The future of our union depends on creating a platform that supports a legislative-political movement that gives voice to every member. Over the years, AFM members have stepped up in their locals responding to calls for activism, participating in federal, state, and local political and legislative campaigns sponsored by the union and AFL-CIO state federations and labor councils. Proactive grass-roots efforts like these have allowed the AFM to be recognized by our brothers and sisters in labor who work daily to move the union’s agenda.
I am pleased to announce that the AFM is now building a national movement that will serve as the foundation for our political and legislative efforts. We invite you to join.
Our February 8 initial national call comprised AFM Signature TEMPO Program leadership members. We created a working committee that will focus on two important things. First, it will create a national rapid reaction force that responds to legislative “calls to action,” including, but not limited to, letter writing and calls. This force will also organize/bring new members into the movement who have a similar desire to be effective advocates on federal, and in some cases, state legislative actions.
Secondly, this group of highly motivated members will help plan a national legislative-political conference and day of action in Washington, DC. We are seeking the IEB’s approval to have a “fly-in” event in our nation’s Capital once a year to lobby members of Congress and participate in helpful workshops and other activities designed to build grass-roots action back home. It is anticipated that the Legislative-Political conference will be open to local officers, as well as rank-and-file members who, working through their locals, would like to come to Washington, DC, to lobby Capitol Hill.
Such a network is critically important. Having a year-round dedicated group of activists committed to this kind of action keeps the union from having to “drum up” activists to help move our agenda every time a new issue requires grass-roots action. Use of social media and other technical media platforms will allow AFM members to participate in legislative-political activities at home in real time.
If you would like to join the process and participate in monthly calls, join the AFM TEMPO Signature Program to be placed on our active rolls. AFM members can find access to the TEMPO Signature Program at the AFM.org home page, under Announcements.
What key issues will we need help with in 2016?
Immigration: Expediting O and P-2 visas are a critical component of our legislative work. Recently, AFM President Ray Hair praised the introduction of the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act (S.2510), a bill that would streamline the visa process for musicians and other artists traveling to the US. The ARTS Act would instruct the USCIS to process arts-related O and P visas in 14 days. Further, it would reduce waiting times by requiring USCIS to treat any nonprofit arts-related O and P visa petitions that it fails to adjudicate within 14 days as a premium processing case (15-day turn around), free of additional charge. We will need help from AFM members writing letters and calling their Senators and urging them to sign on as co-sponsors and vote for the legislation when it comes before the Senate.
H.R. 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act
Introduced in 2015 by Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), The Fair Play Fair Pay Act, as outlined on Nadler’s web page would:
- Create a terrestrial performance right so that AM/FM radio competes on equal footing with its Internet and satellite competitors who already pay performance royalties. This would resolve the decades-old struggle for performance rights and ensure that—for the first time—music creators would have the right to fair pay when their performances are broadcast on AM/FM radio.
- Bring true platform parity to all forms of radio, regardless of the technology.
- Pay fair market value for music performances. This levels the playing field and ends the unfair and illogical distortions caused by the different royalty standards that exist today.
- Ensure terrestrial royalties are affordable, capping royalties for stations with less than $1 million in annual revenue at $500 per year (and at $100 a year for noncommercial stations), while protecting religious and incidental uses of music from having to pay any royalties at all.
- Make a clear statement that pre-1972 recordings have value and those who are profiting from them must pay appropriate royalties for their use, while we closely monitor the litigation developments on this issue.
- Protect songwriters and publishers by clearly stating that nothing in this bill can be used to lower songwriting royalties.
- Codify industry practices, streamlining the allocation of royalty payments to music producers.
- Ensure artists receive their fair share from direct licensing of all performances eligible for the statutory license.
AFM members are asked to write, email, or call their representatives and express support for fair treatment of musicians whose sound recordings are played on AM/FM radio.
On February 2, President Obama released his FY 2017 budget. Contained within this federal spending guide are a number of items that support the arts in the US. Bearing in mind that this is the President’s wish list; the budget will undergo scrutiny in the House and Senate, which hopefully will lead to a compromise that keeps strong arts-related funding in place. Of note, the president has proposed an increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), from the current $148 million to $150 million.
The budget also includes a $500 million block grant to states and school districts to be used to help fund arts initiatives in the schools, as outlined in the new Every Student Succeeds Act that now recognizes music as a part of the core curriculum. In addition, the budget includes funding in the NEA’s budget for the Military Healing Arts Partnership to help wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families in their recovery and/or transition to civilian life. (You can learn more about this program at: https://www.arts.gov/partnerships/nea-military-healing-arts.) Building a national movement and platform for legislative-political action will help us move this agenda that is critical to the life of our union. We invite you all to join us as we plan our future.