Tag Archives: legislation

Record Labels Return to the Table: Seeking Successor to Sound Recording Labor Agreement


As I write this column, preliminary caucus meetings have just concluded in preparation for the opening round of talks with major labels representing the sound recording industry toward a successor Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA). The existing agreement was reached October 2011, expired February 2015, and has been extended indefinitely while negotiations are in progress. Formal across-the-table negotiations begin September 28 in New York City.

In addition to setting wages and conditions covering musicians performing sessions called by the big three labels (Universal/Capitol/EMI, Sony/BMG/Columbia, and Warner/Atlantic), their owned subsidiaries, Disney’s Hollywood Records, and other covered independent labels, the agreement provides additional special residual payments to session musicians for five years following an original session through the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF). It also establishes a royalty from sales revenue for the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), which is of critical interest to the Federation, our locals, and our members.

The current round of negotiations will convene against a backdrop of litigation recently initiated against the major labels by the Federation and by the American Federation of Musicians’ and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM-EPF). The pension fund’s legal action centers on the labels’ failure and refusal to make appropriate pension payments on foreign streaming. The Federation’s action concerns Sony Music’s failure to comply with contract provisions that require additional payments for new use, domestic, and foreign licensing. The day of turning a blind eye toward industry’s noncompliance with the SRLA is done; thus, as a last resort and to demonstrate our resolve toward strict contract enforcement, the Federation and the AFM-EPF have turned to the courts for relief from the games the labels play to avoid paying our members the wages and benefits due.

The negotiations will also take place amidst rapid changes in the public’s consumption of music—away from physical products like compact discs and DVDs, and away from permanent downloads, toward web-based digital distribution that includes interactive and noninteractive streaming. In the realm of interactive streaming, digital service providers like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube are paying labels hundreds of millions of dollars for rights to access entire catalogs of tunes, but most featured artists do not have the leverage to demand and obtain a fair royalty from the labels. Session musicians, the unsung heroes behind the labels’ treasure trove of hits, get nothing.

The bottom line is that consumer spending on recorded music and record industry revenue are moving swiftly from physical product and digital downloads to streaming. And as we watch our traditional royalty positions in physical and download sales decline precipitously, threatening the very existence of MPTF and SPF, pursuit of new money for those funds will prompt a new sense of urgency in the upcoming negotiations.

Our negotiating team is an inclusive, well-rounded mix of international officers, local officers, rank-and-file recording musicians, AFM staff, and attorneys. It includes AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife, Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert, Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, International Officers Tino Gagliardi of Local 802 (New York City) and Dave Pomeroy of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President Marc Sazer, RMA rank-and-file representative Neil Stubenhaus of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), Local 47 President John Acosta, Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL) President Gary Matts, Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) President Pat Hollenbeck, Local 10-208 Electronic Media Director Dean Rolando, and Local 802 Electronic Media Director Steve Dannenberg.

Also represented in our SRLA negotiating team are a host of talented rank-and-file recording musicians whose knowledge and experience from the field is essential in building a credible approach toward industry. We will have expert assistance from AFM EMSD Director Pat Varriale, and an invaluable trio of lawyers featuring AFM General Counsel Jeff Freund, Associate Counsel Trish Polach, and In-House Counsel Jennifer Garner.

We expect that negotiations with industry will be long and difficult. For the first time in recent history, the Federation and AFM-EPF have initiated legal action to enforce compliance with SRLA provisions. Those actions have served notice to industry that, when we are left without proper paychecks and benefit payments, and attempts to correct those actions are stonewalled, there will be consequences. The industry also knows that the Federation is acutely aware of the rapid changes in consumer spending and how those changes have adversely affected MPTF and SPF.

Your negotiating team will bargain hard to ensure that our successor SRLA will be a progressive agreement and will promote, preserve, and protect the interests of the Federation, our locals, and our talented recording musicians both today and throughout the years ahead.

AFM Diversity Awards

2016 AFM Diversity Awards: Recognizing Innovation and Union Building

The “Official Call” for Diversity Award nominations will appear in the October edition of the International Musician, as well as on AFM social media sites. In preparation, we will take a look at the role of diversity in our labor union and the process of recognizing members through the Diversity Awards.

Celebrating the diversity of the American Labor Movement is a cornerstone of virtually every AFL-CIO affiliated national and international union. The AFM Diversity Committee has the responsibility to monitor and assist locals while interacting with numerous outside labor organizations to strengthen the purpose and foundation of the labor movement by ensuring access for every American worker.

Several vital AFL-CIO affiliated constituency groups are in place to help us achieve our goals. The AFM has a long history of interaction with each of them. These groups include the AFL-CIO Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Department, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work. These national organizations help ensure that every constituent of the labor movement has a voice in organizing, governance, and politics.

AFM Diversity Awards

AFM Diversity Committee members outside the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, last year. At that meeting were: AFM President Ray Hair, Director of Organizing & Education Paul Frank, Legislative-Political & Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, Diversity Committee Chair and Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) then Vice President John Acosta, Local 5 (Detroit, MI) Secretary-Treasurer Susan Barna Ayoub, Otis Ducker of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC), Ernie Durawa of Local 433 (Austin, TX), Miho Matsuno of Local 802 (New York City), Paul Harwood of Local 406  (Quebec Musicians’ Guild), Local 174-496 (New Orleans, LA) President Deacon John Moore, IEB Member and Local 105 President (Spokane, WA) Tina Morrison, Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD) Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine, Madelyn Roberts of Local 586 (Phoenix, AZ), Lovie Smith Wright of
Local 65-699 (Houston, TX), and Local 6 (San Francisco, CA) Secretary-Treasurer Beth Zare

The AFM Diversity Awards were created to recognize outstanding examples of diversity in the Federation. As an arts and entertainment union, our organization is immersed in talent from a strong demographic base that represents every musical genre. The work of our members is rooted in musical excellence and recognition that every musician brings a level of professionalism that is unparalleled throughout the international music community. The AFM Diversity Committee plays a key role in supporting that diversity. It recognizes the innovation of our members every three years at the AFM Convention. This is where we highlight the best of the talents we possess through our tri-annual awards process.

It is important to note that selection is designed as an open process. The final determinations are made by outside labor-affiliated judges. These neutral adjudicators review the finalists’ applications and select the winning candidates. It is imperative that, as the selection process progresses throughout the “call” period, the Diversity Committee and union officials do the broadest outreach possible. Members that devote time and energy developing union-building projects that lead to growth through organizing help solidify the platform that serves as the foundation upon which the longevity of our institution depends. Every member of the union should be notified of the program and selection process so that all members, regardless of ethnicity or cultural background, have a chance to enter their unique programs and offerings for consideration.

The 2016 awards process is currently being tooled to ensure that the “call” for submissions will be transmitted well beyond our usual communications platforms. Social media will play a vital role, along with information submitted to membership through the usual local communications regimens. The AFM Diversity Committee’s job is to reach out to every musician in our union so that each has equal access to the submission and selection process. Winners are invited to the AFM Convention June 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the awards ceremony will take place.

Over the years, past award winners were honored for a range of accomplishments. At the 2013 convention, the Youth Award for an individual under 20 years of age went to James Francies, Jr. This award was renamed the Charles McDaniel Youth Awards in memory of Charles McDaniel, a longtime Diversity Committee member and youth advocate. Robin Fay Massie-Pighee received the Youth Award for an individual between the ages of 21 and 35 years. The Charles Walton Diversity Advocate Award went to AFM Local 140 Secretary-Treasurer Edward Zebrowski in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and the President’s Award went to AFM Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA).

The AFM Convention is a time to look forward. Key issues facing member musicians are discussed and resolved. Officials are elected to ensure AFM’s continued longevity and success. But the convention is also a time to honor locals and members who have gone above and beyond the call of duty as musicians and local AFM members.

Applications for 2016 award nominations will be available this fall. The official call will be announced in the October International Musician. We encourage every local and every member to step forward and nominate those who are doing extraordinary work on behalf of the union and the communities they live in and serve.

Trade Deals Need to Work for Workers, not CEOs


Even though Congress pulled some last-minute political maneuvering to get Fast Track passed last month—we beat all the odds and changed the game. Despite arm-twisting from corporations and the 1%, Congress nearly defeated Fast Track thanks to pressure that millions of working Americans put on their legislators.

In the coming months, as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—the biggest trade deal in the history of US trade deals—moves forward, Congress will have to vote on it. Working Americans need to stand together to make sure the TPP doesn’t sell out working people here and abroad, give foreign corporations special privileges to sue US taxpayers to recover lost profits, nor undermine efforts to stop climate change.

“We need to carry this momentum forward and tell our lawmakers to focus on policies to raise wages, so millions of working families don’t have to worry about putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their heads. And one way to do that is to ensure that the final TPP is as good for working people as President Obama has said it is,” says AFL-CIO Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist Celeste Drake.

Tell US Trade Representative Michael Froman and President Barack Obama to make trade deals work for working people and not CEOs by signing the petition at: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/trade-deals-must-work-for-working-people.

Support Fair Play, Fair Pay

On April 13, I had the honor of joining members of Congress Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), many well-known musicians, AFM President Ray Hair, and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President David Pomeroy to introduce HR 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015. This federal legislative protection has been a long time coming, and would have a great effect on our members in greater New York, and throughout the country.

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Canadian Appeals Court Mandates Google to Remove Pirate Site

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Canadian Court of Appeals has upheld worldwide injunctions requiring that Google remove search links from certain pirate sites around the world. It is highly unusual for a court to make an order that could place limits on expression in another country. Justice Harvey Groberman explains, “It has not been suggested that the order prohibiting the defendants from advertising wares that violate the intellectual property rights of the plaintiffs offends the core values of any nation.”

The court battle against Google began when a one-time distributor for Equustek Solutions Inc. relabeled Equustek’s products to pass them off as their own through their website. Equustek alleged trademark violations and misappropriation of trade secrets, and the judge told Google to remove a number of websites used by the defendants from its search indexes. Google removed the URLs from google.ca only, which led Equustek to complain of a “whack-a-mole” approach.

The International Federation of Film Producers Association and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry have since joined with Equustek, bring their own arguments and calling for removal of pirating sites.

“Google raises the specter of it being subjected to restrictive orders from courts in all parts of the world, each concerned with its own domestic law,” writes Groverman. “… it is the worldwide nature of Google’s business and not any defect of the law that gives rise to that possibility.”

Court Refuses to Block Net Neutrality Rules

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a last minute effort by Internet service providers (ISPs) to stop net neutrality rules from becoming effective June 12. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, USTelecom, the Wireless Association, among other groups, sought block the FCC’s reclassification of Internet services as a Title II telecommunications service. The FCC had voted to reclassify Internet services back in February in order to allow implementation of net neutrality laws.

“This is a huge victory for Internet consumers and innovators! Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open,” FCC chair Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “Blocking, throttling, pay-for-priority fast lanes and other efforts to come between consumers and the Internet are now things of the past. The rules also give broadband providers the certainty and economic incentive to build fast and competitive broadband networks.”

Make Your Voice Heard as House Prepares to Vote on Fast Track

The US House is expected to vote on Fast Track before the weekend, so it’s time to make your voice heard. And we have to stop it so it doesn’t take away our jobs, wages and our ability to make sure international trade deals work for everybody, not just corporations and the 1%.

Click here to call your representative and ask him or her to stand with working people and vote “no” on Fast Track.

Our democracy and the livelihood of working families across the country depend on us finishing what we’ve started. Congress needs to know that we will not stand by and let the 1% trade away our democracy for their gains in profit. We may be the underdogs but, if we act now, stopping Fast Track is a real possibility.

National Call-In Day to Stop Fast Track

The AFL-CIO has declared today National Call-In Day to Stop Fast Track. Now that Congress is back from vacation, it’s expected to bring Fast Track to a vote any day now. Many elected officials can still be swayed by reminding them of what the voters want. Do your part to prevent the passage of bad trade deals. Visit the website https://actionnetwork.org/forms/tell-your-representative-vote-no-on-fast-track or call 1-855-712-8441.

Working Families Blocked from Reading TPP Text

On June 2, working families, labor leaders, members of Congress, and community allies gathered at the AFL-CIO headquarters, behind the White House, and unveiled a giant banner with two simple requests: “show us the text” and “show us the jobs.” If TPP is in fact the “most progressive trade deal in history,” which will lead to the creation of 700,000 jobs, why aren’t Americans being allowed to read it? After the unveiling, rally attendees marched to the US Trade Representatives office to ask to read the text. The normally open door was locked and when the workers knocked there was no answer. The workers promised a mass calling of Congress on June 2. Do your part and tell Congress to stop Fast Track  and the bargaining of trade deals behind closed doors.

Right to Work Folly

by Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D. Special Advisor to the President,
International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO

The move to alter the laws to make all states “right to work” states is gaining momentum. State legislatures overloaded with conservative elected officials who have strong ties to the innocuously named American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are hell-bent on doing away with unions.

Recent successful legislative initiatives in Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin to enact “right to work” laws were humiliating to workers and their unions and, in the long run, will contribute dramatically to the suffering of workers and their families. There are another half-dozen states actually considering it.

The protagonists behind these campaigns emphasize that this trend bolsters individual rights. This is yet another example of symbol manipulation where words are supposed to provide comfort. This trend and the individual rights claim couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is hard to believe that there is an entire cadre of folks who are cheering on the sidelines and praising these accomplishments.

It is particularly egregious when the industrial history of these states was that they were strong, progressive fortresses for workers and their unions in their fight for economic justice.

The Holocaust survivor and great humanitarian Elie Wiesel once said: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.”

We should take sides. However, there is a very strong and not so silent group of folks spearheaded by the billionaire Koch brothers who are the driving force with mega-bucks behind the campaign to change the US in a very significant and destructive way.

Look at what campaigns they have initiated over the last couple of years since the US Supreme Court affirmed the Citizens United lawsuit resulting in a whole new political fundraising initiate that will destroy this nation as we know it. Their plan includes the following:

  • Create the Tea Party, which is now on a roll
  • Buy the Republican Party
  • Arm the Tea Party
  • Turn each against all
  • Buy teachers to indoctrinate students in the Koch philosophy
  • Destroy the US Postal Service
  • Alter the benefit programs for our war-torn veterans
  • Deport all illegal immigrants
  • Destroy Obamacare
  • Offer no minimum wage increases
  • Destroy Social Security
  • Reject new tax increases for the rich
  • Destroy Medicare and Medicaid
  • Support “right to work” legislation
  • Erase the Dodd-Frank regulations on financial institutions
  • Eradicate all defined benefit pension plans
  • Destroy unions
  • Fight global warming
  • Grind down all workers
  • Emasculate women’s rights
  • Purchase some governors
  • Purchase Congress
  • Buy the Senate
  • Destroy the legacy of FDR
  • Annihilate the social welfare state
  • Take away the right to vote and end democracy
  • Erode the American dream

That is a pretty bold and frightening “to do list.”

We must fight this with all of our fiber. Life as we know will no longer exist. Society will be left with only the princes and the paupers.

Since we cannot match their capital strength, we have to be more creative and activist in our initiatives.

Many international unions are committed to withholding political contributions from those who will support and vote for Fast Track, the new proposed trade deal. This is but one initiative.

The support for workers in this country by elected officials is fading. They have been purchased by the right-wing billionaires.

We have to go well beyond political contributions and appeal to the peoples’ sense of justice and equity and their economic well-being.

In a recent quote, D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE said:

“Politics are important, but I think the most important thing is organizing workers and mobilizing workers. Mobilizing workers we represent, as well as those we don’t represent—because they’re both getting screwed.”

It is time for action. All of the groups that fight for social and economic justice must band together to fight the 1% and take up the fight to mobilize and protect what unions have won for workers over the last century. Our economic lives depend on it.

Take up the fight!