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Broadway Tour Discussions Begin as Pandemic Recedes

More than a year after the COVID outbreak prompted the lockdown of global population centers, halting public gatherings, darkening entertainment venues of all sizes, locking out musicians and performers, and eliminating thousands upon thousands of jobs, wheels are now in motion for the reopening of the live entertainment industry and a mid-summer return for concerts, festivals, and Broadway touring productions.

The advent of a return to the road for Broadway touring shows is a welcome development for musicians who travel with the tours and for local musicians who augment the productions in certain locations where the shows are booked.

Last year, during the week of March 15, 2020, a total of 23 AFM-covered touring productions were suspended—shutdown on the road—as a result of the raging spread of coronavirus and government imposed social distancing regimens. The Federation negotiated a shutdown agreement with the Broadway League that provided for cancellation payments and necessary expenses for musicians to return home.

We are now preparing to bargain a successor Pamphlet B and Short Engagement Tours Agreement that will cover musicians who become engaged as the tours resume. It will also impact local employment at certain venues along the tour. AFM touring agreements are administered by our Touring, Theatre, Booking Division, managed and supervised by Director Tino Gagliardi and Associate Director George Fiddler.

Discussions with League representatives during the pandemic shutdown concerning a timeline for a return to the road varied with each conversation. Estimates ranged from late 2020 to early 2021, then late 2021 to early 2022, but were never certain due to the alarming spread of infection, the severity of the disease, and changing expectations for relaxation of social distancing.

The current planned ramp-up for a comeback of Broadway tours coincides with an accelerated vaccination rollout and congressional stimulus money, spurring confidence in a more rapid pandemic recovery and improved economic outlook. Optimism from these developments has prompted performance venues to plan for a return of indoor, full-capacity productions. Regional arts centers want Broadway tours to resume as soon as possible, pointing to the tours as being critical to their recovery.

With vaccines available by mid-May to everyone, regardless of age, producers and venues hope that a safe return to full venue capacity can happen soon thereafter, pending any major problem caused by COVID variants. Arts center managers are indicating that a return to profitability cannot be accomplished unless they can sell 100% of the house. With profits from food and beverage sales still curtailed by pandemic regulations, selling only 80% of the house may not be enough.

Optimism that the resumption of tours can succeed is based on audience retention of pre-COVID tickets. Reportedly, a large percentage of ticket holders did not request a refund on tickets to canceled performances, holding on to their prepandemic tickets to use for rescheduled shows. Venues and presenters see the retention and volume of presold tickets as a sign that substantial consumer demand exists for the return of shows.

In April, theatrical presenters across the country were selling subscription packages and single tickets for 20 Broadway touring productions, some with engagements advertised as early as mid-June. An eight-show subscription series package pitched to theatergoers by a Dallas venue opens with a resumption of the Wicked tour on August 4, for five weeks, followed by touring productions of Hamilton, Hadestown, Frozen, Jersey Boys, Mean Girls, Oklahoma, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

In the Dallas package, the promoter has restricted its single ticket sales. Admission to the most popular shows, such as Wicked and Hamilton, is available only by purchasing a subscription package that includes access to a bundle of other shows. Popular shows are in control of the venues, with promoters using the hit shows to sell tickets to those that are less popular.

While tour producers, venues, and managers believe that demand for Broadway tours is robust and has not diminished during the pandemic shutdown, promoters are wary of taking any kind of hit when reopening their businesses. Negative publicity—increased health risks from COVID variants or press coverage of pending labor disputes—could provide a reason for attendees to avoid the shows, interfering with a clean return to the venues and creating additional financial risk during precarious times.

Despite the optimism from accelerated vaccine programs and economic stimulus, we might still be in limbo. The safety of our talented musicians who travel far from home, performing for diverse audiences, night after night, is of paramount importance. We are musicians. We do not produce the shows and we do not operate the venues. We will not assume the producer’s risk. But, as we all struggle to emerge and return to some sense of normalcy and security in our artistic lives and livelihoods, we realize that the day of absolute certainly may never arrive.

When we meet the League for our Pamphlet B discussions, our negotiating team will include members of the International Executive Board, Division Director Tino Gagliardi, Associate Director George Fiddler, a representative from the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) player conference­, led by TMA President Tony D’Amico of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA), together with the presidents of Local 5 (Detroit, MI), Local 6 (San Francisco, CA), Local 9-535, Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL), Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX), Local 149 (Toronto, ON), plus rank-and-file traveling musician representatives Susan French of Local 802 (New York City) and Elaine Davidson of Local 72-147.

As the Federation prepares for these negotiations, our team will meet to identify, articulate, and prioritize our members’ needs and develop plans of action to address those needs. To achieve our goals, we will compile and analyze necessary information. We will use every means at our disposal to focus, sharpen, and deploy union power.

We will employ every pound of leverage we have to obtain a fair agreement, not only for those who perform in the orchestra pits, but in the interests of patrons and the public as well.

The American Rescue Plan: In Unity There is Strength

As I write this column (March 12, 2021) the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, with its relief provisions for multiemployer pension plans, has passed the Senate, was approved by the House of Representatives, and was signed into law by President Biden. If there were ever a day to celebrate the power of collective action and concerted activity, to pay tribute to grassroots political organizing, to unionism and the determination by organized labor to protect and improve the lives of tens of millions of workers and preserve the dignity of retirees, today is that day.

When the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Relief Act of 2021 was introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairperson Richard Neal (D-MA) and was included as part of the larger COVID-19 supplemental bill (now known as the American Rescue Plan), I huddled with Federation National Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard and asked him to head up an “all hands on deck” Federation-wide lobbying effort to help keep the pension provisions in the omnibus supplemental bill, and then push the final legislation across the goal line.

Alfonso and his team rose to the occasion. Our voices, and those of other union members, were heard. AFM members, active and retiree participants, and employers in the American Federation of Musicians and Employers Pension (AFM-EP) Fund will feel the positive effects of the American Rescue Plan for many years to come.

Despite the deeply divided partisan attitudes in Congress toward the American Rescue Plan, 61% of Americans supported its passage. It includes direct stimulus payments and supplemental unemployment benefits—all desperately needed by out-of-work musicians and performers who may be the last to return to work when the pandemic eventually recedes. It also sends billions in aid to hard-hit state and municipal governments to offset COVID costs and to provide help with delinquent mortgage payments, back rent, and utility payments for the jobless, including struggling gig workers.

Passed under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and their leadership teams of Richard Neal (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) in the House and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in the Senate, the American Rescue Plan contains a number of provisions that provide substantial relief to multiemployer pension plans that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the AFM-EP Fund. Employer contributions to our Fund have been decimated by job losses from government-imposed pandemic-related shutdowns caused by an abrupt halt in employment in the live entertainment industry last year.

The COVID crisis increased the urgency for pension relief. It has been estimated that absent this critical legislation, millions of Americans would have eventually lost significant percentages of their retirement incomes. Thousands of businesses would have been forced into bankruptcy costing tens of thousands of workers their jobs.

But for participants in our pension fund, the American Rescue Plan, with its embedded pension fund assistance, could not have been adopted a moment too soon because it eliminates the need for benefit reductions. The legislation creates a new special program of financial assistance at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to provide troubled plans with funds needed to pay full, unreduced participant benefits for 30 years (until 2051).

We want to thank every senator and member of Congress that voted to adopt this important legislation. These lawmakers knew what we needed. They knew what we were up against, and they chose to help professional musicians and the working people of our country. We all also owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of our Federation officers and staff for their steadfast support, and particularly Alfonso Pollard, who designed and oversaw AFM’s massive lobbying effort that mobilized thousands of members and Fund participants to contact Capitol Hill during the crucial weeks leading up to final Congressional consideration. That effort brought together Director of Organizing Michael Manley, Lead Organizer Alex Tindal Wiesendanger, and player conference heads John Michael Smith (Regional Orchestra Players Association), Meredith Snow (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians), Marc Sazer (Recording Musicians Association), and Tony D’Amico (Theatre Musicians Association), who together spearheaded a Zoom call outreach, targeting support from lawmakers in key congressional districts.

While we rejoice in this historic legislative success, we are also mindful of our responsibility as a union to protect the Fund from future shortfalls by negotiating increased employer contributions in successor collective bargaining agreements. To do that, we have to get back to work. Still, no one can say with any degree of certainty when social distancing restrictions will be lifted, or when our various communities will be deemed safe enough to risk reopening our performance venues so that professional musicians can begin to recover from the disruption of this pandemic.

But when you are back on the concert stage, in the theater pits, in the arenas, restaurants, and clubs, performing in venues of every size and shape, please remember that the American Rescue Act protected your pension. It happened because of Unity. We never took our eye off the ball. We elected lawmakers who cared about us, and they had the courage to act. Unity is our power. In Unity there is strength.

The AFM-EP Fund, Benefit Reductions, and Legislative Relief

Participants in the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund were notified in January that the Fund filed a second application with the US Treasury Department to reduce benefits under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA). This month, I’ll explain the decision by the Fund trustees to file another MPRA application, the difference in this application from last year’s, and where we are with this year’s application.

I’ll also discuss the all-out lobbying efforts by the Federation and the Fund to mobilize rank and file and participant support for the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, which would eliminate the need for benefit reductions and provide the Fund with enough money to pay benefits for the next 30 years. Unions have been lobbying hard for pension relief legislation for years. We are very hopeful that soon, with the support of the new Biden Administration and a new Congress, legislative relief will finally become a reality.

Previous Application

The trustees filed an MPRA application on December 30, 2019, which was denied because Treasury disagreed with two actuarial assumptions related to mortality and new entrants into the Fund. We considered our options and decided that, without pension relief legislation, the only way to save the Fund was to file another application soon, for the same reasons as we decided to file last year. We re-filed on December 30, 2020.

Reason for Filing

Without a reduction in benefit payments, or a pension relief bill, the Fund will eventually run out of money. All that would be left for retirees would be amounts payable by the federal insurer, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). As the law now stands, that would amount to about $12,800 a year for a participant with 30 years of service. Also, under PBGC rules, the benefits of all pensioners can be reduced, even if you’re 80 years of age or older. But, even worse, the PBGC itself is projected to run out of money by 2026, which would mean that the benefits of participants in insolvent plans would be reduced to almost nothing. That’s why MPRA benefit reductions are a better option than insolvency.

Changes from Last Year’s Application

The second application has the same design as the previous one. A notable difference is the size of the flat reduction for multipliers other than $1, which went from 15.5% to 30.9%. The reason for the increase in the reduction is the advent of COVID-19, which caused an abrupt halt in employment in the live entertainment industry and led to a substantial reduction in employment in media production.

Despite the Fund’s strong investment performance during the pandemic period—the Fund returned 17.1% from March 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, which beat our benchmark (and it returned 32.3% in the first nine months of its fiscal year, from April 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020)—employer contributions have been decimated by job losses from government-imposed pandemic-related shutdowns. From April to September of 2020, the Fund received about $22 million in contributions, compared to about $48 million in 2019.

With the arrival of vaccines to help prevent the spread of the virus, we are hopeful that the economy and the entertainment industry will recover sooner than it would otherwise. Nonetheless, we are projecting that employer contributions will be substantially reduced for several years. The dramatic pandemic-driven decline in employer contributions entirely upended our original projections
and led to the increase in the flat reduction percentage.

Benefit Reduction Design

Just as with last year’s application, the trustees were determined to make the cuts as fair as possible and were also determined to protect the $1 multiplier, the core promise of the Fund. In addition, the trustees recognized that participants who had worked more recently already had huge cuts to their pensions due to the reductions of the $4.65 multiplier to $1 and the elimination of the early retirement subsidy and other subsidies.

Faced with these painful reductions, the trustees developed a plan to apply reductions as equitably as possible by eliminating the early retirement subsidy, and the re-retirement and re-determination benefits. The trustees decided to retain the cap on anyone’s benefit reduction at no more than a 40% reduction. There are other statutory protections for older and disabled retirees.

Retiree Rep

You might also remember that the trustees appointed Brad Eggen as the independent “retiree representative” to advocate for the interests of retired and terminated vested participants and beneficiaries. Brad is a 50-plus-year member of the AFM and is the current president of the Twin Cities Musicians Union, AFM Local 30-73 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. He and his “equitable factors panel” of several retired participants from different parts of the industry will communicate directly with participants concerning the pending MPRA application. Brad has retained his own independent lawyers and actuaries to assist in assessing the application.

Pension Legislation

But MPRA cuts may not be necessary. Immediately following President Biden’s inauguration, House Education and Labor Committee Chairperson Bobby Scott (D-VA) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairperson Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced pension relief legislation to save troubled multiemployer pension plans like the AFM-EP Fund. The bill was then revised and introduced as the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, as part of the larger COVID supplemental relief bill, a priority in the new Congress. With Democrats controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, the bill has a far better chance of becoming law than any prior legislative attempt to address the multiemployer pension crisis. By the time this column reaches your mailbox, the bill may have already become law.

The COVID-19 economic catastrophe has increased the urgency for legislative multiemployer pension relief. According to Congressman Neal, pandemic-driven job losses and the related reduction in employer pension contributions could cause an additional 180 multiemployer plans to become insolvent, “bringing the total of plans facing failure to 300 plans covering 2.5 million participants.”

This new bill is structured differently from the original Butch Lewis Act that was introduced in 2019, but, like the prior version, we believe it would eliminate the need for the AFM-EP Fund to apply for benefit reductions. The bill would provide the necessary funding through the general fund of the US Treasury to permit the Fund to pay all of its liabilities through 2051. The trustees of the Fund are studying the new bill with our actuaries, and if it is as good as it looks, and it passes, the trustees plan to withdraw the pending MPRA application and apply for pension relief.

Visit http://ow.ly/e89L50DBZ2Q to review the congressional legislative summary of the new Butch Lewis Act.

The Federation is all-in with other unions in the campaign to enact the new Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act. Please join with the hundreds of AFM members who are contacting their legislative representatives by following the links in our email blasts and at www.afm.org as we coordinate the push to renew the health of the AFM-EP Fund and protect all participants.

Pension Week in the US Senate: AFM Members Step Up the Pressure

As the drumbeat for pension security rolls through the halls of Congress, Democrats in the United States Senate kicked off their campaign to pass meaningful pension reform via the Butch Lewis Act. The legislation, S. 2254, will provide relief to more than 1.5 million workers, pensioners, and retirees who depend on their multi-employer pension plans. On October 16, Senate Democrats held a press conference on Capitol Hill to highlight their sincere efforts to move the Butch Lewis Act through the Senate for a floor vote.

The week was filled with events that highlighted the importance of moving this legislation without further delay. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, surrounded by Sherrod Brown and other leading Democratic senators, kicked off the week’s events. In addition to this press conference, union leaders and their affiliate members made congressional visits, phone calls, and participated in a staff educational briefing on multi-employer pensions hosted by the AFL-CIO and the US Chamber of Commerce.

Senator Chuck Schumer (at podium) and other Democratic senators held a press conference October 16 to kick off their campaign to pass a pension reform bill.

AFM members also continue to weigh in in substantive ways. The International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), the Recording Musicians Association (RMA), and Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) have begun a joint letter-writing campaign, initiated by Meredith Snow, which has yielded phenomenal results. ICSOM’s campaign has seen 338 people generate 704 emails, 14 phone calls and numerous tweets to US Senators thus far. There have been 103 contacts in California, 27 in New York, 25 in Texas, 21 in Minnesota, and 19 in Illinois since the campaign began two weeks ago. They have made contact in 32 of 50 states. The RMA sent out 6,000 appeals asking for member involvement. RMA and TMA have just begun their campaigns and also will be contributing significantly to the effort.

In an hour-long conference call on Tuesday, October 15, AFM TEMPO Signature Members discussed building letter-writing campaigns within their locals to increase rank and file communications with their members of congress. Further, we want to thank Senators Schumer, Brown, Manchin, Murray, Wyden, and Stabenow for their tireless efforts to bring the Butch Lewis Act to the Senate floor while at the same time fighting to preserve the dignity and benefits earned by hard-working Americans who, through no fault of their own, are in the untenable position of possibly losing a lifetime of hard-earned benefits.

Join AFM Public Relations Director Rose Ryan on the Action Network today to write your senators and tell them to protect our pensions: actionnetwork.org/letters/protect-our-pensions-9.

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Congressional Update: HR 397, the Butch Lewis Act, Passes in the House

After markup in both the House Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, HR 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019, often referred to as the Butch Lewis Act, was taken up on the floor of the US House of Representatives and overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 264 to 169, with 29 Republicans joining Democrats to advance the bill out of the House chamber.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, recognizing the vital importance of this legislation to millions of union workers, opened up her section of the House Gallery so that organized labor could be on hand during that historic moment to watch passage of this critical bill. AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal and I were joined by Local 161-710 President and newly elected IEB Member Ed Malaga, Local Secretary-Treasurer Marta Bradley, Local Board Member Doug Rosenthal, as well as Baltimore Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine to participate in a “morning coffee” celebration with members of Congress, a pre-vote reception in the US Capitol Building, and the House Gallery for the floor vote. We were joined by members of the Teamsters, Bakery and Confectioners Workers, United Mine Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IEBW), and a host of other brothers and sisters who traveled to Washington to be a part of this historic event.

Of note during the Ways and Means Committee markup was an amendment that would mandate changes in both pension fund trustees and financial advisors should a union apply for a 30-year treasury loan. This amendment was similar to Resolution 8 that was offered during the AFM Convention, mandating that one investment expert and one actuarial expert be appointed to the Pension Fund Board of Trustees, which was defeated by convention delegates.

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AFM officers in the US Capitol building before House passage of the Butch Lewis Act. Pictured from left: Local 161-710 Secretary Treasurer Marta Bradley, Local 161-710 Board Member Doug Rosenthal, Baltimore Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, AFM Legislative, Political, and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, Local 161-710 President and newly elected IEB Member Ed Malaga.

Another highlight of both the Ways and Means Committee markup and the House floor vote came about when Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) gave testimony about how important this legislation is to her constituents. On both occasions, Rep. Chu pointed out her firsthand discussions with both Gary Lasley, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), and with Marc Sazer, president of AFM Recording Musicians Association (RMA). During both congressional committee meetings, Rep. Chu talked about the importance of fixing the pension problem for members of the “American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund” as well as for actors “and so many more creative professionals” in her district.

The congresswoman’s comments, along with those of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and other members of Congress, are an illustration of how intensive lobbying on the part of AFM-EP Fund Co-Chairs Ray Hair and Chris Brockmeyer, along with their respective lobbying teams, made an impact on members of both the Joint Select Committee and the Congress. AFM figured prominently in the Joint Select Committee final report, in both the Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Ways and Means Committee reports, as well as in the July 24 Congressional Record of the 116th Congress (pages H7331 and H7332).

At this point, it is vitally important for me to note the outstanding teamwork and collaborative contribution of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Edgardo Malaga, Secretary-Treasurer Marta Bradley, Vice President Patty Hurd, and board member Doug Rosenthal, in addition to Baltimore Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine for their committed efforts in motivating Washington DC and Baltimore musicians to participate in this important day of Federation advocacy.

On July 25, HR 397 passed out of the House and was received in the Senate for consideration. Plans are now in motion to make senators aware of the importance of passing this legislation. AFM members are encouraged to write letters of thanks to the 235 House Democrats and 29 House Republicans who voted favorably for HR 397’s passage (www.congress.gov/members). The official vote count can be found online at http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2019/roll505.xml.

You are also encouraged to write your Democratic and Republican senators and encourage them to vote in favor of passage of the bill in its current form. Find your senator here online: www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

AFM Joins AFL-CIO President’s Working Group on Butch Lewis

With critical work completed in the US House of Representatives, President Hair and the AFM Legislative Office now join forces with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO Executive Board, and the rest of the labor movement affected by multiemployer plan legislation to drill down on our collective strategy relating to Senate passage of the Butch Lewis Act. The President’s Working Group on Retirement Security met in August to lay the groundwork on Senate messaging and key targets in the Capitol. Previous House messaging was reviewed in an effort to identify the more relevant and salient points that would be required to more effectively move our Senate messaging.

I attended the meeting in Washington led by IBEW International Secretary Treasurer Kenneth Cooper and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler at the AFL building on behalf of President Hair who was at that point chairing AFM-EPF meetings in New York. The Working Group will meet regularly throughout the Senate legislative process, covering not only strategy and communications but will also act as an early warning system when a mass effort is imminent or required. Here is where we will be asking for local efforts to contact your elected senators to help drive home the importance of passage. We will be asking for special help from our TEMPO Signature Members.

House Approves Butch Lewis Act, Musicians Praise Pension Reform Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, also known as the Butch Lewis Act, on July 24.

The legislation would provide low-interest government loans to struggling multiemployer plans, including the AFM-EPF. These loans would allow multi-employer funds to meet their commitments to current retirees while the funds grow back to stronger financial footing.

“House passage of the Butch Lewis Act of 2019 moves us one step closer to a real solution to America’s multiemployer pension crisis. I urge the Senate to quickly step up to protect the pensions of over a million working people—including thousands of musicians,” says AFM International President Ray Hair.

Union musicians called, emailed, and tweeted at lawmakers in the House to Protect Our Pensions—and they heard us.

Now the Butch Lewis Act heads to the Senate, and U.S. Senators need to hear directly from their constituents. 

Contact your U.S. Senators today! Write to them through the AFM’s Action Network page online at afm.org/PensionAct.

the butch lewis act

House Ways and Means Committee Marks Up and Reports Out HR 397, The Butch Lewis Act

After the House Education and Labor Committee marked up and passed HR 397 on June 11, the House Committee on Ways and Means took the bill up on Wednesday July 10. By a vote of 25-17, Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and members of the House Ways and Means Committee ushered the Butch Lewis Act out of committee along party lines past all opposition, sending it to the House floor.

Before the July 10 committee mark-up, a labor rally was held on the east side of the Capitol building led by Neal. The AFM worked with Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President and newly elected IEB Member Ed Malaga, Secretary-Treasurer Marta Bradley, and board member Douglas Rosenthal, as well as with Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD) Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine, to field a group of local AFM members and Executive Board officers to attend both the rally and the mark-up at the behest of AFM President Ray Hair. Members of Local 802 (New York City) were also in attendance as well as Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President and IEB Member Dave Pomeroy, who also made a visit to Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) office.

“They earned their benefits” became the rallying call to members of the committee from Representative William James Pascrell (D-NJ), debunking the opposition’s theory that the failure of more than 120 multi-employer pension plans rests solely with alleged trustee mismanagement. Democrats in turn made it clear that because there was not enough punishment of Wall Street bankers who torpedoed the economy in 2008, serving no jail time, the rest of corporate America felt comfortable to continue fleecing the American people without redress.

A labor rally was held on the east side of the Capitol building on July 10 to urge legislators to support the Butch Lewis Act. AFM members and executive board officers from multiple locals attended both the rally and the legislation mark-up session at the behest of AFM President Ray Hair.

Representative John Lewis (D-GA) noted that Congress has a moral obligation to fix this problem, bearing in mind that it was corporate America’s desire, evidenced by the 2008 market dilemma, to continue to boost their own corporate profits and multi-million-dollar salaries.

During the five-hour mark-up for HR 397, Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), a member of the committee and co-chair of the House Creative Rights Caucus, noted that the failure of these plans was not the fault of pensioners and plan participants. She shared stories of her constituent Gary Lasley, Secretary-Treasurer of AFM Local 47, supported by testimony from AFM RMA President Marc Sazer, also a member of AFM Local 47. Chu talked about how a failure by Congress to support all working men and women, particularly those in the film and Broadway sectors, during this crisis will leave Sazer, Lasley, and their AFM colleagues unable to take advantage of years of pension contributions/retirement security that they earned and so well deserve. Through her comments and commitment to our great union, Representative Chu distinguished herself as a true champion of all professional musicians.

The full House of Representatives is expected to take the Butch Lewis Act up for a final floor vote in the near future. As of this writing, an exact date has not been set. AFM members have been asked by AFM-EPF Trustees and by President Hair to contact their representatives in the coming weeks and encourage them to co-sponsor HR 397, the Butch Lewis Act, and vote for its passage.

As of this writing, a Senate companion bill has not been introduced.