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Why Workers Need A Union: An Interview With Former Brooklyn Academy of Music Video Editor & Motion Designer Kaitlyn Chandler: “Without A Union, Nothing Is Really Promised”

Published Friday, June 21, 2019
by Meagan Day/Jacobin Magazine
Why Workers Need A Union: An Interview With Former Brooklyn Academy of Music Video Editor & Motion Designer Kaitlyn Chandler: “Without A Union, Nothing Is Really Promised”

(NEW YORK CITY) - The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) was founded in 1861 and has been continuously showcasing the performing arts at its location in New York City’s Fort Greene neighborhood since 1908.  The institution has long been a leader in avant-garde cultural production, fostering radical artists from Philip Glass to Merce Cunningham.

But now, BAM may be about to do something else radical: Unionize.

However, the executive staff at BAM is pushing back.

In documents shared with Jacobin, they assured Workers that “we will do everything we can to make sure you have the information to make your own decision about the future relationship you want to see between BAM and their Employees” - and then presented only the scariest “facts” about Unionization they could find.

For example, they emphasized that you can - theoretically - be fired for not paying Union Dues.

Of course, in a Non-Unionized workplace, including BAM, you can already be fired for nearly any reason that management decides.

Jacobin’s Meagan Day spoke with Kaitlyn Chandler, a Video Editor and Motion Designer who has worked a BAM for three-and-a-half years, about why BAM Workers want to join United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2110:

MD: What is BAM’s mission? KC: BAM is an institution dedicated to bringing avant-garde art and ideas to Brooklyn.  What we know today as BAM came into its own in the 1980s with our past President and Artistic Director Harvey Lichtenstein.  When you work here, that history is all around you.

MD: And how do BAM Workers factor into that mission?  KC: BAM works because we do.  I’ve never met a more talented, smart, and kind group of people.  And we all believe in the mission.  Whenever you tell people where you work, they immediately say: ‘Oh my god I love BAM,’ and that fills you with a sense of pride and joy.  I’m very proud of the place I work.

MD: What does your job consist of?  KC: I make the trailers for BAM shows, archive at least one performance of each BAM show and I make animated trailers for BAM festivals.  Basically, if there’s moving pixels, I and the rest of the video team probably have a hand in it.

MD: How many people are you trying to bring into the new Union?  KC: It’s between 160 and 180 right now.  Stagehands and some construction and security are already Unionized.  Our Union would represent White-Collar Administrative and Retail Workers.

MD: I spoke to a MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) Worker recently who told me the same thing about her and her Co-Workers all being proud of where they work, but she also added: ‘You can’t eat prestige.’  So why do you and your Co-Workers need a Union?  KC: Past presidents of BAM have said: ‘It’s not a job, it’s a crusade.’  But it is a job.  For ten years or longer, Workers at BAM have only seen a loss of benefits.  We lost the matching 401k; our pension plan now means that newer Employees get less.  Full-time jobs are being replaced and BAM increasingly relies on part-time, insecure jobs that pay minimum wage or just slightly above.  Meanwhile, some full-time jobs don’t even get benefits or paid time off.   So we’ve only lost, and we haven’t gained anything. Starting a Union is an effort to sustain what we have now and possibly get even more.  And we think that BAM can really benefit if the Workers are treated more fairly.

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