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The MEMBERS Party was founded in the summer of 1980 to oppose the reelection of Local 802 President Max Arons and his entire administration in that year's December biennial election. Many of our founding members had been involved with the 'Clean Slate,' a reform movement in the '60s.

Although virtually every active New York musician opposed Arons as well as his predecessor Al Manuti, who between them governed Local 802 from 1953 through 1982, the Clean Slate was unable to win an election. During those years, only about 5,000 of the Local's 30,000 members actually worked in the NYC music business. Nevertheless, all 30,000 were eligible to vote in the Local's elections conducted exclusively by mail. As a result, the vast majority of those receiving mail ballots had no direct knowledge of, or experience with, the perceived ineptness and coziness with management of the incumbent administration in negotiating and enforcing contracts.

Through the '70s there was no electoral opposition to what most active musicians felt was an incompetent and corrupt administration. In 1980, the MEMBERS Party brought a message of change to musicians in all fields. Despite our late start, we made a surprisingly strong showing, but did not win a single board or officer position. Shortly thereafter, we began publishing the MEMBERS Newsletter.

In 1982 at a contentious bylaw meeting attended by many of our allies, the Local’s bylaws were amended by doing away with the previous full-time administrative Executive and Trial Board positions occupied by people who owed their jobs to 802's president. Consequently, it became possible for well-known, respected musicians from a variety of musical fields to serve on both boards on an as-needed meeting-by-meeting schedule. After the historic MEMBERS' sweeping election victory in 1982, the party 's candidates were continuously reelected until the 2006 loss to the Concerned Musicians Party. In the 2009 (now triennial) election, the MEMBERS Party was returned to the leadership of Local 802 and ran unopposed in 2012 and 2015.

Since 1983, MEMBERS Party officers have built a legacy of accomplishment, judicious policies and union democracy. Among our many accomplishments have been: a successful Local 802 Building Fund, leading to owning our mortgage-free building; the Legal Services Fund, helping bargaining units to pay for outside legal counsel; the Special Projects and Services Fund, used to finance projects suggested by members and decided on by its Coordinated Advisory Committee in conjunction with the Executive Board; the unionization of Off-Broadway; direct involvement of rank-and-file committees in contract negotiations; a return to in-person voting including the establishment of an additional Lincoln Center polling place; establishment of the local's first viable strike fund; the local's own payroll service, Legit 802, Inc.; the formalization of subbing rights on Broadway – the 50% rule; the local's first organizing department and contracts, benefits and tenure for members of NY's freelance orchestras.

Over the years, we had some influence over AFM policy, particularly in the area of cooperation between the AFM and the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) in addressing the AFM's ongoing fiscal crises, because all of our local's presidents who were elected on our slate were also elected to the AFM's International Executive Board (IEB).

Prior to the 2010 AFM convention, we joined with like-minded members across the AFM in an effort to effect change in its leadership so that it would fulfill its primary role in representing working professional musicians. In an inspiring turn of events at the convention, 802 President Tino Gagliardi was elected to the IEB along with the presidents of Nashville and Los Angeles locals. A new AFM president and vice-president were also elected resulting in a sea-change in the AFM's priorities and effectiveness.

After we assumed leadership of Local 802 in 1983, Allegro was opened up to members' letters under a column heading, "Musicians Voice", and began addressing more relevant issues. The column's title was taken from the name of the Clean Slate newsletter published in the '60s. The improvement in Allegro's relevance raised the possibility that the MEMBERS Newsletter might no longer be necessary.

However, we ultimately decided to continue its publication, presenting articles on various musical fields while reporting both sides of ongoing controversies. Many of our accomplishments, such as building and strike funds, a paymaster plan and the organizing of Off-Broadway productions, were first introduced to Local 802's membership through the Newsletter.

Editorial Staff:
Bruce Bonvissuto, Michael Comins, Jack Gale, Martha Hyde, Bill Rohdin

PO Box 1502
Radio City Station
New York, NY 10101-1502

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    If you would like to help support the MEMBERS Party, you can do so by making a contribution. Your contribution will go towards the publication costs of the MEMBERS Newsletter, a quarterly publication which has been keeping Local 802 and other AFM members informed about the issues facing musicians and the music industry for over a quarter century.

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