Building a Movement Toward Unity, Arts and Entertainment Unions Assess the Road Forward Under New Administration and Congress
In a broadcast email message to AFM members November 14, 2016, AFM International President Raymond M. Hair, Jr. put it succinctly, “… I am proud of our union’s efforts to elect national, state, and local representatives who are responsive to musicians’ issues such as performance rights, copyright reform, arts funding and advocacy, retirement security, and the offshoring of our jobs.” For the AFM International Executive Board, AFM locals, and the AFM Office of Government Relations, these issues have driven our congressional agenda for many years and will remain the AFM’s core legislative issues.
In an election filled with hope and starkly different ideological expectations for supporters of both presidential candidates, Republican Donald J. Trump emerged as the victor of the 2016 presidential race. Despite tough rhetoric from both sides during a long and hard-fought campaign, Trump managed to emerge on election night with 290 Electoral College votes vs. 232 Electoral College votes for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Though Secretary Clinton won the popular vote, it is the Electoral College that determines presidential winners and losers. It is important to note that, on December 19, 2016, the electors meet in their state to vote for president and vice president on separate ballots.
From the AFM’s perspective, I am happy to report that, thanks in part to many of you who consistently contributed to TEMPO and to those of you who worked persuasion and GOTV efforts in your respective communities, our records show that all of our congressional democratic and republican champions (TEMPO recipients) in Washington, DC, were re-elected. This is important because the foundation they helped us lay will remain in place, despite the need to build new relationships in President-Elect Trump’s White House.
For arts and entertainment unions and national arts organizations, the question is how do we move forward to continue building a movement that establishes a firm foundation for artists, particularly if our most reliable federal institutions come under fire? The answer is: continuous, growing, organized engagement. Over the years, and prior to the 2016 election, AFM locals have successfully engaged federal, state, and municipal legislators on issues that are priorities in their jurisdictions. That includes federal, state, and local legislative battles on film scoring, CITES, arts funding, organizing, and myriad other issues that impact the livelihoods of the musicians they represent.
The AFM Office of Government Relations will continue to meet with AFL-CIO affiliates and national arts organizations committed to legislative engagement in order to build on those efforts and create an internal movement that magnifies our voice in Washington, DC, at the State House, and on local government councils and boards. Our success is due to member participation and, over the years, the numbers of AFM musicians engaging these important issues has grown. To help build this movement, we have engaged 225 of our TEMPO Signature members on the issues. Their influence has helped grow this movement. In addition, we have successfully used the power of technology and social media to bring our message directly to our members.
Under a republican led congress and executive branch, organized labor has a number of issues for which we must remain vigilant. In arts and entertainment, we are concerned about renewed attacks on federal arts appropriations programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, and museum services across the country. Of critical concern also is the offshoring of AFM jobs, as well as economic justice for creators whose music is performed on AM/FM radio without a performance right.
Further, we seek growth in federal funding for arts-in-education and for the national expansion of STEAM education. Additional concerns include the right to organize, collective bargaining, civil and human rights, healthcare reform, pension reform, support for the National Labor Relations Board, the continuation of Davis-Bacon projects and contract labor agreements, as well as preservation of collective bargaining rights for private sector and public workers, particularly those working in federal, state, and municipal sectors. Copyright reform, along with the reintroduction and passage of the Fair Pay Fair Play Act, remains a priority for the AFM to help ensure performance rights for creators whose works are performed on AM/FM terrestrial radio.
But, what about the depth of change after the election? What is the real extent of government reorganization? In addition to the presidential race, Republicans also did well “down-ballot,” acquiring gains in both the US House of Representatives and in the US Senate. The 115th Congress will begin in January 2017 with 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats, while in the Senate Republicans hold a 51-2-46 margin over Democrats. This includes two Independent members Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who typically vote democratic.
Republicans also made gains in governor races across the country. Gubernatorial races were held in 12 states and two territories. They include American Samoa, Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. There were three GOP pickups in Missouri, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Three holds in Indiana, North Dakota, and Utah. There were five democratic holds in Delaware, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia. At this writing, North Carolina is still undetermined and Louisiana is still in a runoff set for December 10.
For AFM members, many issues in the US Capitol and in state houses across the country will have a direct impact on our ability to drive our artistic and employment agendas. The union has already begun a solid government-centric organizing program in which we invite all of you to participate. We will need your help at every level over the next four years and look forward to you helping us engage legislators on all the issues that keep the arts an integral part of our communities. I look forward to working with each of you. If you have questions about how you can help, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or our TEMPO coordinator Sande Grier at email@example.com. Thank you for your commitment to our union.