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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Secretary-Treasurer

jay blumenthal

Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

    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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    Electronic CBA Ratification

    For decades, the AFM Bylaws have been very specific and clear about the ratification procedure for collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). The integrity of the voting process has been given the highest priority so that bargaining unit members can have confidence in the election process. Additionally, protecting the identity of the voter is imperative, allowing them to vote their conscience without the worry of employer retaliation or member-to-member pressure.

    As technology has made electronic voting possible, many members have expressed a desire for locals to conduct electronic CBA ratification voting. Up until the recent AFM Convention, the International Executive Board had been reluctant to endorse electronic voting until such time as locals could ensure the integrity of the process. It was also felt that an in-person ratification meeting just prior to a vote was invaluable, allowing bargaining unit members to ask questions, discuss the terms of the proposed agreement with their colleagues, and hear the recommendations from their local officers and elected rank-and-file committee. In-person voting also motivates members to physically come to the union hall, which is always a good thing. Too often, the only time some members visit the union hall is to pay their dues. In-person voting provides one more connection to the local.

    For years, voting by mail ballot has co-existed with in-person ratification voting. Mail ballot was never the preferred method of voting, however, some bargaining units have members who live great distances from the union hall. For these members, in-person voting could present an undue hardship and expense that would effectively disenfranchise them.

    While the bylaws now allow in-person, mail ballot, or electronic ratification voting, the requirement remains that all voting must be done one way (either all in-person, all mail ballot, or all electronic). Voting cannot be a combination of two or three methods.

    The bylaw passed at the last AFM Convention in 2016 (Article 5, Section 32(d)) allows electronic ratification voting with very specific restrictions. The new bylaw for ratification by electronic balloting states, in part:

    SECTION 32(d). Ratification by Electronic Balloting

    1. If it is necessary to hold a ratification by an electronic balloting method (e.g. online, telephone), then all voting shall be done by electronic balloting, provided that ratification by electronic balloting has been authorized by the Local’s bylaws or action of the Local’s Executive Board, and provided that the Local selects an independent organization approved by the International President’s Office to conduct the voting. In all cases, the method of voting must (1) ensure that the member casting the vote is eligible to do so, (2) ensure that the member casting the vote cannot be identified with the vote cast, and (3) afford sufficient safeguards to protect the integrity and security of the voting system. Further, in the case of electronic balloting, an appropriate accommodation must be made for a voter who lacks the technology or equipment necessary to cast his or her vote.
    2. ….

    iii. The International President’s Office shall maintain a list of one or more vendors whose electronic balloting services meet the requirements set forth in this Section.

    The President’s Office has determined that the following vendors offer services at affordable rates that meet the bylaw requirements for ratification by electronic balloting:

    BallotPoint Election Services: http://www.ballotpoint.com/

    ElectionBuddy: https://electionbuddy.com/

    Election America: http://election-america.com/

    This list is subject to change. Please check with the President’s office before conducting electronic balloting to confirm that the vendor you intend to use is still on the list.

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    Transitions; “Read Your Bylaws!”

    As we all watch the transition of government from one president to another, there are some important lessons to be learned. Even though term limits left no doubt that there would be a new president come January, given the war of words, it could not have been easy for President Obama to welcome President-elect Trump to the White House. From all reports, Obama could not have been more gracious, offering a smooth transition and his counsel in the coming years.

    Elections are integral to the democratic process and often bring change. Change can be difficult, particularly for the losing candidate. Emotions run high. Rejection can hurt and may leave the unsuccessful candidate with hard feelings. Democratic unions are not immune to changes in leadership. Officer elections take place regularly as stipulated in the local bylaws. Outgoing officers may feel disappointment. Losing an election is not a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, I ask all officers to remember that, however you may feel about the result of your local’s union election, the health of the local is dependent upon a smooth transition. In the end, isn’t the health and ability of the local to carry on what’s really important?

    I have heard horror stories about inappropriate transitions. In one case, a newly elected officer asked to take possession of the local’s records from the outgoing officer. Upon arriving home, the new officer found the local’s records in garbage bags left out on his front lawn! Suffice it to say, there was no transfer of institutional knowledge or offer of assistance.

    Outgoing officer behavior such as this is unprofessional and hurts the membership. Transitions are hard enough without making them even more difficult by a lack of cooperation. It is the responsibility of every outgoing union officer to share their knowledge and experience with the incoming officer and make the local’s transition as smooth and seamless as possible. So please, take note of the example set by President Obama during this presidential transition. Our members are depending on you to fulfill this obligation with courtesy and professionalism.

    “Read Your Bylaws!”

    Ten years ago, as Local 802 financial vice president, I was asked to chair a local membership meeting that we knew would be very contentious. The meeting room was overflowing (SRO) with members and the tension in the room was palpable.

    In the front row was John Glasel, past president of Local 802. Glasel accomplished many great things as president but, on occasion, he could be—shall we say, irascible? At one point in the meeting, Glasel made a statement. When I looked at him questioningly, he repeated the statement with renewed emphasis and added admonishingly, “Read your bylaws!” John knew full well the bylaws supported his view.

    While I wasn’t particularly appreciative of his advice at the time, it stuck with me all these years. Looking back on it, it was excellent advice and has stood me in good stead ever since.

    I share this story because the AFM Bylaws (rev 9-15-16) are currently available online at AFM.org. After logging in with your AFM ID and password, go to the Document Library/open the Bylaws folder and click on “AFM Bylaws rev 9-15-16” to open the pdf document. You can learn a great deal from the Bylaws, if you take the time to read them. The hard copy booklets (English version) are being printed and will be mailed to locals shortly. The AFM Bylaws (rev 9-15-16) are in the process of being translated to French and will be made available as soon as the translation is complete. 

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    Moving Forward: New SSD Director; Assistant Secretary and 2016 IM Awards

    A concern expressed to me by many delegates attending the AFM Convention last June was who would become the AFM director of Symphonic Services Division (SSD), if I became the secretary-treasurer. Indeed, filling the director position with the right individual presented a challenge, but as it turned out, there were several qualified applicants.

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    Fort Worth Musicians on Strike!

    For the last few years, I’ve taken great pleasure in announcing at each AFM and symphonic player conference that there currently are no ongoing symphony orchestra strikes or lockouts within the AFM. Unfortunately that is no longer the case. On Thursday, September 8, 2016, the Dallas-Ft. Worth Professional Musicians’ Association, Local 72-147, sent out a press release stating: “Musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Call Strike.” This came after management made a last, best, and final offer and indicated they would be implementing it Monday, September 12.

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