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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Home » Orchestra News » Organizing for a Successful Campaign: A Study from Fort Wayne


Organizing for a Successful Campaign: A Study from Fort Wayne

  -  AFM Symphonic Services Division Negotiator/Organizer/Educator

When we think of union campaigns, we often think of people in the streets, a media presence, and pressure from the public, but these are actually the fruits of successful organizing that preceded them. Any organizer who has run a successful campaign knows the amount of preparation, research, and planning that is put in ahead of time. In fact, most of the work is done before anyone ever puts on a button, passes out a leaflet, or takes to the streets. It all starts with the most essential component: talking to your colleagues using a structured organizing conversation.

No orchestra committee can mount a successful campaign alone, and no organizer (or anyone else from outside your group) can run your campaign for you. It takes buy-in from a supermajority of workers, as well as the inclusion and participation of that supermajority, to pull off a winning campaign.

When I was assigned to assist the musicians of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic with their negotiations last summer, talks started routinely enough. However, they soon took a turn for the worse when it became apparent that management’s intent was to convince us to sign a side letter without extending the CBA. This would have made the side letter the basis for future negotiations. We needed to mount a contract campaign to move the Philharmonic from their untenable position.

Musicians started to organize committees to engage in the work right away. We usually recommend starting with three committees:

  1. Action Committee—designs, coordinates, and carries out collective actions. These can be petitions and leafleting, which can escalate to street protests and increasingly more disruptive actions, as needed.
  2. Outreach Committee—maps and tracks our supporters (and potential supporters):people who we collectively know may be able to spread their influence to help. It also maps and tracks our opposition: management, the board, and their allies.
  3. Media Committee (along with the Orchestra Committee)—designs a message that is simple and directly supports and amplifies the other work of the campaign. It disseminates that message in a structured way to create a narrative that focuses on musicians’ lives in a way that everyone can relate to.

Starting with more committees isn’t recommended, because attempting to spread this work out to multiple committees doing very specific tasks has a greater potential for discouragement and burnout among committee members.

These committees are listed in order of importance to the task at hand, and for good reason. Experience shows that a campaign’s success increases exponentially after four actions and continues to rise after further actions because actions build solidarity and inclusion. When we act together, we bond as a collective, we take responsibility for our campaigns, and we win.

After we have a solid internal foundation, our allies will join in our struggle because they know we are invested and willing to do the necessary work to win. It is only after we have organized internally and have rallied our allies that we can successfully relay a message to the public to include them in our cause.

The musicians of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic pitched in to mount a classic contract campaign. The Orchestra Committee talked to colleagues, got them involved, and held follow-up conversations as the need arose (which was often). The Action Committee created many internal and public actions, which acted as “structure tests” to gauge participation in the campaign. These actions gradually escalated to a public rally on May 1 with one the best turnouts I have witnessed for an AFM campaign. The campaign culminated on the last day of negotiations when the committee unrolled a scroll with more than 1,300 signatures from supporters on the courthouse lawn.

The Outreach Committee created one of the most detailed power maps I have seen, which gave us a thorough understanding of the support we could expect in our actions. The Media Committee relayed a consistent message that amplified and supported the rest of the campaign. It was rooted in the struggles of musicians during this tough time—a message that every person, regardless of their occupation, could understand.

The musicians of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic are looking to the future, after this one-year contract, and preparing for what may lie ahead. We practice our instruments daily so we can perform well, and it is the same with organizing. We often think we are organized because we have contracts and a committee structure, but organizing takes practice in order to win. If we continue to hone our organizing chops, we can be assured that we will be ready when the next crisis arises.







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