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.

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Home » Officer Columns » Restructured Local Conferences Would Benefit Organizing Efforts

Restructured Local Conferences Would Benefit Organizing Efforts

  -  Theatre, Touring, and Booking Division Director

One of the many important jobs of the International Executive Board (IEB) is to take up recommendations and resolutions that were referred to us during the last convention of delegates. Local 542 (Flint, MI) President Joe Boettger submitted one of those resolutions. The purpose of the resolution isto restructure the local conferences to coincide with the geographic jurisdictions of the International Representatives. I support this resolution because it would combine the individual conferences of the Midwest region, as well as the Eastern region, and create larger and stronger networks of locals.

This has already occurred in some regions of the US. The creation of the Western and Southern Conferences, which combined the smaller individual state conferences, resulted in a much more effective and efficient structure. With this combination of resources, there is a bigger opportunity to bring a much needed sharing of information with a broader spectrum of locals. One has only to look at the successes of the Western, Southern, and Canadian conferences to see the informational and educational opportunities offered by such a structure.

A new structure would not necessarily mean the end of the long-standing local conferences. The way the current Western and Southern conferences work is that the individual conferences still meet at the larger conference as a representative body to the conference. The IEB has assigned Executive Officers Joe Parente, Bruce Fife, and me to work on how this can be done and to discuss this restructuring with local conference officers. There naturally will be logistic issues to attend to and governing rules to draft. Fortunately, there currently exists such a structure and we will be able to adapt and customize that structure to fit whatever the needs may be.

The goal, ultimately, is to create an event that is worth attending on a higher level. Delegates involved will be able to bring something of value back to their locals. They will create a stronger connection with the Federation and have the opportunity to gain tools that will enable all of us to grow. 

We all need to grow AFM membership. It is integral to the success of our union that we find ways to organize new work and new employers, but equally important is the necessary and difficult job of organizing internally. We may need to apply new techniques to promote member involvement. Too many times I hear the story of a local possibly having to close shop because there is no one recognized by the leaders of that local to take the reins and continue the valuable work of the union. This is where a bigger conference or “mini-convention,” as Beottger describes it, can be useful. 

Reports from various locals about techniques used in this important area, as well as successes and failures, could be beneficial to everyone. Recognizing problems and seeking cooperation from other locals to help solve problems could be the hallmark of these gatherings. We could learn from each other about how to recognize new leaders and create opportunities for our members. We could better share these types of strategies in a larger exchange. 

We are not alone and it is important for all of us to think of ourselves as an essential cog in a much bigger machine called the American Federation of Musicians—a finely tuned machine with all our components working in concert to better engage, represent, and advocate for all the musicians of the US and Canada.

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