Labor Day Reflections
by Leslie Shank

Local 30-73 member Leslie Shank is a violinist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. This article originally appeared in the November 2011 Senza Sordino, the official publication of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM).

Today is Labor Day, and as a member of the Twin Cities Musicians’ Union and a member of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, it feels like a very good day to reflect on what that means. Last week I volunteered for our local at the AFL-CIO booth at the Minnesota State Fair. In spite of it being the hottest day of the week, it was a very enjoyable experience.

There were representatives from a variety of unions, such as welders, cement workers, and actors. There was a demonstration by a cement worker who was making a beautiful square imbedded with colorful glass. There was a welder who had a machine that would allow anyone to do some “virtual welding" with the help of a computer screen. It isn’t easy! Our local invited various performers to come and play.

While I was there, the organist for the Minnesota Twins, Sue Nelson, played and accompanied children who were brave enough to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” I thought to myself, “What do we all have in common?” We all have pride in our work and want to be the best in our field, whether that be welding or playing in the pit for an opera. Working together we can help each other achieve our goals of being the best we can possibly be.

In the music field it is common to hear from some musicians and management that unions get in the way of the art or that the union creates too many rules that hold us back. Of course, the irony in this way of thinking is that the musicians ARE the union. We have control through collective bargaining to help create a work environment that enables us to do our best. Without this right we would be working three jobs, leaving no time for practice or anything else. Looking around the AFL-CIO pavilion I realized that we are all after the same things, and that now more than ever, it is important to realize the value of being united over the ultimate goal of excellence in our fields.