Where Do We Go From Here?
Music & Politics
Volume 116, No. 12December, 2016
This election cycle was marked by intolerance, disenfranchisement, sexism, racism, anger and nationalism.
Let’s respond with engagement, tolerance, equity and vigilance for the vulnerable.
Trumpet players are famous for worrying about their high notes. When I was a student, that concert C was always a struggle until I realized that the C wasn’t the issue. My problems were with the G, the G#, the A, Bb and B before it. That strained C was the result of the underlying issues that already existed in my playing.
The election of our 45th president will be remembered as one of the most important moments of modern American history, but we must not confuse it with an event that determines the status, values or priorities of our country. Instead, we must recognize that this brutal and at times disgusting election was a manifestation of our county’s deep social divides, our extreme polarization, our disparate socio-economic backgrounds and the intolerance, disenfranchisement, sexism, racism, anger, fearfulness, nationalism and distrust that exists in our country today.
The shocking election brought unexpected results beyond Donald Trump’s win in the electoral college and the role played by a handful of rust belt states that for years had typically favored Democratic nominees. Down-ballot Republican candidates across the country, including here in New York, did surprisingly well in what was expected to be a strong Democrat wave that never materialized. Across the country, 32 state legislatures will be controlled by Republican leadership, 13 with Democratic leadership, and five with split legislature leadership. In New York, the GOP will retain control of the New York State Senate, assuming that Democrat Simcha Felder once again caucuses with the Republicans, which brings their ranks to 32 members.
What does this mean for our interests and for those of the labor movement?
This election and campaign was enormously disturbing to those of us who value reasoned argument, civility, tolerance, inclusion and the rejection of prejudice, exploitation, misogyny and nationalism. Fifty percent of the country is disappointed, sad, scared, incredulous, ashamed and dispirited. Had Hillary Clinton won, the same would still hold true. No portion of our society can discount the fact that among those who voted, one of every two people voted for the other person.
We now face many questions and serious concerns for musicians and the labor movement. The president-elect could potentially nominate four justices to the Supreme Court, a number that would be unprecedented and could determine such future issues as the preservation of Roe v. Wade, the constitutionality of marriage equality, the ability and legality of labor unions to organize and collectively bargain, the way our country welcomes immigrants, and the manner in which we police our streets and administer criminal justice (to name but a few). The president-elect could set back many social initiatives and priorities that have seen consistent and steady progress over the last eight years, from bringing more Americans under the auspices of health insurance coverage than ever before, to reversing environmental policies that scientists throughout the world suggest are only barely keeping us from tumbling over the brink of irreversible environmental disaster, and immigration policies like DACA and DAPA that help foster an environment of inclusion, respect and tolerance. The president-elect could remove the United States from the alliances that the world order has been built upon and could spark economic trade wars and tax policies that would not only do catastrophic damage to the worldwide economy but could cost Americans their jobs and economic livelihoods while greatly increasing the national debt. The president-elect could encourage policies of intolerance toward those of different ethnicities and faiths and could implement policing and criminal justice policies that further foster undue burden and discrimination against minorities, including African Americans and Latinos. The president-elect could weaken the National Labor Relations Board, which under President Obama was proving a vital ally in our efforts to preserve collective bargaining rights, safe working conditions and important labor protections. The list goes on.
It is our job, as members of the labor movement, as artists, as community members, as sons, daughters, parents and family members – as Americans – to challenge xenophobic bias, question irrationality and deception, identify prejudice, and combat sexism, misogyny, intolerance and hate. We must fight to preserve the values we hold dear by ensuring that we advocate for those who are most vulnerable and for those most often exploited. We must act with compassion, kindness, tolerance, equity and inclusion. This is fundamentally important and would remain true regardless of who was elected on Nov. 8. It is incumbent upon us – the voters, the American people – to hold our politicians and leaders accountable, whether they are who we voted for or not.
So we ask for your help.
Together we must ensure that our elected leaders, those at every level of government, don’t enact policies that rob us of the values of our community or the values and priorities of the labor movement. Join community organizations, donate to causes you believe in, call your State Senator, your Assemblymember, and your congressional representatives. Help the AFM and Local 802 by getting involved in local legislation by becoming a District Captain or contributing to TEMPO 802. Submit an op-ed column to Allegro. Join us on the streets and on the phones as we work to elect local leaders who share our values and priorities, and who will shape the future of New York City and New York State. Only by holding our local elected officials to the highest of standards will we be able to guarantee that our communities, our neighborhoods, our city and our state reflect the values that matter most – inclusion, diversity, equity, equality, economic opportunity, sustainability, tolerance, kindness, the value of the arts, and our ability to make a fair living.
What will we be doing? New York City Council races are just around the corner, as are citywide elections, and Local 802 and our partners will be identifying the leaders who best advocate for the needs of the music community. We will work to protect our intellectual property and work to ensure that our right to collectively bargain remains intact. We will join hands with our labor brothers and sisters to celebrate our diversity, encourage tolerance and inclusion, advocate for gender and sexual equity, protect minorities and the vulnerable, and drive policies that provide economic opportunity through the benefits of collective bargaining and organized labor. We will defend against attacks on public and private sector unions by fighting legislation that further establishes “right-to-work” states. We will remain ever vigilant for attacks on workers’ compensation or legislation that promotes ot encourages employee misclassification. We will advocate for policies and introduce reforms that will help alleviate pressure on the wage floor, and ensure that our tax dollars are put to good use.
We will continue to fight for each other because we are only as strong as our community, our colleagues and our families are united.
The stakes are higher now than ever before. We are lucky in New York to live and work in a state that values the role labor unions play in our lives, our communities and in our overall economic well-being. This is made possible thanks to elected leaders like U.S. Representatives Nadler, Maloney and Espaillat; State Senators Kaminsky, Addabbo Jr., Hoylman, Krueger, and Alcantara; and State Assemblymembers Carroll, Niou, Rosenthal and De La Rosa; all of whom Local 802 was proud to support during this election cycle. We are extremely grateful that we will have the opportunity to work with these leaders on issues facing musicians and the labor movement in the years ahead.
Democracy, even during its most terrifying moments, is truly beautiful during transitions of power. The leaders of our country never remain constant. Power, visions, priorities and agendas are changed, transferred, altered and re-established. But what remains constant is the people’s role. We must hold our leaders accountable regardless of who they are, what party they represent, or who voted for them. It isn’t the concert C that is the ultimate issue, it’s the notes that precede it. Like the best instrumentalists, addressing the cause and holding ourselves accountable is the real challenge, and it’s where progress is truly made.
Let’s meet it. So…what’s next?