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When We Fight, We Win!

john-Acosta-colorby John Acosta, AFM IEB Member and President of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)

It is with great humility and a renewed sense of purpose that I begin this message to you as a newly elected member of the AFM International Executive Board. I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank all of the delegates who supported my candidacy. I pledge to work on behalf of all locals, whether large or small, and all constituencies, be they symphonic or recording, freelance, or somewhere in between.

In thinking about what would be the proper message for my first IM communication to you, I asked myself, what are some of the biggest challenges facing our union today? The answer may vary from local to local, but the three issues that I believe are consistent across our Federation are: loss of membership, diminished and reduced employment opportunities, and apathy. The phenomenon we see throughout the Federation as our older musicians pass on, is not recruiting new members at the same pace as we lose our seniors. I see this trend at Local 47, even with ongoing programs to attract new members and efforts to bring new work under contract.

I am convinced that success in growing our union lies in organizing. We will only grow through internal and external organizing—building upon the ranks of existing members and organizing potential members. What does this mean? For me, it means working with our committees and rank-and-file leaders to strengthen bargaining units in order to fight the growth of nonunion work, whether in the recording realm, classical chamber music, or jazz gigs. Each negotiation is an opportunity to organize by bringing together the union and committees and working to identify the concerns of our members and formulate the best possible responses.

We see attacks in every sector of our industry. In regional orchestras, we see management chipping away at our employment by reducing orchestra size, displacing union members with students, or proposing major rollbacks at the bargaining table. It is essential to build a committed membership in order to fight the growth of nonunion work and fight back attempts to erode our agreements, local
and national.

Across our entire employment spectrum, musicians face wage and benefit theft through misclassification. Whether it’s being classified as an independent contractor—which denies our members their rights to unemployment compensation, social security benefits, and workers compensation—or being paid “off contract” for a recording that ends up being played far and wide, depriving musicians of new use payments and  health and pension contributions, strong rank-and-file leadership is essential.

With strong committees and focused leadership, we will speak musician to musician about the type of legacy we wish to build today in order for AFM members, present and future, to earn a fair salary, feed their families, and put away a decent retirement. If we come together for this common purpose and fight for what we believe, we will win!