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.