It was truly a remarkable moment in the history of this, our musicians’ union, when after four years of dedicated lobbying and political wrangling, AFM International President Ray Hair stood before the International Executive Board (IEB) and unequivocally pronounced to all senior staff and board members that it was time for “all hands on deck” when pension legislation came up in January 2021. If you were in that meeting when President Hair made that pronouncement, for sure, you immediately “clocked-in” to that singular, most important mission.
After years of frontline lobbying and more than 50 visits to the House and Senate, President Hair, members of the IEB including AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, Tino Gagliardi, Dave Pomeroy, Ed Malaga, Bruce Fife, and I, laid the foundation that kept musicians in this protracted game that eventually, years later, led to our members’ remarkable advocacy efforts resulting in final passage of HR 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This $1.9 trillion COVID-19 recovery reconciliation bill is the largest piece of legislation in the history of this nation and included long-fought-for multiemployer pension relief, among other labor essentials that our union musicians need and deserved.
Additionally, there are plenty of remarkable stories from our our union members, dedicated Player Conferences, the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), the Recording Musicians Association (RMA), the Regional Orchestra Players Associations (ROPA), and the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA), and their constituent members, local officers, and even our “stand up” TEMPO Signature members who took on President Hair’s directive and pushed “the big win” right over the goal line. This win can only be compared to the July 20, 2019 event when the AFM was invited to sit in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s box in the House chamber to experience first-hand the passage of the Butch Lewis Act! This was the first time in my experience on Capitol Hill that members of Congress stood and applauded organized labor.
The collage that follows here is a compendium of four years of concerted work in Washington, DC, Columbus, Ohio, and other locations AFM leadership traveled to help secure the future of AFM-EPF pensions. Each move brought us closer to our affiliate brothers and sisters at the AFL-CIO, the United Mine Workers, the Teamsters, the United Steelworkers, the bakers and confectioners, and a host of other labor unions that participated in the battle to preserve our pensions. We also thank the League of American Orchestras for their unique partnership in this effort.
The Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 is now the law of the land, becoming Public Law 117-2 on March 11, 2021.