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Home » Officer Columns » Activists Needed!

Activists Needed!

  -  AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

For the most part, musicians are happiest when making beautiful music with their colleagues. Few experiences can provide the rush that music does when the music making is truly exceptional. These special moments are cherished and remembered for a lifetime.

For many, the magical moments can be few and far between. Most of our careers are spent doing what we love, however, at the end of the day, it’s a job. We are employees who have an employer. There are moments when employer interests differ from employee interests and that’s when there can be friction.

Individually, musicians have very little power in the workplace, but when we act together, in solidarity, the power dynamic changes dramatically. It provides a balance to what would otherwise be the unbridled power of the employer. Isn’t that why we all joined the union—to make positive changes together that we could not otherwise accomplish alone?

But creating positive change in the workplace is far from easy. It takes creative approaches, reasoned positions, and most importantly, when necessary, leverage. On occasion we are forced into a job action. Achieving change is dependent on our power, solidarity, willingness to get involved, and leadership. Leadership comes, not only from union officers, but from those within our ranks who are willing to participate and serve.

Many of you may have never thought of yourselves as activists. This was certainly the case for me earlier in my career. Attending my first ICSOM Conference (more than 25 years ago), I was excited and a bit nervous not knowing what to expect. That conference was held in Vail, Colorado, which required flying into Denver and then a two-hour van ride through the Rockies.

As I stepped into the van, there were two gentlemen (Irv Segall, former ICSOM chair, and Ed Arian, former Philadelphia Orchestra delegate) headed to the ICSOM Conference. Realizing we were all going to the same conference, the conversation began with Irv turning to me and saying, “I guess you must be the ‘activist’ in the orchestra.” His assumption came totally out of left field. I had never thought of myself as an activist, but simply a musician like the others in my orchestra. It was the first time the notion of being an activist had occurred to me, but I quickly responded, “Yeah, I guess I am!”

And so began my life as an “activist.”

I share this story because I am certain there are many of you who don’t think of yourselves as activists. No one is born an activist. Usually it’s circumstances that turn people toward activism. When negative things happen in the workplace that affect people adversely, things that are unjust or unfair, musicians are moved towards activism because they realize, if things are going to change, they need to get involved.

If you feel this way, as I did, I urge you to get involved with your local or orchestra committee. You do not have to sit in silence enduring the frustration that comes from lacking control. There’s no reason to go it alone—nor should you. Together, we can accomplish so much more without the inherent danger of being singled out as the one squeaky wheel.

I urge you to get involved. The labor movement and our union’s strength is dependent upon members just like you! We need you now more than ever.

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