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.
August 1, 2023Ken Shirk - AFM International Secretary-Treasurer
The delegates to the 102nd AFM Convention this past June have spoken, setting the Federation stage for the next three years. I am honored and humbled to have been elected as one of those stage props. Over the past few decades, the AFM has been graced with a long line of dedicated international secretary-treasurers, and I will endeavor to meet the standards that my predecessors set so well. The newly elected AFM International Executive Board has integrity, intelligence, and passion, and I am grateful to be a part of this new team.
I believe in collective grassroots power.
Power wielded at the top is all well and good, but real and effective change only happens when that power is built from the ground level. A labor organization trying to exert power without the active participation of its members is a toothless tiger. On the other hand, when union members decide to channel their collective power to a common purpose, the results are profound.
Many unions understand this, but one union stands out for me: the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). Solidarity, democracy, organizing, and social justice are embedded in the very fabric of the ILWU. Its core ethics have guided it every day since its founding, even when there is no apparent tangible benefit.
A case in point: Since its inception through the 1980s, South Korea had been under repressive control by a succession of dictators and military juntas, and dissenters were routinely sentenced to long prison terms or death. One man in particular, Kim Dae-Jung, had been a tireless advocate for civil rights and a democratic government in South Korea since the early 1960s. He wielded his political influence as a member of the National Assembly, then as an exiled advocate, surviving assassination attempts and successive imprisonments. By 1980, the South Korean regime had had enough of Kim and his democratic principles and, after a rigged trial on a trumped-up charge of insurrection and rebellion, sentenced him to death.
Upon hearing the news, the ILWU members directed their leaders to send a letter to the US State Department requesting that the Secretary of State “… inform the government of South Korea that, if Kim Dae-Jung is executed, no South Korean ship, nor any ship carrying goods from South Korea, will ever be unloaded at a US port.” Staring down the barrel of the economic consequences of the entire membership’s threat, the South Korean government relented, commuting Kim’s death sentence and eventually releasing him.
What is the epilogue to this story? In 1997, Kim Dae-Jung was elected president of South Korea and was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
While I have no illusions that we will ever save the life of a world leader, I have always dreamed of our membership wielding its own power to support social justice. The delegates to the just concluded 102nd Convention of the AFM provided a real-world opportunity for us to do just that by approving Resolution No. 17, which called for the AFM to join the US-based Labor Campaign for Single Payer (a movement sometimes referred to as Medicare for All).
Citing disgraceful national US statistics—28th in infant mortality, 24th in life expectancy, and 30 million citizens without health coverage—along with the downward pressure on bargaining for wages that the for-profit health care insurance industry imposes upon everyone south of the 49th Parallel, Resolution No. 17 proposed that the AFM become one of 14 national unions leading the fight for health care justice. If you are an American AFM member dependent upon employer-negotiated health insurance, or upon the open market as a self-payer for your coverage, ask your Canadian union colleagues why health care costs don’t dominate every one of their negotiations for wages or fees.
Getting to universal health care in the US won’t be uncomplicated or easy, but a long journey always begins with the first step. Stay tuned for the second step.