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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President’s Message

AFMPresidentRayHairW

Ray Hair – AFM International President

    More COVID Economic Aid – Tell Congress to Act Now!

    As we enter the fifth month of the pandemic, the live entertainment industry is still shutdown. With Depression-era unemployment and with the virus out of control, no one knows when it will be safe enough to reopen our performance venues, to end this isolation, reconnect with our audiences and with each other.

    In this period of radical uncertainty, many believe the pandemic will cause shifts in political and economic power that will only become clear later. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the US unemployment rate will stay above pre-pandemic levels for a decade, predicting that unemployment in the fourth quarter of 2030 will be 4.4%. The February pre-pandemic unemployment rate was 3.5%, a 50-year low. Current projections of 14% unemployment for the fourth quarter this year do not reflect the resurgence of virus cases that have led many states to re-impose restrictions and scale back reopening plans. 

    As I write today, July 16, over 50 million people have filed for unemployment benefits, putting the real unemployment rate near the Depression-era peak of 25%. With a V-shaped recovery considered unlikely, a growing number of scientists, politicians, and economists say that controlling the virus is the key to economic recovery. 

    All of us are under an enormous amount of stress due to the economic effects of the pandemic, which are also viewed against the background of pandemic politics. We see politicians deciding whether to risk tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of lives on the one hand, or whether to risk the economy on the other. But as the agony of the pandemic plays out, the economy is stalling during the reopening process with exponential spread of the disease. 

    There is misery on either side of the equation. The lockdowns have given rise to tens of millions of unemployed, a rash of bankruptcies, and severe financial pain. But there is also an extended period of suffering when opening the economy too soon results in a rebound in infections. With science saying a full year of pandemic infectiousness is looming, even with the discovery of a vaccine, additional government intervention and economic assistance is needed. 

    The Federation played an important role in the lobbying process toward initial emergency supplemental COVID legislation in March, which gave state unemployment programs the latitude to pay freelancers and gig workers unemployment benefits. The added federal boost to state payments of $600 per week was expected to end (as of this writing) the last week of July. 

    We are lobbying hard to extend those payments. We know that it is likely, due to the non-essential nature of our employment, that for the entertainment industry and for musicians in particular, both for regularly employed and for freelancers, the devastation to our business may result in our being among the last to return to work. Returning to anything resembling pre-COVID working conditions looks more and more distant. 

    In March, the government enacted a four-month legislative economic relief program that included expanded unemployment benefits, small business assistance, tax-filing delays, and eviction moratoriums. But in light of the virus resurgence that is choking the restarting of the economy, it won’t be enough.

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s early aggressive intervention both saved lives and led to a quicker rebound to help rebuild demand for jobs. The New York approach, which imposed a short-term lockdown and solid social distancing measures, got control of the infection rate and limited the spread of the disease. Governor Cuomo saw it necessary to mitigate the deadly impact of the virus because he believed and clearly understood that without a healthy population, there can be no healthy economy. 

    More governmental aid is necessary not just for our unemployed, but also for the small and medium-sized businesses that employ us. Without it, you can expect many more businesses to file bankruptcies, which will cascade through and crash the financial and real estate markets. Banks will be in trouble if business debt is not serviced. Landlords will not get rental payments, which will lead to additional bankruptcies, debt charge offs, and more banking sector problems. And if we can’t enable the scientists to find ways to treat and contain the disease quickly, more people will get sicker, more companies are going to crash, and this shaky, sputtering economic reopening will regress further.

    What we can do today is what we did in March. We can contact Congress, particularly the Senate, to demand action to aid the unemployed, including gig workers and professional musicians whose jobs disappeared overnight, and whose loss of work has no end in sight. 

    In May, the US House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which would extend expanded unemployment benefits through January 2021. But the Senate has still not voted on this critical piece of legislation. I contacted my senators to tell them to support critical pieces of the HEROES Act in the next COVID-19 relief bill including:

    • Extending Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $600 per week to the unemployed.
    • Providing a 100% COBRA premium subsidy for lost access to employee-based insurance.
    • Safeguarding renters and homeowners from evictions and foreclosures.
    • Providing assistance to struggling multiemployer pension plans, including the AFM plan.
    • Increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and other arts organizations.
    • Additional financial aid for small businesses.

    Will you join me in writing to our senators now? Please copy the following link and follow the prompts:

    https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-the-senate-to-extend-unemployment

    Our health and livelihood, and that of our families and friends, and reducing short- and long-term consequences of this terrible pandemic may very well depend on what happens in Congress between now and August 8, when the Senate is scheduled to recess. Again, please visit the link above and urge your two senators to support our interests. Don’t wait. Please do it today!

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    We Will Not Sit on the Sidelines and Be Silent: Black Lives Matter

    The unconscionable displays of racism in America during the past weeks and months have prompted millions of people around the world to take to the streets in protest over the inhuman, intolerable cruelty that black Americans have endured from this nation’s system of criminal justice. The protests have come against the background of the global coronavirus pandemic, governmental economic shutdowns, and Depression-era levels of unemployment, all of which have adversely and disproportionately affected people of color. Black Lives Matter. Every life matters. We will not sit on the sidelines and be silent. We add our voice to the growing worldwide chorus against racism in all forms. Enough is enough.

    The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada condemns, in the strongest terms, the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor and David McAtee in Louisville, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, and all of the other murders of black people by law enforcement personnel, lynch mobs, and vigilante groups in recent weeks, months, and years, and throughout the history of this nation. The AFM also condemns police brutality and acts of violence against all persons, of every age, race, creed, and color, of every gender, of every nationality and religion. The existence of racism, racial attitudes and bias, bigotry, and bullying are intolerable in our communities, in our union, in any other union (including police unions), and in any workplace. We oppose racial discrimination of every kind, in every place, and we decry the hatred that motivates it.

    The senseless murder of George Floyd and its aftermath has illuminated deep rifts in American society and its culture of racism. I join those who are aggrieved and angered that America’s law enforcement and political systems have not rooted out racism. To do that, those in political power will need to squarely address the underlying issues that enable it.

    For me, this round of intense activism is different. Watching the world erupt in protest transported me right back to my childhood in Meridian, Mississippi, where I grew up and became a young, working musician, gigging throughout the deep south in the 1960s during the most pivotal era of this nation’s civil rights movement. I remembered it all like it was yesterday. The grief and anger burned in me then. Because racism also affected me as a musician, the events of yesterday and the need to speak out against injustice led me to the AFM and union activism, where collective voices can make a difference.

    Where I grew up, racism was more than institutional or systemic. It was a culture that harkened back to the Civil War. Criticism of the status quo was not tolerated, and was met with bullying and violence.

    Mississippi in the 1960s still carried on its books a variety of Jim Crow laws, enacted between 1871 and 1965, which originated from the black codes passed immediately after the civil war to mandate and enforce segregation. What follows is a Mississippi Jim Crow statute applicable to the entertainment business:

    “Every person ... operating ... any public hall, theater, opera house, motion picture show or any place of public entertainment or public assemblage which is attended by both white and colored persons, shall separate the white race and the colored race and shall set apart and designate ... certain seats therein to be occupied by white persons and a portion thereof, or certain seats therein, to be occupied by colored persons.”

    Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, a staunch segregationist who ran the state from 1960 to 1964, linked segregation to the Bible. A Baptist Sunday school teacher, he declared, “The Good Lord was the original segregationist. He made us white because He wanted us white and intended we should stay that way.”

    As I witnessed the George Floyd protest movement take hold around the world, I could feel the racism, the hatred, and the police brutality of a half-century ago. I flashed back to the racially motivated assassinations and violence that swirled around us during that time:

    • September 1962, Oxford, Mississippi—The riots at Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) where two civilians were killed as white rioters burned cars and pelted federal agents and soldiers with small arms fire in response to the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith.
    • June 12, 1963, Jackson, Mississippi—Medgar Evers, a black civil rights leader who worked to end the segregation of public facilities and expand voting rights for black people was shot at close range by a high-powered rifle in the driveway outside his home.
    • Sunday, September 15, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama—The Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Avenue Baptist Church. Four black girls who had been attending Sunday school, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, aged 11 through 14, were killed in the blast.
    • June 21, 1964, Neshoba County, Mississippi, on State Highway 19, fifteen miles northwest of Meridian, Mississippi—James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, three civil rights workers who were attempting to register black people to vote, were pulled over by Neshoba County lawmen while driving back to Meridian and shot to death by Klan members.
    • January 10, 1966, Hattiesburg, Mississippi—Vernon Dahmer, a black farmer and grocer, was burned to death when Klansmen firebombed his home. Dahmer had served two terms as president of the Hattiesburg NAACP chapter and led black voter registration drives. Denied in his own attempt to register to vote, Dahmer filed suit against the county registrar, who would only authorize the registration of a black person if they could answer the question, “How many bubbles are in a bar of soap?”
    • April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee—The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the non-violent activist who led the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, the 1963 Birmingham protests, who organized the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and who helped organized the 1965 Selma to Montgomery protest marches, was assassinated.

    During those days, our family would gather around the television set and watch the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Seeing network news reports on the racial violence that was unfolding around us was a shock, not only for us, but for people everywhere. Then, as social media and cable news are doing today, the airing of film footage of civil rights protests, and the terrible images of police brutality on television helped propel the 1960s civil rights movement forward.

    Seeing the struggle on TV changed behavior. Public perception shifted. No longer could racist politicians and their local and state law enforcement officers intimidate the public and keep black people in their place by killing and maiming demonstrators in broad daylight without accountability. TV coverage of Birmingham Police Commissioner Bull Connor’s tactics during that city’s 1963 protests, which included the use of fire hoses and police attack dogs against rights activists and child protesters, horrified the nation and promoted passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    Today, social media is the force multiplier in renewing awareness about racism and racial policing. Nearly everybody on the planet now carries a cellphone video camera in their pocket. They showed us the final horrible moments of George Floyd and Eric Garner (NYPD, July 17, 2014) as police snuffed out their lives. Eric Garner repeated 11 times that he couldn’t breathe. The digital distribution of these and other disturbing videos of police brutality have had a demonstrable impact upon public conscience and the trend toward public activism.

    Another result is the rise of an urgent national priority toward police reform. The introduction of bipartisan police reform bills are expected in both houses of Congress. Our congressional champion on current performance rights legislation—the AM-FM Act—Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who also serves as House Judiciary Committee co-chair, said, “There is real pressure [for police reform] from the American people. There must be real change. Anyone who gets in the way will be bowled over.”

    Anti-racism protests have renewed the battle over monuments to Confederate politicians and soldiers. A statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis was toppled in the former Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was torn down in Montgomery, Alabama, at a high school that bears his name. Over 700 confederate monuments still stand across the south, many of them erected in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s as a counter-reaction to civil rights protests of that era.

    George Floyd’s death and the ongoing series of protests that have spread around the world as part of the Black Lives Matter movement are certainly about ending police brutality and the culture of racism that still exists in America, a century and a half after the US civil war. But the issues are much larger than racial policing and the dark depths of prejudice and racism, which is a virus as deadly as the COVID-19 infections that stalk us.

    I ask you to please go to https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/Letter_Birmingham_Jail.pdf and read Reverend Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” written in August 1963. I re-read it when the protests broke out. It is as timely today as it was 57 years ago.

    In his letter, Dr. King discusses, among many other things, the commendations by area clergy toward police for keeping “order” and “preventing violence” during the 1963 Birmingham demonstrations against injustice. “I don’t believe you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its angry, violent dogs literally biting six unarmed, nonviolent Negroes,” he said. Did imposing law and order result in justice? Not in Dr. King’s book. His point is obvious. The unjust use of law and order to preserve an unjust system is, itself, unjust. Please remember this when you hear the politicians’ clarion call for law and order.

    The bigger picture in all of this is humanness. It’s about how we treat each other. It’s about whether we care for those who hurt, and whether we can accept the premise that if one hurts, we all hurt. It’s about whether we can listen to each other with the intent to understand, not just to react to stay stuck in our own point of view. It’s about caring for other people who don’t look like you, who don’t talk or act like you. People who have problems are many. People who care about others are fewer. To get to where we need to be, we’ve got to get there together.

    Jon Batiste (playing piano), musical director for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and member of Local 802 (New York City), led WE ARE peaceful protests in New York City on June 6 and 12. The June 12 event at Barclays Center (pictured) was an action in solidarity for black lives, a celebration of black lives through live music, a voter registration drive, and a fundraiser for the Equal Justice Initiative. #WeAre

    I’ve heard people ask, What is the union doing about this? I say: a lot. Take a good hard look at how our employers, the managers and the media companies, treat us. Injustice is not just racial. It’s also about economic injustice and the selfish politicians who play both sides to perpetuate it. Slavery didn’t altogether disappear 150 years ago. It morphed into employer exploitation. Like the rich film and TV companies that want to eliminate residuals and cut our pay. Like the Kennedy Center honchos who grabbed $25 million in pandemic assistance from Congress then fired the orchestra hours afterward. Yes, we can make speeches and issue statements as symbolic gestures, but if we stand up together against those who oppress us, we can make a difference.

    What can you do? You can get involved. As events unfold, look underneath the surface and try to see the underlying causes. Dig deep into local, state, and federal political candidates and find out what they plan to do about racial and economic injustice in America. Resist the status quo, and keep resisting, even if it makes the police unions furious. As Dr. King taught us, don’t be silent about things that matter. Vote for justice. And don’t go vote and go back to sleep. Stay on them about police, pension, and performance rights reform and anything else that matters. And above all else, please care about your brothers and sisters.

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    Thank You, Brother Ray Chew — You Are Answering Members’ Prayers

    As Easter weekend came amid the global pandemic, with virus infections on an upward curve and the spread accelerating across America, Canada, and the world, prayers of hope, healing, and redemption were part of the rituals of professional musicians and their families, all locked down in their homes, locked away from live interaction with their audiences, and locked out of their jobs. The weeks leading up to Easter were also marked by a flurry of interest in raising funds for entertainment industry workers—including professional musicians—whose jobs were among the first to disappear due to social distancing measures and emergency governmental restrictions, and who will likely be the last to return to gainful employment.

    No sooner had the pandemic Easter celebration concluded than I received a call from Ray Chew, a distinguished member of Local 802, New York City, whom I met early on in my presidency during his benefit performance for Local 802’s Musicians Assistance Program. Later, I ran into Ray Chew again when ABC television attempted to downsize its orchestra and implement licensed pre-recorded tracks on Dancing with the Stars. And yet again, when our campaign for streaming residuals in film and live television kicked into gear last year, Ray Chew did not hesitate to stand up and speak out in support of his colleagues, his union, and musicians everywhere during the process.

    Ray Chew is one hell of a musician. He recently celebrated his 10th season as music director for Dancing with the Stars. Previously, he served as music director for Fox TV’s American Idol, and Showtime at the Apollo. He has helmed award-winning musical events with Carrie Underwood, Rihanna, Aretha Franklin, Justin Bieber, Lenny Kravitz, James Taylor, and Quincy Jones, and has directed such prestigious events as the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, the President’s Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    ray chew

    So when Ray Chew called, I answered and listened. Ray wanted to partner with the Federation to develop a four-part virtual series featuring a fundraising portal that would accept donations for relief funds to help AFM freelance musicians whose jobs were lost due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

    “I want to do something to bring people together to raise funds for my musician brothers and sisters who are struggling right now because of the pandemic,” Ray said. “Freelance musicians are in an unprecedented crisis. The overnight loss of work has left thousands of musicians unable to pay their rent or buy food to feed their families. I am inviting my musical friends and fellow musicians to join me in putting together a series of shows that will bring us together to sing, perform, laugh, and share stories that will uplift us, inspire us and raise funds at this critical time.”

    To help accomplish these vital and timely goals, I appointed a team of AFM staff to work with Ray, led by my assistant and former Local 802 president, Tino Gagliardi. Our team included International Executive Board member Dave Pomeroy (also president of Nashville Local 257), Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, AFM counsel Jennifer Garner and Russ Naymark, Communications Director Rose Ryan, and Electronic Media Services Division Director Pat Varriale.

    Jay and Jennifer worked with the AFL-CIO’s Union Community Fund to establish a sub-fund to accept tax-deductible donations for the benefit of AFM members. Dave, Pat, and Russ Naymark developed an appropriate media agreement and waiver option for use by the show to cover the performances of AFM and SAG-AFTRA members. Rose Ryan helped promote the series through social media and internal communications. In the space of little more than two weeks, the first of four fundraising “Ray Chew Live Freelancer Fundraiser” episodes aired at 9 p.m. EDT, Thursday, May 7, on Facebook Live. Additional episodes aired on successive Thursdays, May 14, 21, and 28.

    Ray’s musical guests thus far (as of press time) have included performances by legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea, bassist Marcus Miller, P-funkster George Clinton, and interviews with TV newser Soledad O’Brien and New York Times best-selling author Iyanla Vanzant.

    To donate to this special AFM Musicians Relief Fund, go to https://bit.ly/2ylzxs2 and enter the amount you wish to contribute. All donations are tax deductible.

    The effort has raised thousands of dollars for freelance musicians. “We’ve raised awareness and lots of support for musicians in the industry who are suffering,” said Ray Chew. “I want to thank the person who gave one dollar, and also the person who gave a thousand dollars. I know they gave from the heart. When musicians have the opportunity to go back to work and perform again, it’s going to be great. I also want to thank my union for working to make this possible,” he said.

    If you are a freelance musician and wish to apply for relief from AFM’s Musicians Relief Fund, go to https://bit.ly/3bOdw2F, download the application and follow the instructions.

    Ray Chew rolled up his sleeves to help our members. On behalf of the entire membership of the American Federation of Musicians of the US and Canada, I want to thank him, his production team, AFM staff and the good folks at the AFL-CIO for their swift and exceptional response at a critical moment in the lives of musicians whose prayers of hope during Easter weekend may now be answered.

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    COVID-19 Lockout: When It Ends, What Will Recovery Look Like?

    With the continued spread of the coronavirus outbreak, governments throughout the world have implemented various forms of lockdown, now affecting a third of the global population including the major cities of North America. The impact of the pandemic on musicians and performers, due to the ban on public gatherings, has shut down entertainment venues of all sizes, halted nearly all media production, and eliminated thousands upon thousands of jobs.

    The live entertainment industry has gone dark. In the freelance gig economy, we are 100% unemployed. Under emergency governmental restrictions, we are unable to publicly perform. The virus has locked us out—employees, employers, and audiences alike. We are all in limbo. No one knows when or where the infection curves will “flatten.” No one can tell us with any degree of certainty when restrictions will be lifted. No one can say when our communities will be deemed safe enough to risk restarting non-essential businesses and performance venues with the resumption of live entertainment.

    Today, as we ride out this deadly virus, we are in uncharted territory. Nobody—the musicians in the gig economy, the promoters, the audiences who support us—none can hazard a guess where or when the venue doors might re-open. Where will the next paying live gigs be? What will they look like? Fear is the stalking horse of uncertainty.

    More broadly though, what short- and long-term consequences will we endure from this severe economic shock, and how will we recover? Will we return to our level of pre-shock earnings and productivity? Will the social distancing legacy of the COVID crisis choke economic activity in the live entertainment sector? If so, it could adversely affect our workplaces—the theaters, the concert halls, the convention dates, the nightclubs, the bars and restaurants.

    In every economic downturn, winners and losers emerge. How will our employers and those who control our work behave toward us as the lockout ends and the economy comes back to life? Will employers see a window of opportunity from depression-level unemployment to depress wages, extend profit margins, and gain more power over musicians’ lives?

    These are hard questions for hard times. Our individual and collective strength will be tested as the pandemic eventually recedes. The decisions we make as the smoke clears may profoundly shape the rest of our lives.

    While musicians are sheltering in place, venues closed, worried about the next gig and long-term shifts in live entertainment spending, there remain some positive relationships between musicians, employers, and the Federation as of this writing, April 20. I hope they will outlast the coronavirus.

    Symphonic

    There are no symphonic concert performances, but the majority of the 52 major US symphony orchestras affiliated with the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) are continuing to pay rostered musicians in accordance with agreements governing the shutdowns negotiated with their respective local unions. Some agreements continue wage payments into the summer.

    Touring Theatrical Musicals

    A total of 23 Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Tours were suspended during the week of March 15. Together with other workplace unions, the Federation negotiated a shutdown agreement with the Broadway League covering touring employees providing for cancellation payments and necessary expenses for musicians to return home. The unions are expected to meet and discuss workplace issues in connection with the resumption of touring production prior to the end of suspensions.

    Motion Picture/TV Film/Live Television

    Film producers and TV networks halted all production in mid-March. Company heads are now in discussion about easing back into production and what content to show in a society changed by the pandemic. Despite the hiatus, some films and dramatic TV series had finished production before the emergency declarations. Scoring sessions have continued for those shows with the Federation facilitating contract applications during the crisis (also applicable in sound recording) for the use of remote recording sessions, where individual musicians perform simultaneously, captured alone in safety, but all mixed together for the soundtrack master. In live TV, the late-night bands have continued to be paid, with some shows hosted live, and others remotely, using clips from previous episodes. Primetime TV shows like The Voice are airing prerecorded shows. Musicians in live TV production receive substantial payments for re-runs.

    Sound Recordings

    With the proliferation of home studio technology, remote recording sessions have continued and are being processed through the Federation’s Single Song Overdub Agreement and Sound Recording Labor Agreement remote recording applications for use during the crisis.

    Commercial Announcements (Jingles)

    While slowdowns in local and regional media advertising have taken hold, national accounts are continuing to advertise via online and traditional media. New original sessions will likely decline short-term, with increased use of licensed pre-recorded content such as legacy sound recordings. Musicians whose performances are embodied in original and licensed recordings will receive new use and reuse payments as ad cycles continue.

    The pandemic and its social distancing regimen will alter how consumers consume, work, and play. In America, the virus has killed over 46,000 people in just two months. It has also killed businesses and it has killed our jobs.

    Live musical performances are social by their very nature. Through our performances, we are social and cultural drivers. The disease has already caused the adoption of unfamiliar ways of doing business, but it won’t stop the power of our music. And it won’t stop our union. When the lockout ends, we will adapt, we will perform, and we will thrive.

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    Coronavirus Update

    As of the date of this writing, March 21, the entertainment industry throughout the world, with few exceptions, has been shut down. Today, emergency governmental stay-at-home orders have been issued in New York, Connecticut, Illinois, and California, affecting 75 million Americans. A national emergency declaration issued on March 13 placed severe restrictions on public and private gatherings, effectively eliminating audiences; canceling concerts and shows for every symphonic, opera, and ballet orchestra in the US and Canada; shutting down festival performances; and closing live venues of every size. Thousands of gigs that otherwise would have been performed were wiped out. TV networks ended all live television production except news. All other media production has been postponed.

    Broadway, Las Vegas casinos, and every other showroom, right down to neighborhood restaurants and bars, are dark. Touring theatrical productions have either closed or shut down pending an all-clear signal for audience gatherings. The threat to the entertainment industry across North America and worldwide, to the business it creates and musicians it employs, could stretch beyond these immediate days and have disastrous consequences for months or years to come. As the disease began its spread here, your union took immediate action to safeguard our staff, provide advice and counsel to our locals and our members, while negotiating with signatory employers to preserve and protect employment, extend health benefits, and return touring musicians safely to their homes.

    Federation offices—in New York, DC, Toronto, and Los Angeles—are located in the current epicenters of COVID-19 infections. We got ahead of the situation on March 12, implementing work-from-home plans for most staff, and staggering hours for essential staff in all Federation offices, which were eventually shuttered due to additional emergency orders.

    Federation staff has risen to the occasion, working around the clock to design and implement new streaming provisions for use to keep live performances alive, to preserve employment. Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard and I have been in direct contact with Congress to push for immediate relief for members who have borne the brunt of these shutdowns. We will not rest until we achieve this goal.

    I’m dedicating the balance of my column space this month to accommodate special coverage of the Federation’s response to the crisis. As the outbreak continues, I will communicate frequently via Federation-wide email blasts. Please stay safe. My prayers are with each of you.

    To view the article on this month's special coverage on COVID-19, click here.

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