Tag Archives: jay blumenthal

End of Year Updates

Voluntary Compliance Program

Labor law compliance oversight is an important Department of Labor (DOL) responsibility. The magnitude of the task becomes evident if you add up all the locals in all the unions across the US that require oversight. As you can see, the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) has a daunting task of making sure unions are complying with the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Labor organizations are required to file annual financial Labor-Management (LM) reports within 90 days after the end of their fiscal year. In general, AFM local officers act responsibly, performing this official duty in a timely fashion; however, from time to time some locals are delinquent.

The AFM participates in a Voluntary Compliance Partnership Program that affords national and/or international unions an opportunity to assist the DOL in obtaining delinquent affiliate reports. Each quarter the AFM receives a list of delinquent locals. We are requested to assist the DOL in getting the report filed or updating local officer contact information so the DOL can contact the officers directly. The AFM and the DOL meet annually to discuss delinquent local reports and share information. Together, over the years we have built a good working relationship.

LM Reports

Local officers need to keep in mind that LM reports must now be signed electronically by the local president and local secretary-treasurer. Each report requires two different electronic signatures. Those locals that only have one person serving in both capacities (president and secretary-treasurer) need to have their executive board authorize a second person (usually an executive board member) to also sign the report.

Remember, you must file your LM report within 90 days after the end of your fiscal year. Filing late is a violation that gets the attention of the DOL and may lead to a DOL audit of your local.

Bonding

The AFM purchases an umbrella bonding insurance policy covering AFM locals. Since each local is bonded in differing amounts, please contact Jonathan Ferrone at jferrone@afm.org if you are unsure of the bonding amount the AFM purchased for your local.

International Musician

The International Musician survey is now closed. There were 4,254 respondents with many adding additional comments. Thank you to all who took the time to share their thoughts by taking the survey. We are currently analyzing the information we received. In a future issue of the IM, we will share with our readers what we learn from your answers and comments.

The International Musician Editorial Board (IMEB) meets monthly prior to the publication of each issue in order to determine what content will appear in the magazine. Unsolicited articles that have been submitted to the IMEB editor (cyurco@bentley-hall.com) are considered for publication at IMEB meetings. The IMEB has sole discretion to determine what is published and in which issue an article will appear.

Additionally, readers of the International Musician have an opportunity to provide feedback about recent articles that have appeared in the publication. When submitting feedback, please adhere to the feedback requirements. All Feedback letters regarding articles printed in the IM must be typed, signed (with name, local, and phone number), and should be no more than 200 words in length. Feedback can be emailed to im@afm.org.

New Digs for Our AFM West Coast Office

The AFM maintains our headquarters in the heart of Manhattan’s Times Square (often referred to as the “crossroads of the world” and best known for the ball drop on New Year’s Eve). We also maintain offices in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Washington, DC.

Recently, our AFM West Coast Office in Los Angeles moved, along with AFM Local 47, to the local’s new office building in Burbank. We previously leased space from Local 47 in their old building and we will continue to lease space in their new building located at 3220 Winona Ave., Burbank, California 91504. While there may be some hiccups during the transition, we are making every effort to keep the workflow moving and the communications open. Currently, 12 employees work in the AFM’s West Coast office.

Our Canadian office in Toronto has 15 employees (including Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert). This office handles the national Canadian issues for all 10 Canadian provinces and three territories. This can be enormously complex as the labor laws in Canada often differ province to province.

Our Washington, DC, office coordinates all our legislative activities. AFM Diversity, Legislative and Political Director Alfonso Pollard, our official lobbyist, and Sandra Grier work to promote our legislative agenda, while building relationships with our elected representatives.

I am often asked why the AFM keeps our headquarters in New York City. After all, NYC is crowded and expensive. Indeed it is, but this is where the labor community is located, not to mention many employers with whom the AFM negotiates. Another exceedingly important reason for staying in NYC is our experienced and valued staff. Any move outside Manhattan would certainly mean losing a number of employees who bring years of experience, knowledge, and understanding of the music business to their work each and every day. Currently, we have 33 employees working in the New York Office, including AFM President Ray Hair and myself.

For years, we have had the desire to own our headquarters office space, rather than lease. Ownership builds equity and any extra space can be leased to third parties, which will generate revenue for the AFM. While owning an entire office building in Manhattan is beyond our means, purchasing a floor in a building may be possible.

A few years ago an attempt to purchase a floor in an office building was scuttled because the burden on our cash flow created doubt about our ability to meet all our financial obligations. We just couldn’t swing it. Today, we find ourselves in a somewhat improved financial position. Make no mistake—there are plenty of things that can quickly affect our financial position negatively.

However, there are good arguments to move forward with a purchase at this time. The lease of our current space will expire January 2019. We will have to move out of our current space regardless of whether we stay in the same building. The landlord has told us that a tenant wants to take over the entire floor, including the space we currently occupy. We would need to move to a different floor, even if we decide to stay in the building.

Additionally, the rent will go up considerably. Looking at purchase projections versus leasing, the first few years after the purchase things will be very tight financially. This is particularly the case in year one when we will be paying rent for our current space, while the interior construction build-out takes place in the newly purchased space. But as we get into years three through 10, purchasing becomes more advantageous when compared to leasing. Keep in mind, with each year of ownership, our equity in the purchased space grows.

This may well be the only opportunity we have in the near future to own our space. Interest rates are quite low and a space that meets our needs is available. At this writing, it is far from a done deal. We are still negotiating with the owner. Any purchase will be contingent on presentation, review, and approval by the AFM International Executive Board. I’ll keep you posted as things progress.

union plus

Union Plus Programs and Department of Professional Employees

Union Plus

Unions are all about improving the quality of life for hardworking men and women. The contractual gains enjoyed by bargaining unit members have a direct correlation to the solidarity within the unit. We are strongest and able to achieve maximum results in bargaining when we act together as one. Simply put, collective action translates into better contracts.

There are many ancillary benefits that come from being a union member. One such benefit is access to Union Plus. In 1986 the AFL-CIO founded a nonprofit organization called Union Privilege. The Union Plus programs harness the collective buying power of 13 million union members and their families offering a variety of exclusive consumer benefit programs. Credit card, mortgage, auto insurance, life insurance, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance are just a few of the programs offered by Union Plus. Participating in some of the programs bring additional benefits such as strike, mortgage, and hospital assistance, as well as credit counseling with a free budget analysis, savings on prescription drugs, and discounts on movie tickets, car rentals, gifts, and flowers.

A little known benefit is the Union Plus Scholarship Program. Since the program’s inception in 1991, more than 2,800 union families have benefitted from the $4.2 million awarded to students who want to begin or continue their post-secondary education. This year I am pleased to announce that we have an AFM recipient from Local 105 (Spokane, WA). Kristin Joham will be receiving a $1,000 scholarship. She was one of 160 recipients. Congratulations to Kristin! 

Next year’s scholarship application deadline is 12:00 pm (Eastern Time), January 31, 2018. More information about Union Plus scholarships and other Union Plus programs can be found on the UnionPlus.org website.

Department for Professional Employees

In 1977 the AFL-CIO formed the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) to meet the growing needs of professionals who are unionized. The DPE has 23 national union affiliates who represent more than
4 million professional, technical, and highly skilled workers. Musicians, actors, engineers, teachers, nurses, psychologists, and computer scientists are among those represented. DPE meetings provide a forum “to discuss matters of common concern and coordinate efforts to address them.”

Under the DPE umbrella is the Arts, Entertainment and Media Industries (AEMI). Entertainment unions that are AEMI affiliates meet regularly in New York City where we discuss issues that impact the entertainment industry such as federal funding for the arts (NEA, NEH, CPB), visas for artists entering the US and/or Canada, legislation that impacts Internet usage, and airline policies for musical instrument carry-on. These issues are important to musicians and AEMI enables the arts and entertainment unions to speak to the federal government with one clear and consistent voice.

Recently, I attended the DPE General Board and Quadrennial Election meeting in Washington, DC. I feel honored and privileged to have been elected one of the nine general vice presidents who serve on the DPE Executive Committee. I look forward to representing the AFM on the DPE Executive Committee and bringing our issues and concerns to that forum.

union

Unionism in the Age of Entrepreneurial Musicians

Recently I was introduced to a young man who makes his living as a professional musician but engages with today’s marketplace in a very different way than I did when I began my career. As a college student,  I remember wanting very much to join the union. It was a rite of passage. Becoming a union musician meant I was a true professional, and therefore, allowed me to take my place among the wonderful and talented musicians who made their living making music. I remember carting my bass to what was a rather pathetic excuse for a union hall (a smoke-filled room with a desk). Behind the desk was an elderly, rather rotund man with a raspy voice made so from all the cigars he’d smoked, one of which hung from his mouth. Blue-gray smoke wafted up towards the ceiling.

He greeted me with: “So kid, you want to join the union.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Okay,” he replied, “play me a D major scale.”

I played the scale and he said, “Alright,  kid … you’re in. That’ll be $7 initiation fee and $14 first quarter dues.” As I pulled the cash out of my pocket he asked me my name for the first time. I spelled it for him as he filled out my first union card. With that, he shook my hand, saying, “See ya kid.” I left floating on air. I had arrived!

Today, it’s quite different. An entire underground music economy exists, inhabited mostly by Millennials and Generation Z. Gone are the days when union membership was a necessary rite of passage. Many young musicians perform mostly nonunion work for cash and have none of the benefits or protections of a union contract. That said, they do make a living from this work. They are not necessarily opposed to the union, but are for the most part unaware of the labor movement and the contributions unions have made to improving wages and working conditions. 

What many young musicians do want is health insurance. While health plans are offered by some of our largest locals, contributions to the plans come from being on a union contract. So, if these musicians can be educated about the union and offered the opportunity to participate in a health plan, they may become interested in union membership.

As I learn more about this underground music economy, I will follow up by letting you know of any progress that is made working with tomorrow’s professionals.

FIM International Orchestra Conference 2017

Having just returned from the 4th International Orchestra Conference (IOC) of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), I was pleased to see how participation has grown since 2008. The IOC was established at the suggestion of former AFM Symphonic Services Director and International Secretary-Treasurer Florence Nelson when she was serving as a FIM officer. The conference takes place triennially. This year’s was held in Montreal, sponsored by the Guilde des Musiciens et Musiciennes du Quebec, AFM Local 406. Two hundred and sixty-one delegates, representing 30 countries attended, including a large contingent from Ghana! The official AFM delegation included AFM President Ray Hair, Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, International Executive Board member and Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi, Director of Symphonic Services Rochelle Skolnick, Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Deborah Newmark, ICSOM Chair Meredith Snow, ROPA Delegate Naomi Bensdorf Frisch, OCSM President Robert Fraser, and myself. I would like to recognize the Local 406 President Luc Fortin, Secretary-Treasurer Éric Lefebvre, Vice President Montréal Geneviève Plante, and Vice President Québec Jacques Bourget. In particular, I want to recognize former Local 406 Executive Director Myléne Cyr and Conference Coordinator Alexis Pitkevicht, who organized the conference and handled communications and public relations. They did a wonderful job working with FIM to put on an excellent conference.

The world has become a global marketplace. We now understand that what happens in the global marketplace affects the work of all professional symphonic musicians. Coming together to strategize, discuss common problems, and show support and solidarity for one another is an important function of the IOC. Look for additional coverage of the IOC in the July issue of the IM.

International Musician

International Musician Seeks Advice and Consent

The International Musician (IM) falls under the purview of the Secretary-Treasurer’s office, however, in February 2017 we formed an International Musician Editorial Board (IMEB). Our board consists of 14 members, including several AFM International Executive Board (IEB) members, the directors of many AFM divisions, the AFM Assistant Secretary, and the IM managing editor. The first meeting included discussions about our goals, target audience, how the IM’s content can best support the AFM mission, member input, and topics for our next issue.

As you know, the IM is the official journal of the AFM, but in fact, it really is much more. Beyond providing official notices, the cover stories highlight musicians who have gained recognition in our field, achieved significant milestones in their careers, or have made meaningful contributions to labor. Feature stories and member profiles introduce the readership to what our members are doing and special events. News articles inform the membership about what is happening in the field and also broader labor issues. Audition ads announce openings around the world in orchestras and ensembles.

One of the goals of the IMEB is to closely tie our content with the goals and mission of our union and the broader labor movement. That’s where you come in. Members often think of the union as a third party—“What can the union do for me?” We would like to change that perception. The strength of our union comes from the members themselves. Member participation, solidarity, and support for one another are the foundation of a strong union.

International MusicianThe expression, “You are the union!” is exactly what members need to understand and internalize. Nothing is more important than a well-informed membership that participates regularly in union affairs. With this in mind, we welcome the submission of appropriate content that’s well written and is of broad interest to the membership. If you wish to write an article, contact the IM editor, Cherie Yurco at cyurco@afm.org, letting her know of your desire. She will bring your suggestion to the IMEB for a discussion about possible inclusion in a future issue of the IM.

The two meetings we have had since the formation of the IMEB have been invaluable. Board members bring their knowledge about what’s happening currently in the field and their views on labor. It is our intention to cover many genres so the IM will have a broad appeal to the membership. To the extent possible, AFM Communication Director Rose Ryan, will continue to pick up some of the IM content to use on our AFM Facebook page.

We will be working on an electronic membership survey which, when completed, will help us understand how we can adjust the IM content to better meet your needs. When the survey is ready, we will make an announcement in the IM and provide a link to the survey.

This issue of the IM will be available at the fourth International Orchestra Conference (IOC) of the Fédération Internationale des Musiciens/International Federation of Musicians (FIM). The IOC takes place once every three years. This year it will be in Montreal, Canada, sponsored by the Guilde des Musiciens et Musiciennes du Quebec, Local 406 (Montreal, PQ) AFM. We took this opportunity to feature an Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) musician for this month’s cover story.

The IM Editorial Board meets monthly. Board members outside of New York City join the meeting via Internet video conference.

Department of Professional Employees

Tackling Problems Together

Recently, I attended the Department of Professional Employees (DPE) Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industries (AEMI) meeting in New York City. The DPE, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, is the largest association of professional and technical workers in the United States.

The DPE AEMI meeting covered three important topics.

1) Legislative and Outreach Director Michael Wasser gave the attendees a preview of the president-elect’s administration and new Congress. Unfortunately, the prospects for labor are rather grim. This is already evident from the president-elect’s cabinet picks, including his nominee for secretary of labor. The Labor Department is responsible in large part for regulating the workplace and overseeing the job market. The proposed nominee has made his opposition to a $15 minimum wage, extending overtime pay, and the Affordable Care Act well known. In addition, it is expected the composition of the National Labor Relations Board will change. Many important decisions that directly affect our members are made by the Board.

2) A problem has developed regarding O and P visas that is of particular concern to our Canadian members. Unprecedented delays in obtaining visas (needed to perform in the US) continue to be a problem. Often the delays are so long, Canadian musicians have to cancel their gigs in the US because the visas have not been processed by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in time. AFM Canadian Office Executive Director Liana White; AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, from our AFM Washington Legislative Office; and AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division Director Michael Manley, from our New York Office, attended this DPE meeting and are working with our elected officials to improve the situation.

3) In October 2016, the DPE surveyed a cross-section of professional and technical workers who were not union members. A total of 1,004 workers were surveyed. Some of the insights gleaned from the survey were:

  • A majority identify compensation as the aspect of work they most want improved.
  • Workers desire career advancement opportunities and a voice in decisions that affect them.
  • Professionals identify better pay, benefits, and work/life balance as the most convincing reasons to have union representation.
  • 88% of professionals believe having a contract that details wages, benefits, and rights on the job is a good idea; 60% support a labor union.
  • A majority of professionals believe having a union would improve health and retirement benefits, job security, and wages.
  • Professionals want an effective union that puts members first.
  • Professionals prefer to belong to a union that is responsive to individual members, as opposed to one that is large and strong.
  • Management putting the financial bottom line ahead of quality and service is a top issue faced by professionals on the job, followed closely by poor communication by management.
  • Professionals feel undervalued.
  • Top concerns expressed by professionals for having a union include too much involvement in politics, protection of poorly performing employees, and conflict with management.

As we are all aware, declining membership continues to be a vexing problem for unions. Gaining broader insight into what nonunion professionals are thinking and understanding their concerns provides the union with guidance as to how best to make union membership more appealing. The greater density (unionized workers) a union has in the workplace directly correlates to a union’s strength. Turning declining membership around is a priority for the AFM and the DPE is taking steps to be supportive in this effort.

 

jay blumenthal

Electronic CBA Ratification

For decades, the AFM Bylaws have been very specific and clear about the ratification procedure for collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). The integrity of the voting process has been given the highest priority so that bargaining unit members can have confidence in the election process. Additionally, protecting the identity of the voter is imperative, allowing them to vote their conscience without the worry of employer retaliation or member-to-member pressure.

As technology has made electronic voting possible, many members have expressed a desire for locals to conduct electronic CBA ratification voting. Up until the recent AFM Convention, the International Executive Board had been reluctant to endorse electronic voting until such time as locals could ensure the integrity of the process. It was also felt that an in-person ratification meeting just prior to a vote was invaluable, allowing bargaining unit members to ask questions, discuss the terms of the proposed agreement with their colleagues, and hear the recommendations from their local officers and elected rank-and-file committee. In-person voting also motivates members to physically come to the union hall, which is always a good thing. Too often, the only time some members visit the union hall is to pay their dues. In-person voting provides one more connection to the local.

For years, voting by mail ballot has co-existed with in-person ratification voting. Mail ballot was never the preferred method of voting, however, some bargaining units have members who live great distances from the union hall. For these members, in-person voting could present an undue hardship and expense that would effectively disenfranchise them.

While the bylaws now allow in-person, mail ballot, or electronic ratification voting, the requirement remains that all voting must be done one way (either all in-person, all mail ballot, or all electronic). Voting cannot be a combination of two or three methods.

The bylaw passed at the last AFM Convention in 2016 (Article 5, Section 32(d)) allows electronic ratification voting with very specific restrictions. The new bylaw for ratification by electronic balloting states, in part:

SECTION 32(d). Ratification by Electronic Balloting

  1. If it is necessary to hold a ratification by an electronic balloting method (e.g. online, telephone), then all voting shall be done by electronic balloting, provided that ratification by electronic balloting has been authorized by the Local’s bylaws or action of the Local’s Executive Board, and provided that the Local selects an independent organization approved by the International President’s Office to conduct the voting. In all cases, the method of voting must (1) ensure that the member casting the vote is eligible to do so, (2) ensure that the member casting the vote cannot be identified with the vote cast, and (3) afford sufficient safeguards to protect the integrity and security of the voting system. Further, in the case of electronic balloting, an appropriate accommodation must be made for a voter who lacks the technology or equipment necessary to cast his or her vote.
  2. ….

iii. The International President’s Office shall maintain a list of one or more vendors whose electronic balloting services meet the requirements set forth in this Section.

The President’s Office has determined that the following vendors offer services at affordable rates that meet the bylaw requirements for ratification by electronic balloting:

BallotPoint Election Services: http://www.ballotpoint.com/

ElectionBuddy: https://electionbuddy.com/

Election America: http://election-america.com/

This list is subject to change. Please check with the President’s office before conducting electronic balloting to confirm that the vendor you intend to use is still on the list.

Staff Additions

Moving Forward: New SSD Director; Assistant Secretary and 2016 IM Awards

A concern expressed to me by many delegates attending the AFM Convention last June was who would become the AFM director of Symphonic Services Division (SSD), if I became the secretary-treasurer. Indeed, filling the director position with the right individual presented a challenge, but as it turned out, there were several qualified applicants.

Continue reading

jay blumenthal

What You Can Expect

by Jay Blumenthal, AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

jay blumenthalIt is an honor and privilege to have been elected to serve as your AFM International Secretary-Treasurer.  Over the years I have come to know many of you through my attendance at conventions, conferences, and various negotiations. In my new role as secretary-treasurer, I look forward to developing new relationships with those of you I do not know and building on my relationships with those of you I do know.

As director of the Symphonic Services Division, I have worked closely with AFM President Ray Hair and the members of the International Executive Board. Having attended IEB meetings over the past five years, I’ve gained a good deal of familiarity with the way the IEB operates and the kinds of issues that come before it. This will allow me to “hit the ground running” at the upcoming IEB meeting in September.

As many of you know, the position of Secretary-Treasurer is a hands-on, nuts and bolts job. Put another way, it’s the lubrication that keeps all the various parts of the Federation working smoothly. This takes attention to detail, a physical presence in the office, and a dedicated AFM staff. And I can share with you from my firsthand knowledge, we could not ask for a better staff.  They love this union!  Many have worked at the AFM for years.  Twenty, 30, and even 40 years of service is not uncommon.

In fact, it was not long ago that one of our staff members retired after more than 56 years of service to the AFM.  This longevity is a testament to our dedicated, experienced staff and creates value-added for the membership because each staff member performs their duties well and works with great efficiency.

So what can you expect from your new secretary-treasurer and what are some of my goals for the AFM?

When you call me, I will make every effort to be responsive to your question(s) in a timely fashion. Even though I have the benefit of 18 years of union experience (working as a Local 802 officer, executive board member, and Federation employee), I may not have an immediate answer for you. But if I don’t, I know where to find out and I’ll get back to you quickly.

When local officers have questions for the secretary-treasurer, often the answers they receive can have significant ramifications for their locals and the answer to a member’s question may well impact that member’s career. I take all these questions seriously.

AFM Finances

I have always been cognizant of the fact that every dollar we receive at the Federation is attributable in some way to the work performed by our members. Each dollar is important and needs to be spent in a way that improves the lives and protects the livelihoods of our members. Much has been accomplished during the last six years to improve the Federation’s financial condition. But expenses can get out of hand quickly, unless one maintains a constant vigilance. Allowing the Federation to slide back into tenuous financial territory will not be an option.

Continuing to “cash up” the Relocation Fund is a high priority. Growing this fund will eventually allow us to move forward with the purchase of office space rather than continued renting. We will carefully search for the right opportunity to own our office space.

So I look forward to working together with AFM President Hair, the IEB, local officers, and the entire membership in our effort to build an even stronger, unified, and more powerful Federation.