#WhyUnion? Michael O’Daniel

Years before I joined Local 47, I was already well aware of the power of the Musicians Union. At the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, where I was assistant manager, I tended to side with the musicians on labor issues, which did not make me very popular with management. Much longer story here but that’s for another time. Some of the members of Local 1 actually asked me to run for president. Honored, but not something I could take on at the time.

Four years later, when I was in the artist management business, an entire series of jazz and pop concerts I had put together for Grant Park in Chicago was cancelled by the city’s Parks Department after unruly members of the audience provoked a riot that brought a scheduled Sly Stone concert to a premature close. They equated pop and jazz with the rioting element whereas they considered classical music perfectly safe. They also informed me that they weren’t going to pay the artists whose concerts had been canceled. I didn’t argue, I just said, “Yes, you will,” called Local 10-208 and put them on the case. The artists themselves said, “We’ll never see that money.” I said, “Yes you will. Chicago is a union town.” A couple of days later I got a call from the Parks Department saying, in essence, “Where should we send the checks?”

I joined Local 47 in 1975 with the sponsorship of the late Harry “Sweets” Edison. I personally at that time was a fairly dreadful performer (piano), although I had established some credentials as an orchestrator, copyist and arranger my primary reason for joining was to gain access to the Musicians Credit Union. Since then, my chops have improved even if my finances have not. I am proud to call myself a Life Member and have always hired union musicians whenever I was in a position to do so. Spelling out that history, or my history with Local 47, would take much more space than I have here. Solidarity, brothers and sisters!

And when I say “solidarity,” a longtime vision of mine has been that all the major sports and entertainment unions will band together to leverage their resources and media visibility to increase awareness of the importance of unions in general, and then that coalition bands together with all other existing unions and organizing movements to (a)  restore labor activism to its rightful place in American society, and (b) at the grassroots level, combat the forces of voter suppression. We have a short window of time while there is an administration favorable to labor in the White House. Your previous president, John Acosta, has already made some strides in this respect and I am hopeful his efforts will be continued and reinforced at both the local and national levels. Thank you for listening!

– Michael O’Daniel, Keyboardist
AFM 47 Member since 1975