SOME OF THE BEST
4 September, 2000
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Rod in action at The Riverton Rendezvous, July 2001.
Photograph courtesy Jay Hagan.
A Thought for Today
Labor is the best exercise for mind and
Note: This was written for and
published on Labor Day, 1998; but is seems as applicable today as it was
Our country and every great country has been and is built on honest work.
There is not only great dignity in labor, but I believe that fortune and
good times only smiles on those willing to roll up their sleeves and get
on with it.
Today is Labor Day in the USA. Our last great summer holiday. This is a
day when we celebrate the working man and woman and give them the day off.
And today we honor America's labor unions as well. Those organizations
that against great odds gave us the 40 hour week, did away with child
labor, helped make safety in the workplace a must, initiated overtime pay
for overtime work and is still fighting for women in the work force to be
paid on a parity with men.
Labor unions are much maligned and we have had a succession of
administrations in our country that has tried with the help of big
business to weaken and bring labor unions down. Today, then, seems like a
good time to say something very positive about the Clinton/Gore
administration. They gave us family leave. That’s a law now, not just a
dream. They go on fighting for equality in the workplace whatever your
gender, color, religious belief or sexual orientation may be. During the
six years of this administration we've seen laws enacted that protect the
health coverage of people who move from one job to another.
There are less people on welfare in our country than ever before, a
balanced budget has been submitted to Congress for the first time in a
couple of dozen years and there is a move by this administration [and I
hope Congress] to put our surplus funds into Social Security and education
where it belongs.
We don't need tax relief. We need better schools and education for our
youngsters; more day care centers in the workplace and better pay for
teachers. Seniors, and I'm one of them, need to know and be assured that
their country - the one they supported all their lives and contributed to
- will help take care of them as they grow older. The burden of supporting
their parents shouldn't fall wholly on the shoulders of their children.
And the young people of today should be able to have the same kind of
safety net their parents and grandparents have been guaranteed, since the
Social Security act was adapted.
We are a rich and beautiful country inhabited, by the most part. by
citizens who work hard, care about each other, contribute to their
communities and their country and deserve to be honestly represented by
the legislators they elect.
OK, time for some truth in editorializing. I belong to a number of unions
and am proud to be president of one of the great entertainment unions, The
American Guild of Variety Artists. For the past 75 years we have
represented comedians, singers, dancers, specialty acts, circus
performers, ice shows, magicians, monologists, tab shows. Our past and
present board members include the likes of George Burns, Phyllis Diller,
Danny Thomas, Roy Rogers, Red Skelton, Mickey Rooney, Gloria DeHaven, Rip
Taylor, Jack Benny and the list goes on. Our alumni boasts, Garland,
Sinatra, Merman, Jolson . . .well, you get the picture.
We make sure The Rockettes don't have to be let out to pasture as long as
they can kick and that Ice Shows launder performers' costumes every day.
We have health insurance and a sick and relief plan for our members. Sorry
if it sounds like bragging, but it really is. I'm happy and delighted to
have served AGVA for the past 15 years as its president, but on this day I
am especially proud of all those people who do the real work. Our board of
directors, of course, but especially the dedicated staff on the west and
east coast. . . . who really care about and serve our members. And, there
is one person especially, who has served as both my vice president and our
treasurer who has been the heart, soul and conscience of our union for as
long as I can remember. Her name is Frances Gaar.
To Fran and to everybody involved in AGVA and the union movement around
the world, happy holiday. I'm off to master "Beatsville", but I'd rather
be having a hamburger and potato salad with you. Love, Rod.
2001 Addendum: If anyone had told me I’d end up being head of a major
entertainment union for 18 years (with almost no one other than the
members knowing it) I would have smiled and replied, “Yeah, right.” As
vice president I went up a notch in 1982 when the then president resigned.
I finished out the two years remaining on his term and than was elected
four times as president and am running unopposed for a fifth term. It only
proves you never know where life will lead you and how long it will keep
To those of you who work for a living and I guess that’s just about
everyone, Happy Labor Day Weekend. Sleep warm
RM First published 9/7/97
with added material 2001
Details of Rod's next
appearance can be obtained by following the link below.
Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman