[Marxism] Fight redbaiting in the musicians unionj

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 28 06:59:10 MDT 2006


   Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2006 01:02:28 -0400
   From: jschaffner <jschaffner at igc.org>
   Subject: An Appeal in Friendship and Solidarity From Jay Schaffner and 
Bill Dennison

   July 27, 2006

   Dear Friend,

   Having known and worked with you over the past decades,
   we are writing to ask for your support.

   We have both worked at Local 802 of the American
   Federation of Musicians for more than 15 years. We
   joined the staff of a local that had become a beacon of
   progressive trade unionism among the arts and
   entertainment unions, after ousting an entrenched and
   corrupt leadership in the early 1980's. Local 802 has
   been in the front ranks of labor opposition to
   apartheid, U.S. intervention in Central America, and in
   support of progressive causes that you and we hold
   dear.

   Jay Schaffner joined this staff in 1990 as a clerical
   employee, rose through the ranks to become a supervisor
   of one of the main divisions of the local and a trusted
   national negotiator for the AFM. Three years ago he was
   elected to the union's Executive Board. Bill Dennison
   joined the staff in late1991 as an organizer and soon
   became the trusted assistant to the president. He
   played a crucial role in the organization of the
   historic 2003 Broadway strike, during which he was the
   union's chief media spokesperson. In 2003 he was
   elected as a vice president of the local. We both took
   office along with a newly elected president with
   limited experience, whom we hoped would grow into his
   new position.

   That hope did not pan out. Last November this new
   president led 802 members who work at Radio City Music
   Hall into an ill-advised strike after a badly handled
   negotiation. We spoke up in defense of our members and
   their jobs, urging a settlement that could have saved
   both jobs and income. The tactical differences on this
   matter exposed far deeper problems. Seeking to cover
   up his own mistakes, the new president blamed the
   mishandled negotiations and the ensuing strike on us.

   He proceeded to file "charges" against us and tried to
   drive us out of the union for "subversive" behavior and
   actions. The charges were designed to silence us and
   to silence debate and discussion of the disastrous
   strike and settlement. We were forced to seek legal
   help to defend our jobs and ourselves. We were facing
   both a long internal union trial process and possible
   civil litigation. The bills we racked up were
   substantial.

   The good news in all of this is that the members of our
   union rallied to our defense and to the defense of
   their union. The president's office was flooded by
   angry emails and phone calls, insisting that the bogus
   charges against us be withdrawn. That is exactly what
   happened; the charges were completely withdrawn and we
   were reinstated to our duties and positions. For more
   information on the charges and the response of the
   membership please go to: http://concernedmusicians.org.

   Since then there have been two developments. First, it
   has been discovered that this president has been
   engaged in serious financial improprieties with the
   local's funds. Second, a new rank-and-file movement,
   Concerned Musicians of Local 802, has launched a drive
   to unseat this corrupt leadership in union elections
   that will take place in December. This new and growing
   movement will be responsible for raising the funds
   needed for this electoral effort, as our union bylaws
   require.

   We are writing to ask your solidarity and financial
   assistance to help defray the legal costs we incurred
   as a result of the attack on us. Not only were we
   charged with "subversive" behavior for speaking our
   minds, the attacks on our views and beliefs soon
   produced a red-baiting rumor campaign. We received
   legal help and advice from the firm Levy & Ratner,
   which represents a number of unions and rank-and-file
   movements. They were of enormous help in stopping the
   attack.

   Our legal bills now total nearly $7,000. At this point
   we do not feel we can turn to the membership for help
   in raising this money when they are seeking to raise
   even greater sums for this year's union elections. So
   we are turning to you, our friends, and asking if you
   will make a contribution, in solidarity, to help us
   defray these costs.

   Checks should be made out to "Schaffner - Dennison
   Defense Fund" and sent to either of us at:

   Bill Dennison
   183 Rockne
   Yonkers, NY 10701

   Jay Schaffner
   1795 Riverside Drive,
   Apt. 4-C
   New York, NY 10034

   For more information you can email us at
   bildennison at netscape.net or jschaffner at igc.org.

   Thank you, in advance, for your friendship, solidarity,
   and your commitment to fundamental principles of trade
   union democracy.

   In solidarity,

   Bill Dennison

   Jay Schaffner

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