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Home » Legislative Update » AFM Leadership Advocates Musicians’ Priorities in Washington, DC

AFM Leadership Advocates Musicians’ Priorities in Washington, DC


Founded in 1896, the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada has for 118 years represented the interests of professional musicians across the country. The union has a proud history of successful legislative and political action in Washington, DC. For almost a century, the AFM has taken a leadership role fighting to implement commonsense, practical federal policies that have shaped the progress of the American music industry. 

Our historic actions in Washington came about as a result of our hard work and affiliation with other arts and entertainment labor organizations, many of which are recognized by the US Department of Labor for more than a century of service. Our ongoing relationships with the AFL-CIO (1886 & 1935, merged in 1955), the IBEW (1891), IATSE (1893), SAG-AFTRA (1933 and 1952, respectively), Actors’ Equity Association (1913), and a host of other international labor unions have led to federal legislation that set industry standards long before the advent of “talkies,” television, symphonic leagues, radio, and award shows. Work with these organized union industry leaders has created a positive influence on the workplaces and lives of professional artists. That tradition continues today as we work with other partners, including but not limited to, the Recording Industry Association of America, SoundExchange, NARAS, MusicFIRST (as affiliate members), and the Congressional Arts Group, moving forward with legislative proposals that meet current industry challenges.

On May 12-13, following months of preparation, including letters to the White House, to congressional leaders and federal agency heads, AFM President Ray Hair traveled to Washington, DC, engaging congressional and administration officials on the resolution of key policy and regulatory issues. These issues include protecting AFM film scoring jobs and the finalization of an administrative rule for musical instruments as carry-on baggage. While there, Hair also met with congressional offices working toward a comprehensive resolution of restrictions placed on international travel by musicians whose instruments contain component parts of African elephant ivory.

Working with the AFM Office of Government Relations, the Federation has made problem resolution and the dissemination of useful, practical information to our members the focus of the union’s efforts. Here is an update.

Tax Extenders: Engaging
Congress on Section 181
of the Tax Code

For years, the AFM has engaged Congress on the issue of tax credits taken by film companies that continue to offshore AFM film scoring jobs. This federal credit as outlined in Section 181 of 26 CFR has been a part of a package of more than 50 tax incentives renewed each year by Congress. Often renewed retroactively, federal legislators engaged in current deliberations in the House of Representatives now talk of making these tax extenders permanent. As a major stakeholder in this debate, the AFM is now pushing an amendment that would hold film companies to a higher standard beyond the 75%/25% requirement outlined in current law. Our amendment would clearly include musicians and post-production in its language. We have garnered the support of SAG-AFTRA, Actors’ Equity, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Understanding the need for an AFM solution to this matter, while maintaining support for current amended language that now includes a live theater provision, SAG-AFTRA and Equity have offered solidarity for our amendment as well. We also thank our brothers and sisters at the IBEW for their support. At this printing of the International Musician, the Senate continues to debate a package of extenders that are not funded. The House Committee on Ways and Means continues its work on tax reform as we work to have the AFM amendment included in the final House proposal.

African Elephant Ivory

The AFM engaged this issue from the onset, joining our Congressional Arts partners in meetings with US Fish and Wildlife
(USFWS) officials, while at the same time taking our case to Congress and the White House. In an April 4 letter to President Obama, following the release of USFWS Director’s Order No. 210, AFM President Ray Hair made it clear that the best solution to the myriad problems created by the order rests with clearer guidance to the USFWS from the White House. Hair encouraged President Obama to reconsider the issuance of the order and possibly rescind the restrictive and punitive language found in Director’s Order No. 210, issued February 25. Since that time, the AFM Office of Government Relations has engaged USFWS and many others in government pushing for an immediate resolution of problems.

As a result of the union’s efforts with USFWS, outside partners, and congressional staff, the USFWS issued an amended order that makes it possible to travel and return with musical instruments subsequently transfered from one person to another person for financial gain or profit since February 25, 2014. The original order can be found at with a link to the amended order at the end of the document.

It has been vitally important to decipher how this order has impacted our Canadian members. For AFM Canadian members traveling into the US, guidance relating to the acquisition of appropriate permits can be found at On the left, click “National contacts and information,” then scroll down to find Canada and open the link. Canadian CITES Management Authority contact information can be found here. For members traveling in the short-term, we recommend a direct call or e-mail for an immediate response. Management authority here in the US has been quite responsive. Be prepared to identify what parts of your instrument contain African elephant ivory or other materials such as pernambuco wood, rosewood, or tortoise shell.

Musical Instruments as Carry-On Baggage: Finalizing the Rule

On May 15, AFM President Ray Hair met with Department of Transportation (DOT) officials to finalize arrangements for a meeting with the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, major and regional airline representatives, and other stakeholders whose organizations are impacted by the delay of the carry-on rulemaking process. The meeting, which comes about as a result of a bipartisan letter from Congress and a letter generated by the AFM from stakeholders, is the first step in creating an interim set of guidelines to carry traveling musicians over until a final rule is promulgated. In earlier talks, Hair made it clear to DOT that any agreement generated at this gathering should only create an interim solution. Hair emphasized the fact that any agreement reached here will not take the place of final rulemaking, which is the department’s responsibility under the law. The meeting is scheduled for July 2014.

What’s most important about the entire process is that we heard from you. We want to thank those who took the recent AFM survey relating to African elephant Ivory, and domestic and international travel. We will be using the data acquired from the survey to make our case to Secretary Foxx and to the airlines. Terms of the agreement will be made clear once the meeting, or series of meetings, have concluded. We see this as a positive step for musicians as the DOT continues to push congress for funding to implement rulemaking.

National Endowment for
the Arts and Humanities

On May 14, the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unanimously approved the nomination of Dr. Jane Chu as the next chair of the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities (NEA). In a White House release, President Obama said, “Jane’s lifelong passion for the arts and her background in philanthropy have made her a powerful advocate for artists and arts education in Kansas City. She knows firsthand how art can open minds, transform lives, and revitalize communities, and believes deeply in the importance of the arts to our national culture. I’m proud to nominate her as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.” Chu’s appointment was critical to the future of the agency, which for several years, has operated without a White House appointed leader-advocate on the Capitol Hill. Upon Obama’s announcement of Chu, US Representative Judy Chu (CA-27), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus stated, “Dr. Chu is exceptionally qualified to lead the NEA. Having worked with local arts and social organizations for nearly two decades, she understands the unique capability of the arts to transcend language barriers and bridge cultural divides.”

Chu received both a bachelor of music degree in piano performance and music education degree from Ouachita Baptist University. She also holds masters degrees in music and piano pedagogy from Southern Methodist University, an MBA from Rockhurst University, and a Ph.D. in philanthropic studies from Indiana University. Chu is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. At the time of her nomination, Chu served as the president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri.

On May 14 Chu’s nomination for a four-year appointment as NEA chair was reported out of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on the Senate Floor by Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA). The nomination was then placed on Senate executive calendar for consideration.

On the funding appropriations side, the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the interior budget by July.

AFM Addresses AFL-CIO Affiliate
Secretary-Treasurers on Political Landscape

On May 13-14, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio attended the AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurers’ Conference in Washington, DC. During that meeting, led by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Schuler, Folio talked about the impact of a vast array of AFM efforts to increase organizing and fight anti-union attacks on music collective bargaining, and about increasing AFM national and member participation in AFL-CIO political action. During the meeting, AFL-CIO Political Director Michael Podhorzer and Geri Prado, Deputy Director of Affiliate and Federation Outreach in the Campaigns at the AFL-CIO gave presentations on the political landscape leading up to 2014 elections. Folio made clear the AFM’s intention to support election efforts across the country. AFM members will voluntarily continue to participate in local, state, and national races, while continuing involvement in central labor body political actions across the country. Folio underscored his plan to partner with central labor bodies in an effort to engage AFM musicians in major GOTV campaigns. Most importantly, Folio encouraged the AFL-CIO to use the performance talents of AFM musicians to help bring attention to candidates who will move labor’s agenda forward. 


Launched January of this year, the new TEMPO campaign is off to a great start. Since its conception, the TEMPO account balance has doubled in size. In addition, our new Signature Campaign has 60 new members. The Signature Campaign is a three-year, three-phase program that seeks to highlight the importance of the fund, while helping members recognize the added value of the fund.

The new Tempo campaign is an innovative project that brings fresh vision to our union. Since its creation and launch at the AFM Convention in Las Vegas last year, there is already progress. The AFM has been able to double the size of its contributions to members of Congress, without a significant decrease in the new balance. Modern technologies have been put in place to help streamline collections and local, Federation, and federal reporting. Innovative web and PowerPoint tools are available to local officers. TEMPO has a fresh name at the Federal Election Commission: The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada TEMPO Political Action Committee. This name more logically incorporates the time tested TEMPO moniker.

The new TEMPO campaign is rich with inventive opportunities designed to incite member curiosity and give interested members new gateways into the program, while receiving direct benefits. For internal marketing purposes, we now have new TEMPO gear available to all members. And finally, the Office of Government Relations has developed a local officer TEMPO Sourcebook, which is a guide to running an effective and highly accountable program. The sourcebook will be downloadable from the AFM website.

For more details about any of the above information or the union’s legislative and political programs, contact me directly at (202) 274-4756 or

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