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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    Pattern Bargaining: A Blueprint for Improvements or Concessions?

    The perennial objective of unions has been to “take wages out of competition,” as labor-economists, who analyze the supply and demand of labor and patterns in wage, income, and productivity are prone to say. By seeking to standardize minimum wages and benefits across an industry, unions can stabilize wages, prevent competition among workers and employers, and avoid a race to the bottom. More importantly for the AFM, minimum wages across given industries, such as sound recording, film, live TV, and theatrical tours, provide a floor for future improvements in successor agreements.

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Sam Folio – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

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    Tackling Problems Together

    Recently, I attended the Department of Professional Employees (DPE) Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industries (AEMI) meeting in New York City. The DPE, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, is the largest association of professional and technical workers in the United States.

    The DPE AEMI meeting covered three important topics.

    1) Legislative and Outreach Director Michael Wasser gave the attendees a preview of the president-elect’s administration and new Congress. Unfortunately, the prospects for labor are rather grim. This is already evident from the president-elect’s cabinet picks, including his nominee for secretary of labor. The Labor Department is responsible in large part for regulating the workplace and overseeing the job market. The proposed nominee has made his opposition to a $15 minimum wage, extending overtime pay, and the Affordable Care Act well known. In addition, it is expected the composition of the National Labor Relations Board will change. Many important decisions that directly affect our members are made by the Board.

    2) A problem has developed regarding O and P visas that is of particular concern to our Canadian members. Unprecedented delays in obtaining visas (needed to perform in the US) continue to be a problem. Often the delays are so long, Canadian musicians have to cancel their gigs in the US because the visas have not been processed by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in time. AFM Canadian Office Executive Director Liana White; AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, from our AFM Washington Legislative Office; and AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division Director Michael Manley, from our New York Office, attended this DPE meeting and are working with our elected officials to improve the situation.

    3) In October 2016, the DPE surveyed a cross-section of professional and technical workers who were not union members. A total of 1,004 workers were surveyed. Some of the insights gleaned from the survey were:

    • A majority identify compensation as the aspect of work they most want improved.
    • Workers desire career advancement opportunities and a voice in decisions that affect them.
    • Professionals identify better pay, benefits, and work/life balance as the most convincing reasons to have union representation.
    • 88% of professionals believe having a contract that details wages, benefits, and rights on the job is a good idea; 60% support a labor union.
    • A majority of professionals believe having a union would improve health and retirement benefits, job security, and wages.
    • Professionals want an effective union that puts members first.
    • Professionals prefer to belong to a union that is responsive to individual members, as opposed to one that is large and strong.
    • Management putting the financial bottom line ahead of quality and service is a top issue faced by professionals on the job, followed closely by poor communication by management.
    • Professionals feel undervalued.
    • Top concerns expressed by professionals for having a union include too much involvement in politics, protection of poorly performing employees, and conflict with management.

    As we are all aware, declining membership continues to be a vexing problem for unions. Gaining broader insight into what nonunion professionals are thinking and understanding their concerns provides the union with guidance as to how best to make union membership more appealing. The greater density (unionized workers) a union has in the workplace directly correlates to a union’s strength. Turning declining membership around is a priority for the AFM and the DPE is taking steps to be supportive in this effort.

     

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Alan Willaert – AFM Vice President from Canada

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    Bargaining to Begin with ECMA

    Pour la version française cliquez ici

    Since the writing of this column, the parties have successfully negotiated a successor agreement.

    The 2017 edition of the East Coast Music Awards is scheduled for April 26-30, with the host city being Saint John, New Brunswick. During those five days, the city will be immersed in music in every venue, culminating with the gala award event Sunday night. However, in early December, the East Coast Music Association (ECMA) was placed on the AFM’s Unfair List by the Canadian Office.

    The ECMA and the AFM had enjoyed a long, mutually beneficial relationship, with the signing of the first agreement in the mid-1990s. Contracts that included pension were always in place for sponsored showcases, events, and the awards show. The AFM would often sponsor an award, and was omnipresent every year with an informational booth, workshops, and seminars on topics of interest to musicians embarking on careers in music.

    Two years ago, something changed. The ECMA refused to come to the table and renew the agreement. Although the broadcaster of the awards show signed a letter of adherence, the showcases and other events were not under AFM contract.

    Without the renewed agreement and/or a properly executed AFM contract in place, there could be no pension contributions. In addition, recording was rampant and streamed both during the week and well after.

    CFM representatives met with four members of the ECMA board in October. It became clear, after considerable dialogue, that a reasonable fee for the musicians was not the issue. Having the “union” involved was, for all the philosophical reasons.

    In many of our agreements, including this one, a temporary membership permit (TMP) is required to be deducted from the fees of nonmembers. It seems this became a bone of contention. In Canada, this is an application of the RAND formula, under which nonunion employees have a portion of their wages deducted as their share of servicing the CBA under which they are working.

    Using this formula allows a temporary member to be listed on the contract with members, and receive exactly the same services and benefits for the same classification of service, for the duration of the gig. This includes pension and any ensuing residuals, such as New Use. In addition, the TMP fee can be credited toward membership for one calendar year.

    If the musician does not take advantage of the credit, those fees find their way back into the music community, through the host local’s outreach at seminars and informational meetings, as well as the sponsorship of awards.

    There have been some developments in this rather unfortunate situation, as the ECMA board has contacted our office and agreed to sit down to bargain a successor agreement. Negotiations will take place in Halifax January 18 and 19, with January 20 as a backup date.

    It’s our sincere hope that we are successful, the musicians’ performances are protected and properly remunerated, and the CFM and ECMA can once again join forces as partners in the effort to bring East Coast music to the world, and for the world to recognize the musicians that make this truly unique sound.

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Other Officer Columns:

unionism

“… Indivisible …”

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

My dear brothers and sisters to the North, please be patient, I’ve got a few things to talk about that are primarily a reaction to concerns very much on my mind since the US presidential election.

This article will be turned in first thing Monday, December 19, which also happens to be the day the electoral college will meet and finalize the outcome of this tumultuous US presidential election cycle. Even if there is some kind of unprecedented surprise, it won’t change what we’ve collectively experienced. We are entering a new year with additional new challenges.

As musicians, we don’t always like each other, but when we make music together, we have to listen to each other and blend our respective voices. Everyone loves good harmony; and although there’s real beauty in dissonance, there’s also a sense of relief when it finally resolves. Sometimes it takes a while.

With all of the “isms” that have been thrown around over these past months, I wear my unionism proudly because it takes all of our diversity and builds consensus to come to resolution. We develop consensus for our workplace negotiations, for decisions at our locals, and our Federation. It takes a lot of work, but it’s a great system for giving us a meaningful voice in decisions that affect us. By working together we have helped to create levels of fairness and safety in the workplace. Unionism lives and breathes because we are the union. “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Unionism gives us a path on which we can find our way through interesting times. We have processes that enable us to work through tough issues and find solutions most of us can live with, most of the time. Unions are necessary to give working people a voice. Recent examples are the strikes in Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, and Philadelphia.

Employers belong to groups and associations because they realize the value of networking and joining forces around issues and interests, the costs of which are usually covered by the business. We will need to actively oppose anti-union legislation at every level with a special eye on “right to work” (for less) legislation, which undermines our ability to push back.

Music blends many different cultures with themes and variations developed over the lifetime of humanity, but all of it has common threads of tones and rhythms. We care about our family and friends and want them to be safe, happy, and healthy; we want fair treatment and appropriate compensation for our work; we care about our communities; and we want future generations to have opportunities to thrive and live up to their full potential.

The “Ghost Ship” fire on December 2 in Oakland, California, is a wake-up call that there is work to be done regarding safe performance environments, which also support and encourage emerging musicians. “Mourn the dead and fight for the living.”

In this New Year, let’s resolve to listen to each other and blend our voices, embrace our diversity, and stand together against adversity.

... with liberty and justice for all ...

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Creating Visibility Within the Labor Community

joe-parenteby Joe Parente, AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA)

Several years ago I wrote an article about the importance of our connection and involvement with other labor organizations in our communities. I feel it bears repeating.

Normally, when we think about the union, we think of our locals and the Federation. That’s where we look first to get work. But there are hundreds of unions out there apart from the musicians union—American unions covering the building trades (electricians, carpenters, roofers, etc.), the American Federation of Teachers, the Teamsters Union, unions of nurses, city workers, hotel workers, sheet metal workers, stagehands, and so on. These organizations represent thousands of union workers and are a valuable resource of potential employment for musicians.

I have (and you may have as well) attended various events held by other unions. On occasion, I have discovered that, these same unions that preach union solidarity and the use of union labor, hire nonunion musicians to provide entertainment for their functions. That is unacceptable. The concept of union solidarity must extend to and include musicians, especially on the local level, where the work is available. It’s up to us to remind them.

To take advantage of these employment opportunities within the labor community, musicians have to be visible to other unions. Not all unions belong to the AFL-CIO, but most do, so I’ll lump everyone under that umbrella. AFM locals should be in touch with their area AFL-CIO to let other unions know that union musicians are available to them.

Get a mailing list with all the contact information for each union and send them information about your local and its members; send them referral lists and CDs of bands in the local. Ask for a calendar of annual events. All unions have some sort of function during the year—banquets, holiday parties, conferences, even conventions. For years, my local has provided a band representing Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA) in the annual Labor Day Parade. Many unions have their own catering hall. They wouldn’t think of having an affair without union bartenders or waiters. Why shouldn’t they feel the same about using union musicians?

However, it’s not only the local’s responsibility to go after work for its members. No one is going to knock on your door and ask if you want to work. Anyone who is working with any type of group—rock band, top 40s band, big band, trio, string quartet, or whatever—has a vested interest in promoting his/her own product. Everyone has a spouse or family member, friend, or neighbor who belongs to some union, somewhere. Talk to them; find out about their union and who the contact person is. Send out your promo packages. Call the union directly to let them know that you’re out there and available to meet their needs.

Nothing brings attention to the American Federation of Musicians more than supporting our brother and sister unions when they are involved in a labor dispute with an employer. Volunteering to play on a picket line or at a rally yields publicity within the labor community that goes much further than you might think toward instilling the idea of using live music. Building coalitions and partnerships within the labor community is how we stay visible and viable.

When you contact other unions, let them know that you use their members when you need work done. If you’re not using union labor, you should be. After all, how can we expect them to use our members, if we don’t use theirs? We can’t allow other members of the labor movement to ignore our union.

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paper trail

The Power of the (Digital) Paper Trail

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

I think many AFM members have had their own personal “tipping point” where suddenly the value of union membership really hit home. I had been an AFM member for about a year when I played a concert with Don Williams at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, not long after joining his band in 1980. It was my first ever stadium gig, which was pretty amazing in itself, and Don—as always—paid us well for the show. Unbeknownst to me, the concert was being filmed. A live clip of the song “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” which was number one on the country charts at the time, was shown on a TV show called America’s Top 10 twice over two months. I got paid more than I made for playing the concert not once, but twice. From that point on, I got it. This was my first experience with the power of the paper trail, which is a direct result of the protections of working under the AFM contract.

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Dave Pomeroy hands Local 257 (Nashville, TN) member Solie Fott a check for new use of a 1962 recording Fott performed on.

People ask me all the time, “What exactly does the musician’s union do?” That’s a question with a lot of answers! I reply that we represent the interests of professional musicians all over the US and Canada, followed by, “How much time do you have?”

If it is more than a casual inquiry, I try to ask a few questions to find out what their areas of interest and expertise are and what ambitions and goals they might have. I can then focus on the most applicable aspects of AFM membership to their situation. 

These days it’s not uncommon for young musicians to have multiple skills from songwriting, engineering, and arranging to playing a plethora of instruments very well.  Many, if not most, musicians these days are making money from numerous revenue sources, some of which are smaller than they used to be. In a constantly evolving music industry, it’s essential not to leave any potential income from your musical performances on the table. That is where the power of the paper trail works in your favor in a number of ways.

Virtually all AFM media contracts have a pension component. Pension is not something you think about much when you are young, but as someone who just turned 60, I am grateful to know that I’ll have “mailbox money” to look forward to after many years of being a working bass player. In addition, new use and re-use provisions ensure you will get paid every time your work is used in a new medium such as TV, film, and commercials.

For example, last month, a violinist named Solie Fott, a delightful man and a 70-year AFM member, came into the office to pick up a re-use check for the Patsy Cline record “Back In Baby’s Arms,” which was recorded September 10, 1962, under an AFM contract.  The song was used in a Mazda commercial and he and 11 other musicians (or their beneficiaries) have received more than 10 times what the scale was when the record was made more than 53 years ago.

Without the paper trail, we would not have been able to get this payment for him. As our digital database of session information expands, it facilitates our ability to track the new uses of existing and future recordings. When you work nonunion, what you make that day is all you ever make, and you have given away your intellectual property forever. Make sure you work under an AFM contract to maximize your potential revenue streams in every way possible.

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Building a Partnership with Municipal Government

Conversation leads to common goals and the strength to preserve live music.

“We are only as strong as we are united,” said New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, shortly after his re-election at the NYS AFL-CIO Convention August 22. Naturally, I couldn’t agree more. Musicians need to stand together, if we are to fight against the exploitation of our work and the continued degradation of live music. In solidarity and partnership, there is power.

That lesson should not be applied solely to our membership and our organizing efforts, but  also to our advocacy and partnership work with municipal governments and agencies. By building strong relationships and cultivating new allies and partners, we will identify opportunities to ensure that our towns, cities, and states are places that musicians can create music, while also affording to live and raise a family.

The rewards are great, and it always starts with a conversation.

Here in New York City, we recently had the opportunity to start a new conversation with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) when Commissioner Julie Menin was appointed to lead the agency in March. Though we already had a minor relationship with Commissioner Menin prior to her new appointment, we thought it of vital importance that we extend a hand as she settled into the role. Since that initial meeting the relationship has flourished.

We explained the intricacies of the music industry and the challenges musicians face—from misclassification to affordability, real estate, and the difficulties new technologies present to intellectual property rights. After she detailed her office’s assets and discussed her agenda, it became clear that we shared multiple goals and priorities. We both wanted to bring live music to more people throughout the city, and we both agreed it is vital that live music performance flourishes.

From that point forward, the staff of Local 802 (New York City) and the staff at MOME were able to work together on MOME’s Broadway in the Boros initiative, an unprecedented project to bring Broadway performances to public spaces outside of Manhattan, thereby expanding access to the excitement of Broadway and the power of live music.

From the beginning this was a complicated project; there was no model to follow. Which contract was applicable? Who was producing the show? What constraints do procurement laws place on the payment of musicians? Who should be hired and who is contracting the performances?  All these questions had to be ironed out. But, because of that initial conversation, the team at Local 802 and the staff at MOME were able work stronger together; we knew we shared common goals and could trust one another’s intentions.

Today, the initiative has drawn to a close and we are working with them to agree to a long-term contract in the event that they choose to expand the program to future summers. We certainly hope they do because, not only did this program bring live music to new audiences and new communities, not only did it pay fair wages and contribute to pension and health benefits, but it was an initiative that will serve as an example that municipal governments and agencies can follow in the future.

Musicians are stronger when we are standing together, and even more so when we have allies and partners to stand alongside. When you can find a shared goal, like the preservation and promotion of live music performance, partnerships can flourish!

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