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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Secretary-Treasurer

jay blumenthal

Jay Blumenthal – AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

    The Passing of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

    by Jay Blumenthal, AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

    On Thursday, August 5, we were all stunned to learn that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka passed away unexpectedly at the age of 72. Rich was the president of the AFL-CIO for the past 12 years. During the four terms he served as president, he built a strong AFL-CIO leadership team and developed productive relationships with Washington politicians who could assist in moving labor’s agenda forward. Rich was a tireless advocate for working men and women and a well-respected labor leader worldwide.

    I was introduced to Rich Trumka when I was a delegate to the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention in St. Louis. I had heard that Rich would be in total control of the convention proceedings at all times and prepared for any eventuality. That proved to be true. Proponents of the convention resolutions that were supported by the leadership were lined up at the microphones, ready to speak to fellow delegates, each time a resolution came before the body. Resolution passage was never in doubt. In the end, 56 resolutions were passed, ranging from a workers’ bill of rights to immigration and citizenship.

    Rich brought the same preparation and tenacity to the battlefield when fighting for social justice or the improvement of working conditions for all men and women. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his devotion to improving our lives. The best way we can repay this debt and honor his legacy is by redoubling our efforts in the fight for justice, fairness, and dignity for working men and women everywhere.

    Fall Is in the Air

    It’s hard to believe that it’s September. Fall is knocking on the door. This summer has been one of many virtual Zoom AFM regional and player conferences. The two exceptions were the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and Locals Conference Council/Players’ Conference Council (LCC/PCC) conferences, which were held both virtually and in person. At both in-person meetings, strict COVID protocols were in place, with attendees having to show proof of full vaccination before entering the meeting room, as well as requiring mask wearing and social distancing.

    Throughout August, the Delta variant infected people. Many states have reported increased hospitalizations and deaths. This more contagious variant has convinced some who were reluctant to get vaccinated. As of August 12, just over half the US population is fully vaccinated and 70% have received at least one dose. We still have a long way to go to herd immunity, which kicks in when 90% are fully vaccinated. Particularly alarming are the breakthrough cases, which do not typically result in severe illness or hospitalization.

    My fingers are crossed that the current and future COVID variants are brought under control quickly to protect musicians and build audience confidence allowing performances to resume again. 

    Editor’s Feedback:

    The International Musician August 2021 cover story about Local 77 (Philadelphia, PA) was intended to highlight the new leadership. The comments by the subjects in the story were their opinions and recollections of events prior to their election. Some of the text referenced the previous administration who had not been interviewed or consulted about the story.  We apologize for any mischaracterizations that may have been construed.  We meant no disrespect to the previous leadership who served and supported their members for many years.

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    White House Covid-19 Task Force

    This July, it became increasingly clear that the Biden Administration’s goal of having 70% of the US population fully vaccinated by July 4th was not going to be achieved. While vaccines have been available, vaccine hesitancy has slowed the rate of getting shots into arms.

    As of July 14, 56% of the US population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 48% were fully vaccinated, but coverage varied widely among different groups. According to The New York Times, 70% of Canadians had received their first dose of a COVID vaccine and 46% had been fully vaccinated. The push to reach the goal of 70% of the US population fully vaccinated continues.

    On June 22, 2021, the Arts Entertainment and Media Industries cohort of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (which includes the AFM) met by Zoom with the White House COVID-19 Response Team. During the brief meeting led by Asma Mirza, chief of staff of the team, we discussed vaccination events and the ability of entertainment unions to assist in spreading the word about the importance of getting fully vaccinated. Since musicians’ ability to safely return to work hinges on a high percentage of the population being fully vaccinated, the AFM is very supportive of this White House initiative.

    White House Messaging

    Getting vaccinated gets us back to normal. Getting fully vaccinated (two doses for most vaccines) is the best way to defeat this virus and get back to safely gathering with family, friends, weddings, sports, and travel. 


    The vaccine is free and available to everyone. Vaccines are available at no cost to anyone age 12 and older living in the United States, regardless of immigration or insurance status. Many pharmacies and vaccination sites are now offering walk-in vaccination, so an appointment may not be necessary.

    If you have questions, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider. Estimates show that 90% of doctors have gotten a shot themselves.

    More than 170 million Americans have received a vaccine. They are protected from this deadly virus and are on the path back to normal.

    Find a Vaccination Site:

    Visit vaccines.gov or vacunas.gov

    Text your ZIP Code to 438-829 to find a vaccine near you.

    Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline (1-800-232-0233)

    For updates and other material resources, visit wecandothis.hhs.gov.

    Returning to Work—Signs of Life

    As more people become fully vaccinated, returning to work becomes more realistic. Over the last few months, the initial steps toward musicians returning to work have begun. At the time of this writing, discussions with the Broadway League over Pamphlet B touring are nearing an end and a few shows are scheduled to begin touring in late summer or early fall. COVID-19 safety protocols are part of the current discussions with the Broadway League.

    NYC Broadway shows are scheduled to start again in mid-September and many symphony orchestras are announcing their 2021-22 seasons. While there is a long way to go before musicians are able to return to pre-COVID activity levels, the feeling of having turned the corner is a long-awaited and welcomed relief.

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    Return to the NYC Office and Other Recent Events

    It’s been just over 15 months since the AFM New York City headquarters was first forced to close in order to comply with federal and state COVID-19 shutdown restrictions on March 19, 2020. While the office did reopen three months later (June 2020), it was for essential staff only, with strict COVID-19 procedures in place. Most staff continued to work remotely, however, some in the finance department came in so that arriving checks could be deposited and new checks to musicians could be cut and mailed. Also, mail arriving at the office needed to be sorted, reviewed, and managed so bills could be paid.

    Before any staff returned to the premises, our office needed to be marked for social distancing and other COVID-related signage was displayed. Masks and COVID supplies were procured and made available for those staff members who were coming into the office.

    Now that COVID-19 vaccines have become readily available, we decided it was time to bring remote staff members back to the office. As of June 14, AFM staff who were working remotely have returned to the NYC office. However, we remain closed to outside visitors until further notice.

    Albany Organizing Victory

    While this story will be covered at length in the August organizing issue of the IM, I wanted to acknowledge the bravery and unity of the musicians who were engaged for the HBO miniseries The Gilded Age, being filmed in Troy, New York. After learning that terms and conditions for this engagement were not as expected, the musicians informed the employer that they wished to be represented by the AFM. Shortly thereafter, the employer called a meeting and the musicians were summarily fired.

    However, there was a happy ending when the musicians’ solidarity and our local affiliates (with help and guidance from the Federation) turned things around. HBO agreed that this work would be performed under an AFM contract, proving once again that “musicians standing together have the power!”

    International Federation of Musicians (FIM)

    The International Federation of Musicians (FIM) recently held its 22nd FIM Congress (via Zoom meetings). FIM is the international organization for musicians’ unions. There are approximately 70 members in 60 countries throughout the world. With the changing landscape of the music industry and the exponential growth of music streaming, the necessity of having a powerful voice that can speak to global concerns is essential. FIM is that voice.

    The recent convening of FIM resulted in the passage of numerous proposals. Of particular note is the FIM Statement on Online Music that congress delegates adopted. It can be viewed in its entirety on the FIM website www.fim-musicians.org. It addresses the following topics:

    1.Right to a fair remuneration

    2.Scope of the right of making available on demand

    3.Adaptation of remuneration schemes

    4.Transparency and access to information

    5.Value of music

    6.User-centric model

    7.Duration of reference for the count of plays

    The 22nd FIM Congress concluded with the election of the FIM governing body. The presidium consists of the following persons: President John Smith (United Kingdom); Vice Presidents Ray Hair (United States), Edith Katiji (Zimbabwe), Anders Laursen (Denmark), Beat Santschi (Switzerland), and Horace Trubridge (United Kingdom). The new executive committee consists of the following countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Romania, Senegal, Sweden, and Uruguay.

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    The PRO Act Would Level the Playing Field for Organizing

    Organizing is the lifeblood of any union, and with our current labor law, it is the most difficult task we face as a labor organization. It takes commitment, tenacity, and abundant resources to be successful. Organizing new workplaces brings the benefits of collective bargaining to newly organized workers, which grows our membership and creates increased union density in our industry. More members (higher union density) has a direct correlation to our union’s power by creating leverage at the bargaining table. Anyone who has engaged in bargaining knows it’s all about power. 

    Recently, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) attempted to organize 6,000 Amazon employees at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama. The stakes were high. If successful, this organizing effort could have opened the door to RWDSU organizing the 1.3 million strong Amazon workforce. Think about the bargaining leverage the union would have if all Amazon workers were organized. But alas, this organizing effort was unsuccessful. 

    Such a defeat would seem to indicate that a clear majority of Amazon workers are happy and content with their current wages and working conditions, but all may not be as it seems. 

    RWDSU claims that the employer used anti-union tactics to discourage workers from voting in favor of union representation. Stuart Applebaum, president of RWDSU stated that Amazon employees “feared they would lose their jobs if they voted for the union” and that Amazon held “mandatory captive audience meetings.” RWDSU has filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, though under the current law Amazon will face no meaningful penalties for their bad behavior. 

    Joining a union and working under the protections of a union contract has provided a pathway for workers to address inequities in the workplace and improve their standard of living. However, for decades, labor has been under attack. 

    On March 9, 2021 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), to help reverse the effects of the attacks by leveling the playing field between employers and employees. Among other things, the bill empowers employees and limits what companies can do to disrupt union organizing campaigns. Also, it expands various labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace. 

    At President Biden’s joint April 28 address to Congress, he called for the passage of the PRO Act. “The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America, that’s what it says. And, it recognizes something I’ve always said. The guys and women on Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class,” he said. “And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act, the PRO Act, and send it to my desk to support the right to unionize.” 

    The Pro Act is part of the AFL-CIO’s “Workers First Agenda.” If it passes in the Senate, it will move to President Biden for his signature, which he has indicated he will sign. In short, the PRO Act will: 

    • •Empower workers to organize and bargain. 
    • •Hold corporations accountable for union-busting. 
    • •Repeal “right to work” laws. 

    It’s time to level the playing field for US workers. Call or write your senators and urge them to pass the PRO Act! 

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    Paycheck Protection Program Available to Unions

    While unions are organizations that strive to improve the lives of their members and protect workers’ rights in the workplace from unscrupulous employers, unions are also employers themselves. The Federation and its locals (particularly larger ones) retain many employees in order to handle the workload of the union.

    As many small businesses were forced to shut down during the early days of the pandemic, they were compelled to reduce their normal payroll as staffing needs changed. To help stem the layoffs, the government created an incentive program designed to keep employees on the payroll. This program, called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), allowed businesses to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) PPP loans. If the loans were used as specified (keeping the workforce on the payroll), the borrowers were eligible for PPP loan forgiveness.

    Unfortunately, this supportive program, which helps keep employees on the payroll, excluded 501(c)(5) organizations (unions). It seemed so unfair to exclude unions from this program as unions were busier than ever during the pandemic, providing guidance and assistance to members and local officers.

    I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I brought this inequitable treatment of unions up when attending meetings of the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE). DPE always included this proposal when submitting our needs to our political friends on Capitol Hill, but it didn’t seem to get the traction it deserved. After a while, I felt like the proverbial “broken record.” With the change of administration in Washington and the balance of power shifting in Congress, the inequity has been addressed. Now 501(c)(5) organizations are eligible to apply for a PPP loan.

    As soon as we received word of 501(c)(5) organization eligibility for PPP, we informed all AFM local officers in the US by way of an email blast. (The Canadian government was already providing this type of support to Canadian unions.) AFM International Representatives also reached out to US local officers to make sure they were aware of this change.

    Eligibility for 501(c)(5) organizations came none too soon. While our AFM 2020 audit continues, it is clear we have experienced a significant deficit for 2020 and it is expected to continue in 2021. This is a clear departure from prior years when musicians were working and Federation revenue streams were normal. Keeping a watchful eye on expenditures during previous years resulted in surpluses. Revenue streams for both the Federation and our affiliated locals have been severely compromised because musicians have, for the most part, been out of work since the beginning of the pandemic. Assuming our PPP loan application is successful, we will use the loan as prescribed (to cover payroll and other eligible expenses). We anticipate receiving forgiveness on the full loan amount. First draw PPP loans made to eligible borrowers qualify for full loan forgiveness if, during the 8- to 24-week covered period following loan disbursement:

    • Employee and compensation levels are maintained

    • The loan proceeds are spent on payroll costs and other eligible expenses; and

    • At least 60% of the proceeds are spent on payroll costs

    SBA is currently offering PPP loans until May 31, 2021. Local officers considering applying for a PPP loan for your local should not wait. High demand on this program may lead to rapid depletion of available funds. Questions about PPP loans should be directed to your AFM International Representative.

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