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January 1, 2014Ray Hair - AFM International President
As we close a dynamic and energetic 2013 and look ahead toward a productive new year, negotiations for constructive, successor media agreements with the film, jingle, and symphonic employment sectors will dominate my work schedule early on. That said, despite the contentious nature of labor negotiations, the bargaining table is a place I relish because there is no activity more rewarding for your international and local officers or more beneficial for our members than to bargain and conclude progressive collective bargaining agreements with our true employers.
During contract negotiations, we learn more about our own workplace attitudes and goals—and those of our employers—than practically anywhere else. And what’s more, the entire bargaining process and its results provide critical information to support the all-important mission of organizing. When we organize to bargain and bargain to organize, we build workplace power that can be focused toward the employer to demand and obtain a better agreement. And by fixing contract issues identified by those working under our agreements, we demonstrate the power of collective action and we create incentives that build our membership.
Here is a short summary of the Federation’s negotiations
Motion Picture-TV Film Agreement. Dating from the late 1920s, the Film Agreement is one of the Federation’s oldest agreements. Over many decades, post-theatrical residual structures have been bargained into place for each of the unions and guilds who work on films; thus, the overall comp package for AFM instrumentalists, orchestrators, arrangers, and copyists who work under that agreement is very lucrative. We first engaged the major studios—Sony, Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, and Universal—along with their TV film subsidiaries in November 2012 in Los Angeles to modify and improve the predecessor agreement that expired February 23, 2013. To date, we have gone five rounds with the film producers, most recently in early December. The sticking points in our discussions have centered on the usual economic issues and the administration of the residual fund attached to the agreement, the Film Musicians’ Secondary Markets Fund, which has seen distributions reach record highs in recent years. We will resume talks with the producers this spring and I expect that we will eventually conclude another progressive agreement with the film industry.
Symphonic, Opera or Ballet Orchestra Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). The IMA was originally envisioned as an industry-wide agreement to replace and refresh existing Federation agreements covering traditional audiovisual production, Internet, and live recording agreements for symphonic employers signatory to local collective bargaining agreements. Negotiations for an initial contract broke down in 2009 between the Federation and a group of orchestra managers at the eleventh hour when the deal was nearly done.
Despite managerial resistance to finishing a comprehensive deal and subsequent attempts to sidestep the Federation and deal directly with AFM locals on media issues—a tactic found unlawful in the courts—the AFM pressed on and eventually signed more than 70 American orchestral institutions to the IMA, which expired September 30. With the assistance of International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) media committee members, the Federation commenced discussions in December with a newly formed group of orchestra managers to update and improve our Integrated Media Agreement.
Television and Radio Commercial Announcements Agreement (Jingles). The Federation’s agreement covering spot ad announcements with the radio and television advertising industry is negotiated in New York City with national advertisers and their agencies through an appointed joint policy committee. The existing jingle agreement became effective October 17, 2009 and was scheduled to expire October 16, 2012. It was extended through February 28, 2014 with an improvement in pension contributions and we expect to commence negotiations with the industry in early 2014 for a successor agreement.
Employment under the jingle agreement has suffered markedly in recent years as many advertisers and agencies have sought to license existing prerecorded tracks from libraries to avoid and escape the calling of new sessions that would require the payment of wages, benefits, and residual obligations necessary under our agreement. It is the Federation’s top priority to promote employment by establishing appropriate mechanisms in any successor agreement that would discourage or eliminate altogether the buying of old library tracks by advertisers in lieu of producing new tracks covered by our agreement.
As has been my practice in every negotiation during my tenure as your president, the Federation’s negotiating team assigned to each negotiation is inclusive of local and international elected officials. It also is comprised of experienced rank and file player representatives who bring unique knowledge of their respective workplaces into play as we join together to improve the lives of all who perform services under each media agreement.
As we bargain these agreements, I will report our progress in this column. Until then, please accept my best wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive new year!