculated campaign of revenge to choke your president in a dust cloud of allegations, and to make daily operations so difficult that members – not having time to assess and evaluate the situation – might conclude that there is a failure of leadership.

They are driven by their personal animus towards me and the singular goal of removing me from office prior to 802’s December election.

While I deplore such duplicitous campaign tactics, I realize that people are free to campaign in whatever manner they wish. There is a time, however, for campaigning and a time for doing the work which you elected us to do.

As long as I remain your president, I am committed to doing that work – promoting live music and protecting your livelihoods – to the best of my ability, each and every day.