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Entertainment Unions Announce New Diversity Policy Agenda

Representatives of multiple arts, entertainment, and media unions on February 12 announced a new policy agenda aimed at advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their respective industries. During a press conference, hosted by the AFL-CIO’s Department of Professional Employees, the union leaders called on Congress to take action on multiple fronts, including:

  • Passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
  • Passing the Restoring Justice for Workers Act.
  • Passing the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act.
  • Passing the Ask Musicians For Music (AM-FM) Act.
  • Supporting copyright reforms aimed at combating theft of lawful content.
  • Increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
  • Working with stakeholders, including unions, to develop diversity hiring and reporting objectives for grant recipients.
  • Authorizing funding for Chief Diversity Officer positions at the NEA, NEH, and CPB.
  • Following the lead of states to identify effective diversity requirements for federal tax incentives that will spur more inclusive hiring in film, television, and live entertainment.

“By joining forces with our AFL-CIO affiliate unions, we were able to impress upon those in the media that we are taking serious steps to actively affect working policies that impact the well-being of our diverse memberships, giving a leg up to those members while holding ourselves accountable at the highest levels for our members’ professional progress,” said Alfonso Pollard, AFM Diversity, Legislative, and Political Director, who represented the AFM at the press conference. “Gone are the days when reactionary dialogue after a critical, racially motivated event is enough. This is a permanent move on our parts to establish a roadmap, motivate our unions and craft new rules, changing the way we operate for the long run.”

In addition to the AFM, nine other unions joined in advocating for this DEI policy agenda, including the Actors’ Equity Association, American Guild of Musical Artists, American Guild of Variety Artists, Directors Guild of America, Guild of Italian American Actors, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Office and Professional Employees International Union, SAG-AFTRA, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and Writers Guild of America, East.

Alfonso Pollard headshot

Washington Government Roundup

At this writing, Congress is now operating in a lame duck session. Also as of this writing, Hawaii is the final state to certify its presidential election results, making President-Elect Joe Biden the clear winner with 306 electoral votes to Donald Trump’s 232 electoral votes. This cleared the path for certified electors to meet in their states and cast their final votes on Monday, December 14, 2020. The Trump administration continues to file lawsuits across the country, leading up to a final Hail Mary pass to the US Supreme Court behind a case filed by the state of Texas.

Pandemic Relief

Debate about an extended pandemic relief plan has finally come to a point where Dems and Reps may be about to compromise and vote soon on a $908 billion aid relief package. The compromise proposal would include a temporary liability shield for businesses to allow states to develop their own liability reforms. It includes $160 billion in state and local aid, $180 billion in additional unemployment insurance (which includes an additional $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefit), and $288 billion for small businesses. The deal has yet to be finalized as of press time.

Budget, Government Funding, and Key Dates

Lawmakers must pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government and avert a shutdown. From there, an omnibus appropriations bill is expected to be in place. House and Senate appropriators reached a deal in early December on the top-line funding levels for the 12 spending bills. Here are some important deadlines in the political process:

  • December 8, 2020—Government funding deadline.
  • December 14, 2020—Presidential electors meet in their respective states and cast their votes.
  • December 31, 2020—Student loan relief and rent moratorium both expire.
  • January 3, 2021—New 117th Congress convenes.
  • January 5, 2020—Georgia Senate runoff that will determine control of the US Senate. Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face competitive challenges from Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.
  • January 6, 2021—Congress certifies Electoral College votes.
  • January 20, 2021—Inauguration Day, President-Elect Biden sworn in.

The AM-FM Act

The musicFIRST coalition is focusing on passage of its performance rights bill. In addition, the coalition has vetted several major law firms in Washington to help get the AM-FM Act across the finish line in the 117th Congress. I have had the privilege of sitting in on all candidate presentations on President Hair’s behalf and reported the outcomes to him. A final decision will be announced soon.


The AFM, along with other labor affiliates, continues to push for Congressional passage of the House-passed HEROES Act. For the AFM, the bill contains pension relief, the Save our Stages Act (supporting grant money to independent venues negatively impacted by COVID-19), additional funding for the NEA, NEH, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which broadcasts almost daily, public programming and house musicians operate under an AFM collective bargaining agreement), additional Unemployment Insurance funding, rent relief, and a host of other policy perks that help musicians get back on their feet.


AFL-CIO hosted three Zoom calls with Biden transition team officials in December, on transportation, pension, and trade issues. A meeting with the US Department of Labor Agency Review Team staff focused on pensions to hash out an agreed-upon strategy so that on January 21, 2021, President Biden can hit the ground running. Marc Perrone, president of United Food and Commercial Workers and chair of the AFL-CIO Multiemployer Pension Taskforce, and his Multi-Employer Co-Chair Ken Cooper led the talks for us. They gave background on bankruptcy shortcomings, labor’s opposition on the Grassley-Alexander proposal, support for the partition components in the HEROES Act, and Biden’s immediate passage and signing of the Act.

Department for Professional Employees

AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal has taken the lead on crafting a racial justice package that all AFL-CIO Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industry Coordinating Committee (AEMI) affiliates have signed off on. The package talks about supporting careers in the entertainment industry, increasing federal arts funding and establishing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) objectives for grant recipients, and leveraging federal tax incentives to encourage diverse hiring. A fact sheet has been developed and approved by Blumenthal and President Ray Hair.


The AFM Diversity Committee has been very active organizing a standardized national policy that will serve as the platform for locals and other AFM affiliate organizations to build local diversity committees. This is timely as the diversity committee is working directly with AFM Vice President Bruce Fife and AFM Organizing Director Michael Manley to develop a curriculum. Several diversity subcommittees have been formed to work independently and bring back written subscripts on how to build membership in casual, rock, pop, jazz, and symphony activities. It is important to prepare for growth while the pandemic is raging so as not to be left behind when the economy reopens.


Our two-month-long TEMPO drive, which ended December 31, 2020, has netted some result. President Hair’s $1,000 challenge has netted approximately $3,563, comprising slightly more than a two-to-one match by AFM members. A summary of the campaign was emailed to each of you late last month. We continue to monitor the campaign, as we are reaching out to TEMPO contributors to thank them for their hard-earned contributions.

Union Plus to Give $1,000 to 100 Union Members

Do you know an extraordinary union member, someone who’s always looking out for everyone else but never for themselves? Union Plus can help you give back to those amazing people with its Holiday Giveback Campaign, through which the nonprofit will be giving away $1,000 “thank you” awards to 100 deserving union members.

Union Plus is a non-profit founded by the AFL-CIO to provide additional benefits, savings, and discounts to union members, as well as offer scholarships and exclusive grants during difficult times such as layoffs, furloughs, and natural disasters. Since 2009, Union Plus has awarded over $14 million in grants and scholarships to union members.

“It has been a tremendously difficult year, for everyone in our country and, in particular, those in our union family,” says Mitch Stevens, Union Plus president. “Our ‘Holiday Giveback campaign’ not only shares financial resources with extraordinary union members but also shines a light on their contribution to our communities. Union members are the backbone of our economy and many have made extraordinary sacrifices and contributions during this pandemic.”

The “Holiday Giveback Campaign” aims to inspire members to recognize themselves and others for their extraordinary work in 2020.

Entry to the Union Plus Holiday Giveback is easy. Nominations can be made by visiting unionplus.org/holidaygiveback or by simply posting a video to Instagram telling Union Plus what makes your nominee extraordinary, using the hashtags #UnionPlusGiveAGrand and #Contest.

Current union members in good standing with a union internationally affiliated with the AFL-CIO are eligible to win. Members can nominate themselves or a friend or colleague.

Nominations will be accepted until December 4, and winners will be announced throughout December.

AFL-CIO Calls for Workplace Standard on Infectious Diseases

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently decried the Trump Administration for being unprepared for the current coronavirus contagion spreading throughout the US—as well as being incompetent in its federal response to the outbreak—and called for an emergency workplace standard on infectious diseases to protect workers from the virus.

“The reports I’m hearing from our affiliate unions are deeply troubling,” Trumka said in a March 6 speech to a roundtable of reporters. “Guidance from federal authorities have been inconsistent at best and dangerous at worst. Many employers are woefully unprepared. And the virus continues to spread.”

Trumka said the federal government had a permanent infectious disease workplace standard in the works, but President Trump halted work on it when he assumed office in 2017. “This is part of the Trump Administration’s pattern of reckless and dangerous deregulation,” he said.

Trumka said an emergency workplace infectious disease standard would “be a step in the right direction” and set in motion a six-month timeline to create a permanent standard so the US is better prepared if and when the next outbreak occurs. “A protective OSHA standard is even more important now that the Trump administration rolled back CDC-recommended protections, leaving working people at greater risk,” he said.

The nation’s largest union also sent an email to its members—and created a campaign on The Action Network—urging all members to call their federal representatives and advocate for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases.

“There is no existing OSHA standard or basic regulatory framework that comprehensively addresses an employer’s responsibility to protect workers from infectious diseases,” the campaign statement said. “In the absence of a set of mandatory infection control requirements that employers must implement, there is no assurance that all workers will be protected from infectious diseases like COVID-19.”

To learn more about the AFL-CIO’s position on protecting workers from infectious diseases and to view a list of resources about the COVID-19 outbreak, visit www.aflcio.org.

Report on the 2020 AFL-CIO MLK Civil and Human Rights Conference: “Give Us the Ballot”

international diversity awards

by Lovie Smith-Wright, AFM Diversity Committee Chair and President of Local 65-699 (Houston, TX)

From January 17-19, I had the great pleasure of representing the AFM at the 2020 AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference, held at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C. The theme of the conference, “Give Us the Ballot, Political Boot Camp,” emphasized the importance of us getting out to vote and making sure our members understand why the 2020 election is critical.

Civil and Human Rights Conference

The opening ceremony began Friday morning with the invocation by Terry Melvin, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and a welcome by Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. Trumka told us that Dr. King’s words are in each one of us—in our focus, our fierceness, and our fighting spirit. He said that Dr. King’s legacy is shaped by the leaders who came after him who continued to carry the torch that he lit; then Trumka took a moment for us to send out our best wishes to America’s greatest living civil rights leader, the conscience of the Congress, Representative John Lewis.

Trumka reminded us that Dr. King called for the march in Selma because Jimmie Lee Jackson, a woodcutter and a deacon, was shot and killed when he was 26 years old—all because he just wanted to vote. Shortly after the march in Selma, President Lyndon Johnson called on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. Today’s Supreme Court has weakened the Voting Rights Act; the voter ID laws of today are the new poll taxes and literacy tests. The attacks on voters’ rights were the fights of Jimmie Lee Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lewis; these are still our fights today. “The best way to honor Dr. King’s memory is to lock arms and carry his torch forward together,” stated Trumka.

The Friday afternoon session opened with Tefere Gebre, executive vice president, AFL-CIO, who introduced the speakers for the afternoon plenary: “Give Us the Ballot: A Voting Rights Mandate.” The moderator was Gwen McKinney and the feature speakers were Dora Cervantes, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; Jeanne L. Lewis, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; and Leon Russell, NAACP. They all explained the significance of getting people involved in voting, because whom you vote for, on local and state levels, determines whether your streetlights stay on or whether you get funding for public schools; the right to vote and the power of votes brings political and economic power in its wake.

Civil and Human Rights Conference
Pictured is the discussion panel, “The Colored Girls: Lessons from the Political Battlefield.” Moderator Elizabeth Powell, far left, talked with featured speakers Leah Daughtry, Yolanda Caraway, Minyon Moore, and Donna Brazile, who are the authors of the book For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics.

The highlight of the conference was Labor Night at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The evening started with an empowering discussion, “The Colored Girls: Lessons from the Political Battlefield.” The featured speakers were: Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Bishop Leah D. Daughtry, and Minyon Moore, who are the authors of the book For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics. Each panelist spoke of how they got started in politics, and how they were affected by Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, and many others. Donna Brazile had a tremendous impact on me because she spoke so eloquently as to why each one of us should always follow our dreams and never give up hope.

After the presentation, the delegates were given time to explore the exhibits of the museum; we headed straight to the fourth floor where the history of African American Music is found. It is an extraordinary collection of all the great artists of jazz, rhythm and blues, hip hop, classical, etc. Every musician should see this historical collection.

Saturday morning was dedicated to community service, and Saturday afternoon offered several workshops. The three sessions I attended emphasized how important our vote is. Since “civics” is no longer being taught in most public schools, a lot of people do not understand the legislative process; therefore, we must educate everyone to vote in every election in their communities. Along with our vote is the 2020 census—again, we must encourage and educate people why it is important to be counted. The evening ended with a closing reception with remarks by Fred Redmond, United Steel Workers, and Tefere A. Gebre.

A last quote from President Trumka: “We’re the ones who make America great. We keep it safe … We tuck her into our bed at night. And come Election Day. … We vote! We’re fearless. We’re strong. We’re powerful. We’re united. We’re the American labor movement and we will not … WE WILL NOT … be denied!”

Baltimore AFL-CIO Donates Food and Toys for the Holidays

Each holiday season, Baltimore area AFL-CIO unions donate money to buy food and toys for our brothers and sisters who have fallen on hard times. Volunteers from various locals gathered at Baltimore Metropolitan Council December 17 to assemble 230 boxes of food to be distributed to both union and community members who are in need. It is amazing to see how well the volunteers work together, without direction, to make short work of this massive undertaking.  (L to R) Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD) volunteers Susan Benac (Annapolis Symphony Orchestra) and Lisa Steltenpohl (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra).

Senator Sherrod Brown Holds Cleveland Pension Rally with Labor Leaders

In March, Senator Sherrod Brown (OH-D) held a rally on his work and commitment for retirement security. The event was hosted by several organizations including the Cleveland AFL-CIO Retiree Council, Senior Voice!, and AFM Local 4 (Cleveland, OH). Brown is co-chair of the Joint Congressional Select Committee on Multi-Employer Pension Plans.

“Sherrod Brown has a long history as an independent voice for working-class Ohioans and their families. In addition to championing our earned retirement benefits, Senator Brown remains one of our strongest advocates for fair trade, social and economic justice, and sensible health care policies,” says Local 4 President Leonard DiCosimo.

Local 4 (Cleveland, OH) musicians presented Senator Sherrod Brown (OH, D) with a Local 4 T-shirt at a rally in Cleveland. (L to R) are Ed Majeski, Evan Mitchell, Brown, Jeremey Poparad, and Todd Smith.

For more information on the joint committee’s work and pension progress, please read AFM Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard’s column here.

US CEOs Have Biggest Pay Gap Compared to Average Workers

Companies listed on the US exchange must disclose the ratio between a chief executive officer’s compensation and the pay of its median worker for any fiscal year starting on or after January 2017. A Bloomberg analysis of the data found that CEOs of the biggest publicly traded US company’s averaged $14.3 million in annual pay, 265 times more than average workers and the highest ratio of any country. The ratio is double that of Canada and 10 times greater than the country with the second biggest gap, India (229). Norway and Austria have some of the smallest margins. CEOs of companies in the Norwegian OBX Index got on average $1.28 million, roughly the income of 20 people.


AFL-CIO Convention Passes Timely Resolutions

Once every four years, elected delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention gather to elect the AFL-CIO Officers and Executive Council. Our AFM delegation consisted of AFM President Ray Hair, Local 65-699 (Houston, TX) President Lovie Smith-Wright, and myself. Unfortunately, due to a death in her family, Lovie was unable to attend.

AFM members from Local 2-197 (St. Louis, MO) entertained the delegates as they filed into the hall to take their seats before AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka banged his gavel bringing the convention to order. Members of the St. Louis local also played for various receptions throughout the convention.

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AFL-CIO Calls Trump’s Economic Speech Ironic and Deceitful

Following Donald Trump’s Michigan speech detailing his long-awaited economic plan, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:

“Donald Trump has spent his life getting rich by hurting working people. Now he returns to Michigan for an economic speech almost one year to the day after he suggested automakers move production from Michigan to states with lower wages. It’s ironic, deceitful, and offensive.

“Donald Trump will say he speaks for all Americans, but his all white, all male, Wall Street banker economic team proves his intentions. Trump has chosen to get his real advice from people just like him—people who have made millions off the backs of hardworking families.