If you were to interview the few thousand women and women-identifying members at Local 802, the largest local of the AFM, you would have thousands of perspectives on what it is to be a musician in any given field, thousands of perspectives on the intersection of factors such as race, ethnicity, religious or philosophical belief systems, and any number of qualifiers added to the experience of gender. Given these innumerable permutations, the challenge remains — how to address inequities and inadequacies we all know to be true in the workplace and broadly through society?
Like our own experiences as musicians, it’s important to address each issue with attention to detail, creativity, openness to new perspectives, and persistence. This was a winning formula for labor leaders, politicians, activists, and musicians who paved the way for all of us to move forward toward inclusivity.
The mission of Women of 802 is to recognize and channel the power and leadership skills of the women-identifying members of 802 by promoting networking, fostering specific support, and increasing gender parity. All three pillars of this mission are essential to cultivating a fulfilling and equitable work environment. There is also no silver bullet to solve all possible issues in one fell swoop; instead, we must build piece by piece, with input from the larger community on issues and policies that directly affect the lives and well-being of members.
Among the many issues that affect women in the work place and personally, maternity and family concerns impact a significant portion. For those who choose to begin a family, concerns about balancing childcare and a career are paramount, and haven’t been addressed effectively by federal law. The New York Paid Family Leave Act was a good start, but financial support is still dependent on individual employers, and the length of covered leave is short in comparison to other industrial countries.
The New York State Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act requires that employers maintain adequate environments for breastfeeding mothers to pump while at work to maintain an adequate milk supply. This includes a private room with a lock and a refrigerator in which to store milk. There are obvious logistical constraints in small theaters and freelance workspaces. Local 802 will now provide space within the building for nursing mothers to pump that meets the criteria outlined by state law. In the meantime, we will fight for workplace recognition and accommodation of new mothers and families. We hope that members who are working in the vicinity of 802 can take advantage of this space. We would also like to work with fellow unions to address bringing workplaces up to this standard.
We are also aiming to provide a series of workshops, free to all members who would like to attend, that can provide some tools that have historically been barriers to equity in the workplace. Some topics we’re looking to cover are negotiating strategies, understanding contracts, and developing a small business or nonprofit. Additionally, in keeping with our mission, we would like to offer a space for inclusion and support. We will be developing community events over the coming months, working with fellow committees across 802 to offer safe spaces for discussion and socializing.
The idea of “women,” and gender more broadly, is not monolithic. It takes many individuals to contribute ideas about policy, in and out of the workplace, to shape our union into an inclusive environment. Ultimately, this enables us to do what we love most – work as performers, teaching artists, composers, arrangers, instrumentalists, electronic musicians – unencumbered by discrimination or lack of opportunity. Achieving these lofty goals will take real-world grit and determination, but as women and musicians before us have demonstrated, building upon small goals is the way to achieve larger, long-term gains.
Contact Women of 802 at: WomenOf802@Local802afm.org