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Home » Articles » The AFM Federal Agenda: Air Travel with Musical Instruments, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, NEA Support, and Fighting the National Right to Work Act
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The AFM Federal Agenda: Air Travel with Musical Instruments, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, NEA Support, and Fighting the National Right to Work Act

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Developments in Domestic and International Air Travel with Musical Instruments

On March 6, 2015, new regulations relating to musical instruments as carry-on baggage went into effect thanks to the work of our national carry-on coalition. Talks with the Secretary of Transportation, led by AFM International President Ray Hair, helped develop and implement new carry-on rules that brought consistency to major and regional US air carriers, along with new tips for traveling musicians. Since the promulgation of these new rules, incidences of the rejection of instruments by gate attendants, flight attendants, and pilots have all but disappeared.

New Carry-On Fees

Now two new issues are being discussed within our musical instrument coalition. A few airlines have instituted new economy services, which affect changes in carry-on rules. In some cases, the change includes fees for carry-on baggage.

Because there is no universal change in policy across all airlines, when booking travel, musicians are encouraged to ask air carrier ticket agents about any new carry-on fees. These fees add to the overall cost of travel, and if you are on a travel budget or being reimbursed for travel, you will want your sponsor or employer to know about this upfront.

TSA Automated Bin Lines

The other issue is related to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA has initiated what they call automatic bin lanes at a few major US airports. This new security procedure, designed to more effectively and quickly move passengers through security screening, will have a direct impact on musicians carrying their instruments through these  TSA automated security lanes.

  • Automated bin lane highlights from TSA’s website:
  • Stainless steel countertops enable several passengers to place their items in bins simultaneously;
  • Property bins are 25% larger than those in standard
    screening lanes—large enough to hold roller bags;
  • Automated conveyor belts draw bins into the X-ray
    machines, and return the bins back to the front of the queue for passengers;
  • Carry-on bags that trigger a warning of potential threat are automatically pushed to a separate area to allow bins behind them to continue through the screening process;
  • Unique Radio Frequency Identification tags are attached to each bin to allow for additional accountability of items as they transit throughout the security process;
  • Cameras capture images of the contents of each bin, linked to an X-ray image of a bag’s contents.

The League of American Orchestras, members of our airline travel coalition, spoke with TSA officials by telephone in order
to help outline information musicians need to consider.

Highlights from that telephone call are:

  • Musical instruments may be screened through both TSA PreCheck and regular lanes that use the new automated
    bin system.
  • Each checkpoint (both TSA PreCheck and regular) will continue to have a nonautomated conveyor belt screening lane. 
  • If your musical instrument exceeds the size of the automated bins, and fits through the standard conveyor belt X-ray machine, you will be directed to the nonautomated lane. 
  • If your musical instrument exceeds the size of the conveyor belt X-ray machine, you may be hand-screened. 
  • At present, the automated bin system is only in use at
    Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, and Atlanta airports. (Newark will be consolidating its lane locations in March to make it easier to find nonautomated lanes.) 
  • TSA is updating signage, direction, and coordination between TSA and airport employees on the automated lane procedures before passengers enter the queue.
  • TSA is mindful of the needs of musicians and other passengers with oversized items as the automated bin procedures are implemented on a larger scale, and is reviewing its online guidance for musicians for any needed updates.

For musicians who travel frequently, these tips, along with a copy of the AFM Pocket Flying Guide downloaded from AFM.org (Member Log In/ Document Library/ Legislative Office/ Flying with Musical Instruments), serve as guides for more convenient air travel.

International Travel with Instruments Containing CITES Material

On December 7, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with national music partners including the AFM, LOAO, AFVBM, Carnegie Hall, CMA, the Recording Academy, and NAMM, presented a comprehensive webinar that summarizes new regulations relating to travel abroad for those who own musical instruments containing component parts of CITES protected wildlife species. This tell-all webinar can be found at: www.afm.org/2016/12/travel-instruments-containing-endangered-species/. We encourage every traveling musician to review this presentation.

National Right to Work Legislation

For more than half a century, states have struggled over the adoption of “right to work” laws that give employers leverage to exploit workers by preventing them from forming and joining unions. Currently, there are right to work laws in 28 states. AFL-CIO research shows that workers in right to work states are worse off due to lower wages and income, lower rates of health insurance, and lower investment in education, and higher poverty, infant mortality rates, and workplace fatality rates.

For musicians, right to work employers promote policies that undermine collective bargaining, which often leads to reduced participation in collective action. For as much as our union has fought in the states against this policy, now Congress is engaged in a federal debate that would see national right to work laws enacted in this country.

On February 1, the battle came to Capitol Hill. Representative Steven King (R-IA) introduced HR 785, the National Right to Work Act—a bill designed to prevent union security agreements, weakening organized labor’s ability to unionize/organize workers. Both HR 785 and companion bill S 391 in the Senate amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act to repeal provisions that permit employers, pursuant to collective bargaining agreements that are union security agreements, to require employees to join a union. This includes provisions permitting railroad carriers to require, pursuant to such an agreement, a payroll deduction of union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Signature Issues

On January 31 and February 1, AFM President Ray Hair traveled to Washington, DC, to lobby members of Congress on the Fair Play Fair Pay Act; O and P Visas; support for National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and against the offshoring of film scoring. These remain our signature issues and we are working hard to effect positive change in these areas.

We look forward to your continued input and encourage you to use the AFM congressional links to email your thoughts to your Washington, DC, representatives.







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