Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.

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Officers Columns

Here are the latest posts from our officers

AFMPresidentRayHairW

Ray Hair – AFM International President

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    Pension Fund Avoids Critical and Declining Status Due to Higher Investment Returns and Increased Employer Contributions

    Note: AFM-EP Fund updates appearing in this column are not applicable to the AFM’s Canadian Pension Fund, known since August, 2010 as Musicians Pension Fund of Canada. 

    At its May 2017 Board of Trustees’ meeting, AFM-EP Fund actuaries advised that better than expected investment returns and increased employer contributions—most notably, $20 million in new contributions over the next three years from the Sound Recording and Motion Picture industries negotiated by the Federation—enabled the plan to avoid “critical and declining” status for at least another fiscal year.

    Although the odds are that the Fund may become critical and declining at some point in the future, even as early as the next fiscal year (beginning April 1, 2018), that status will depend on investment returns, employer contributions, and other results during this fiscal year.

    Busting the Myths

    With the speed of today’s Internet, inaccurate information can be disseminated quickly. Here are a few myths I’ve seen, along with the facts.

    Myth #1: The Fund is not critical and declining so we’re “safe.”

    Though plan status has been certified critical each year since 2010, avoiding critical and declining status this year doesn’t mean the plan is healthy. High investment returns coupled with innovative increases in Federation-negotiated employer contributions kept the Fund out of critical and declining status this fiscal year. As recently as the plan year concluding March 31, 2016, employer contributions covered only 42% of benefit payments.

    Increases in the percentage of employer contributions are essential to the health of the Fund. This cannot be accomplished if members opt to work off-contract without pension contributions for signatory employers, rather than insisting that Federation and locally-negotiated agreements with pension benefits be honored.

    Myth #2: The Keep Our Pension Promises Act (KOPPA) proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders is good for participants.

    Fund trustees would strongly support legislative changes that would help the Plan secure participants’ pensions without relying on benefit cuts. Unfortunately, KOPPA as currently drafted and sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) provides the Fund with no relief whatsoever.

    Why not? Because a key provision in the bill disqualifies the plan from coverage. Relief provided by KOPPA pertains only to plans with a certain percentage of their funding problem attributable to employers who withdrew from the fund without paying their withdrawal liability. One example of this was the 2011 Philadelphia Orchestra bankruptcy. However, because the plan does not meet the bill’s required threshold percentage, KOPPA, if enacted, would fail to provide any relief.

    KOPPA would also eliminate the plan’s ability to avoid insolvency (running out of money) by reducing benefits. While no one wants to see benefit reductions happen, that option is important as a last resort. Benefit reductions could allow the plan to continue paying higher benefits than if it became insolvent. As written, Congressional adoption of KOPPA, though highly unlikely in the current Congressional climate, would shorten the life of the plan.

    Local 802 (New York City) President and Fund Trustee Tino Gagliardi and I met with senior staffers for Senators Sanders, Franken, and Baldwin in Washington, DC, June 6 to discuss what changes to their proposed KOPPA legislation would be needed to permit the plan to benefit from it. Unfortunately, none of those staffers believed that KOPPA would ever move through required congressional committee hearings where amendments could be made, let alone be adopted.

    Myth #3: The plan lost 40% in investment returns when other plans lost 25%.

    The Plan lost 29% in investment returns for the 12 months (fiscal year) ending March 31, 2009, not 40% as some have alleged. This misunderstanding was tracked back to the trustees’ December 2016 letter to participants that said plan assets declined by 40% over 18 months. Some have read this to mean the plan’s investment return was negative 40% over that period—but that was not the case. 

    Myth #4: The Fund office received huge staff pay increases in 2009.

    This misunderstanding was tracked back to the change in IRS reporting requirements for the compensation numbers shown on IRS Form 5500 Schedule C. The rules changed in 2009 to expand the definition of compensation to include, not just salary, but all payments made on behalf of staff—including, for example, health insurance and other benefit costs, travel reimbursements, and other expenses incurred while performing their jobs.

    Fund Office staff cost increases have averaged only 2.16% a year from fiscal year 2009 to 2016. This modest increase, only slightly more than CPI, includes an increase in staff health care premiums over a period when premiums rose on average more than 25%.

    What’s Next?

    Because the Fund remained in critical status this year, benefit reductions to already earned benefits, which might be necessary if the Fund becomes critical and declining, will not be considered this year. Next year, the Fund will go through the same process—as it has every year in the past—to determine the plan’s status. Critical and declining status could be in the Fund’s future at some point and appropriate preparations will be made. Until then, the Fund will continue to monitor its progress, review its investments, collect employer contributions, and manage expenses.

    The Federation, in each of its negotiations, will push hard for increases in employer contributions to increase the plan’s overall funding percentages and improve assets available for distribution.

    I am committed to keeping you updated with the most current information about the Fund’s status. In addition, please visit the Fund website, www.afm-epf.org, register and log on for easy access to FAQ’s and updated information as it becomes available.

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Sam FolioW

Sam Folio – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    All Things Symphonic!

    This issue of the International Musician focuses on the symphonic field. Coming from the symphonic world myself, it is always a special issue for me. Symphonic musicians typically perform under collectively bargained local agreements. This has resulted in a field that has excellent union density due to union security clauses found in AFM symphonic contracts.

    While some states have passed “right to work” legislation, most symphonic musicians understand the importance of an AFM contract and remain loyal, strong, and supportive union members. The important contractual gains achieved over many decades, are a testament to musician solidarity. Weathering the previous onslaught of bankruptcies, lockouts, and occasional strikes was made possible by hardworking teams of symphonic musicians represented by their local unions and elected orchestra/negotiating committees, with aid and support from symphonic player conferences and the Federation. 

    While symphonic musicians still face challenging contract negotiations, it appears we have entered a period of relative tranquility. At the time of this writing, there are no ongoing strikes, lockouts, or pending bankruptcies. This is a moment that may allow for some contract rehabilitation for those musicians who were forced to make concessions due to the “great recession.”

    When requested by a local officer (after consultation with the orchestra committee), the Federation will dispatch a Federation negotiator to lead and/or assist with orchestra contract negotiations. Additionally, the Federation provides an annual negotiating orchestra workshop just prior to the ROPA Conference for orchestra negotiating committees and local officers. For those new to collective bargaining or just needing a refresher, this workshop is for you. Some local officers attend annually and always leave the workshop saying they learned something new. 

    The Federation also shares the cost with the local for financial analysis of the orchestra with whom the local will be negotiating. Contact the AFM Symphonic Services Division for details.

    Integrated Media Agreement

    Our national Integrated Media Agreement (IMA) covering live symphonic media work will soon, once again, be renegotiated. (The IMA does not cover work performed in the recording studio, which is covered by SRLA). The multi-employer representative for a growing number of orchestras, Employers’ Media Association (EMA), will be across the table from the Federation. Previous negotiations have been long and arduous but hope springs eternal.

    The crucial recurring battle tends to be over our strong belief that there is added value associated with recorded product and that it is necessary and appropriate to compensate musicians based on this added value. We will not yield in our belief that recorded music must be compensated separately and apart from our live performance wage. The methods of product distribution may have changed (decreased physical product and increased digital steaming), but the additional stress of recording and creating a product that lives on in perpetuity has not changed. It requires appropriate additional compensation for musicians. Musicians have fought for and defended this basic tenet for decades and we will continue to do so.

    I hope you enjoy this special symphonic issue of the IM

    Now Available: AFM 2016 Annual Report

    The 2016 AFM Annual Report is now available on the AFM website. After you log in, click on the Documents Library tab. Then click on the Financial Documents and Annual Report folder. Now click on the 2016 Annual Report PDF. This is a comprehensive report from the AFM officers, legal counsel, auditors, directors, some AFM staff members, and the editor of the International Musician. It also contains the 2016 year-end audit. This annual report is intended to be a retrospective, rather than forward-looking document. Local officers wishing to receive the print version should request a copy from AFM Assistant Secretary Jonathan Ferrone
    (jferrone@afm.org).

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awillaert

Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    While Talks with WCMA Hit a Wall, New CBC Agreement Comes to Fruition

    The Canadian Office continues to bargain with music festivals, award shows, and music industry events, with a view to having all such work under a union scale agreement. We were successful recently in negotiations with The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), who each year present the Juno Awards, along with several days of young artists performing live in venues surrounding the host city. The three-year deal represents significant enhancements, including a pension and a streaming component that is separate from the broadcast deal. We are currently working on a similar agreement with the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA), another major event held in a different Canadian city each year. Saskatoon is the choice for 2017.

    WCMA Stalemate

    In pursuing what is best for musicians, we have run into the proverbial brick wall with the West Coast Music Alliance (WCMA), which since merging its event with both the Western and Prairie Music Awards, has hosted a festival and awards week called Breakout West. After several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a more than reasonable agreement, the WCMA has refused to come back to the table.

    There is much more at stake than making sure the awards show and live streaming are properly contracted and paid. Inexplicably, the position the negotiators took was: “Musicians should not think of Breakout West as a paid gig. They should consider it a networking opportunity.” In other words, showcasing at the event pays zero. There is no payment, no pension, and no protection against unauthorized recording and streaming.

    Yet the organization receives roughly a half-million dollars in government grants and private sponsorship, let alone what it charges for admission and participation. Where does all that money go? Therefore, the CFM office had no choice but to request placement of the West Coast Music Alliance, and its board of directors, on the AFM International Unfair List. Members must not perform at, or in association with the Breakout West event in September 2017. While we continue to be open to bargaining, we are committed to all the pressure we can administer in an effort to bring fairness to this unconscionable working environment.

    New CBC Agreement

    On a more positive note, after two years of on/off bargaining, a new agreement has been reached with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Along with substantial increases in fees, there are now residual payments on underscore and themes for episodic and dramatic series, along with older programming from the CBC archives (subject to limitations). Our agreement with Canada’s public broadcaster remains the only union contract to contain a guarantee of yearly expenditure.

    Final language will be completed in the next few weeks, followed by the ratification process. I would like to personally thank members of the CFM negotiating committee, who dedicated many days of their time to ensure a fair deal for our members. They are: Eddy Bayens, president of Local 390 (Edmonton, AB); Doug Kuss, secretary-treasurer of Local 547 (Calgary, AB); Michael Murray, executive director of Local 149 (Toronto, ON); Francine Shutzman, of OCSM  and president of Local 180 (Ottawa, ON); Robin Moir, secretary-treasurer of Local 180; Luc Fortin, president of Local 406; and Varun Vyas, secretary-treasurer of Local 571. Also special thanks to Canadian Office staff members Executive Director Liana White, Administration Director Susan Whitfield, Contract Administrator Dan Calabrese, and Symphonic Services Canada Director Bernard Leblanc.

    SoundExchange Acquires CMRRA

    Of interest to Canadian artists and publishers, SoundExchange has acquired the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA). For many years, CMRRA collected mechanical rights for artists and also handled synchronization rights. But for the past few years, CMRRA passed that responsibility along to the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA). SoundExchange, now the largest Collective Management Organization (CMO) in the world, is expected to keep the operations separate, at least for the time being. Watch for more information in this regard.

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Other Officer Columns:

Traveling Engagements

Traveling Engagements—Who Plays and Who Gets Paid?

by Joseph Parente, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA)

Over the next several months, outdoor venues will be presenting various types of entertainment in many locals throughout the Federation. These engagements provide added employment to many musicians. However, there seems to be an issue as to which musicians are to be employed for this work and what is the correct scale for these traveling engagements.

A symphony orchestra traveling to another jurisdiction to perform a symphonic concert is normally covered by their collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and is not at issue here. However, in cases where symphony orchestras are hired to travel to other jurisdictions to back a name act or to perform the soundtrack for a motion picture or video game, there have been problems.

AFM Bylaws cover both types of engagements. Article 14 Section 3(a) states:

A symphony orchestra may travel freely for the purpose of giving concerts of a symphonic type ... That seems to be clear. Article 14 goes on to say: In the cases where a symphony orchestra travels as a back-up unit to an artist or in a commercial venture that is not self-produced … or the orchestra is not the main attraction ... the wage scale of the home Local or the Local having jurisdiction over the engagement, whichever is higher, shall be payable to the musicians …

Again, this means playing for an act, motion picture, or video soundtrack.

Article 13 covers traveling engagements defined as … an engagement in which any member performs outside the jurisdiction of that member’s home Local. This applies to symphony orchestras as well as freelance orchestras traveling to other jurisdictions.

Article 13 Section 10 states:

Except for services that are covered by a CBA with the home Local or the AFM that provides for wages and other conditions of employment … the minimum wage to be charged and received by any member … for services rendered on a Traveling Engagement shall be no less than either the Local wage scale where the services are rendered or the Local wage scale where the musical unit has its base of operation, whichever is higher.

So there is no misunderstanding, other than an orchestra traveling to give a concert, the orchestra’s CBA is irrelevant. Terms of employment are governed by the local’s (either home local or destination local) wage scale book. Obviously, a promoter or presenter would love to pay only traveling expenses (per diem, lodging, etc.), while the cost of the orchestra is being paid by the orchestra’s management who is burning services under their weekly scale.

Incidentally, this situation doesn’t merely occur during the summer. There are just many more engagements in the summer because of outdoor venues. Similar engagements take place during the year with regional “mini-tours” such as Il Volo, Salute to Vienna, Mannheim Steamroller, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. These are usually freelance engagements, but the same rules apply. Contractors, locals, orchestra committees, and musicians need to communicate with each other before these jobs take place so there is a level playing field for all musicians involved. Once the job takes place, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make things right. Local musicians should not and cannot be cheated out of work that is theirs in order to accommodate others who circumvent the AFM Bylaws.

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Light Summer Reading: A Real-Life Fairytale

by Tina Morrison, AFM International Executive Board Member and Vice President of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

Once upon a time there was a musicians’ local of the AFM. They didn’t really know much about the ways of the nonmusician or “civilian” world. The local did its best to assist member musicians. They were generally happy in their musician world, talking about music and instruments, telling and listening to stories about their lives and gigs, and solving problems in the symphonic workplace. But they weren’t satisfied. Musicians were still struggling to find work and they could tell the civilians were being deprived of the amazing art form that had been developed and passed along through generations.

The local knew they would have to do something different. They sent one of their officers out into the world to meet with civilians and start communicating through different, nonmusical means. The local wasn’t sure where they were going but knew it was the right path.

The officer ventured out slowly, testing the grounds and becoming braver. With the encouragement of another member musician, she joined a local service organization where she was one of only two musicians. She observed their meetings and learned to communicate with them. She told them the stories of musicians and the members of the organization became interested in supporting the musicians.

As the officer gained more knowledge of this strange world, she was introduced to the local arts community. She started attending and then volunteering for their events. She told them the stories of the musicians, the difficulties they faced, including a city ordinance that made it more expensive to have live music and dancing, which was influencing potential venues to choose other forms of entertainment.

She made friends and eventually was appointed by the mayor to serve on the arts council. She learned from the arts commissioners that politicians could make decisions that would help the musicians, so she volunteered to chair the legislative and lobbying committee.

Political figures were people on TV or in the newspaper but, nervously, she decided to treat them like people and quickly discovered they were flesh and blood just like musicians. One of her friends on the arts commission decided to become a politician, ran for a city council position, and was elected!

This friend quickly became very busy learning a new job and performing a new role in the community. A few years went by, but he never forgot the musicians and the problem created by a particular city ordinance. He stayed in touch with the local officer and eventually the time was right for them to go to work to change the ordinance. The local officer introduced him to the new generation of officers. They worked together rewriting the ordinance and the city council voted for their changes, supporting musicians in a way they never would have thought of themselves. The End … beginning!

Have an enjoyable summer and please be involved with your local and your community. Without the encouragement, support, and expertise of the musicians of the local, none of the above would have come true

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help us, help you

Help Us, Help You

by Dave Pomeroy, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 257 (Nashville, TN)

help us, help youMost musicians don’t fit the stereotypes that some people like to place on us. We are hard-working, productive members of society who provide a soundtrack to the lives of those who may not know what it means to be creative or to try to and make a living in the arts. Many of us are involved in our community as teachers, volunteers, and mentors to the musicians of the future. Musicians often have more obstacles to overcome than the average worker could imagine—yet, somehow we persevere.

The fact that we love to play should never be an obstacle to taking care of business. The major reason why the AFM exists is to help you navigate through the challenges of a constantly changing music industry.

I come from a family of nonmusicians, but I fell in love with the bass at age 10. My love for playing and determination to succeed have helped make many of my childhood dreams come true and I am very grateful for that. I only knew one person in Nashville when I moved there at age 21. I joined AFM Local 257, which helped me connect the dots and have a successful career. My first gigs were as a touring musician. Then I made a gradual transition into studio work, as well as writing, producing, and releasing my own musical projects. For years, my dad would ask, “Are they paying you, son?” And the main reason I could say to him, “Yes, they are,” was because of the AFM.

As I got more involved in my local, I began to see the administrative side of the equation, and recognized the importance of getting employers to sign AFM Agreements in advance of a session or engagement. Nothing is more effective than a bandleader, session leader, or sideman asking that all-important question, “Is this a union session?” and helping to get a signatory agreement in place before the gig happens. Once the gig is over, it is much more difficult to get people to take responsibility for doing things the right way.

Our job is to arm players with the right information, and to help explain to employers that an AFM contract protects everyone involved. For example, when a record is used in a TV show, film, or commercial, the new use payment comes from the third party that is using the recording, and not the original employer. Otherwise, it becomes a game of cat and mouse—the employer hopes the musicians don’t find out about the new use, and the musicians can do little but complain and try to get a piece of the license fee. Without an AFM contract, the chances of that happening are almost nil.

Unfortunately, at almost every turn, there are unscrupulous employers who will try to take advantage of musicians who take them at their word. When these people sign an AFM agreement—whether or not they ever intended to follow through—we have the leverage to make it right. I recently concluded a 4 1/2-year quest to get musicians paid for reruns of TV shows done under an AFM Agreement more than 20 years ago. I have been chasing another deadbeat musician/producer for nearly 10 years, and have recovered more than 25% of what is due, with more coming.

This is all because of the legal protections our contracts give musicians who do AFM work. If these projects had not been done under AFM agreements, I would not have been able to get the musicians involved paid for their work. This has not been easy, but it is important to stand up for treating musicians with respect.

Here’s the bottom line: for 120 years the AFM has been looking out for musicians. Help us, help you, and let’s work together to make things right. If we don’t have your back, who does?

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The Truth About Right to Work (For Less)

by Tino Gagliardi, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 802 (New York City)

When the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the legislation that protects the rights of employees and employers and prevents employment practices that are harmful to workers as well as to businesses and the overall economy, was enacted in 1935, a wide swath of the country immediately and bitterly opposed it. Republican leadership and the business community criticized the definition of “employee,” the act’s encouragement of collective bargaining, and the preservation of employee rights and protections at the expense of employer rights.

This debate, commonly referred to as “right to work,” still rages to this day. However, today’s political climate and the gains the right to work movement has made over the last two decades are making it more potent and dangerous for the labor movement than ever before.

On February 1, Congressman Steven King (R-IA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced the National Right to Work Act in Washington, DC. Similar legislation has been proposed and defeated in the past, but the Trump Administration, coupled with Republican control of both houses of Congress, could mean that right to work advocates have the political and legislative strength to win a victory at the national level.

Though Congressmen King and Wilson claim that they are fighting for the rights of workers by “erasing the forced-dues clauses” and unburdening Americans from the yoke of organized labor, don’t be fooled. This type of legislation, already passed in 27 states, has nothing to do with worker rights and everything to do with undercutting a worker’s strongest tool and ally—labor unions.

NLRA and Right to Work

Labor unions are vital to the health and vibrancy of a strong, safe, fairly-treated workforce, as well as an efficient economy. After the Taft-Hartley Act banned “closed shop” practices in the United States, unions found themselves advocating for fair pay and treatment of all workers, even those who were not union members. This was not only reasonable, it was a great thing for our communities, our families, and the vibrancy of our country.

This advocacy in “union shop” businesses has resulted in enormous gains for workers, including higher wages, safety laws, weekends, health and pensions, and scheduling practice standards (among others) that are now an assumed part of our daily lives. These protections help us ensure that hard working Americans can secure a decent living for themselves and their families.

Under the guise of benefiting workers, right to work legislation does the opposite. By incentivizing workers to benefit from union advocacy without paying dues, they are encouraging a “tragedy of the commons,” or “freeloader” mindset that ultimately undercuts the financial viability of union work and undermines the power of collective action.

Right to work advocates claim that this type of legislation creates jobs and allows for free-market economic growth. But nationally, wages in right to work states are 12.1% lower ($6,109/year) than in “union shop” states, and employees are less likely to receive health insurance or pensions from employers. Why? Because workers don’t have the strength or protection of collective action and representation that is vitally important.

The Right to Work … for Less

Who actually gains from right to work? The employers. Right to work legislation games the system, working around the NLRA to avoid employment requirements and ultimately takes worker rights from employees.

What workers and musicians across this country must realize is that right to work legislation is an insidious effort by employers to wrestle away the rights of employees. Nothing these politicians and right to work advocates publicly claim to desire is needed. The NLRA already allows for non-union workers to work in union shops, with the only expectation being that they help pay for the benefits they receive from working that healthy and protected environment. So why is it necessary? Ask the employers, large corporations, and political stakeholders that benefit from a weak workforce and the destruction of labor union values. Just follow the money that isn’t making its way into your pocket.

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Official Journal of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada