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How Local 389 Survives and Thrives in a Right to Work State

This summer The Music of Pixar, Live! A Symphony of Characters at Walt Disney World employed a 43-piece orchestra from May through August.


By the 1990s Local 389 (Orlando, FL) was going through really hard times, but the troubles started years earlier. “For a few decades the relationships between Local 389 and our employers were fairly abrasive. We had lost an orchestra, and due to brutal arbitration, things had gone south with the largest entertainment company in the world, Disney,” explains Local 389 President Mike Avila.

“In 1999 we decided to try a different approach,” he says. “We began meeting with employers for the express purpose of building trusting relationships.”

The strategy has worked. Local 389 has been able to survive, and most recently thrive, in the difficult “right to work” environment in Florida through relationship building and demonstrating to musicians what solidarity can do for them. “The end result has been better agreements (higher wages and better treatment of our players) and affording our musicians greater opportunity,” concludes Avila.

Each year members of Local 389 (Orlando, FL) perform with Walt Disney World’s 51-piece Candlelight Orchestra for 37 nights under an AFM agreement.


Brenda Higgins was inspired to serve on her local’s board after witnessing this change and the integrity and focus of Local 389 leadership toward improving the lives of local musicians. “It is always willing to stand against improper treatment of musicians and also to work out compromise without alienating management teams across the table,” she explains. “While there are those who feel the local should be more heavy-handed in its approach, we
have been successful in changing the
minds of many through patience, perseverance, and kindness.”

There has been an increase in live performance and recording opportunities both with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra (OPO) and Disney. This spring and summer 129 members of the orchestral community were hired for May through August. A 43-piece orchestra is performing The Music of Pixar, Live: A Symphony of Characters at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, seven nights a week, for 94 consecutive nights, under an AFM CBA.

“The great thing about this summer gig is that most of our players would go on unemployment in the summer; instead, they are getting $285 per night, plus pension, and they get to be Disney employees and enjoy many benefits of that as well,” says Avila.

Musicians performing in Walt Disney World’s The Music of Pixar, Live! A Symphony of Characters worked under an AFM collective bargaining agreement negotiated through Local 389 (Orlando, FL).

A cellist, Higgins has worked in Orlando since 1975 when she won an audition with the now defunct Florida Symphony Orchestra (FSO). “A core of former FSO musicians came together as Music Orlando, later renamed Orlando Philharmonic, a per service orchestra,” she says. An active Central Florida freelancer for more than 40 years, she has been a member of the Disney musical team since the late 1990s and plays in the Candlelight Orchestra at EPCOT every season. This summer she’s also performing in The Music of Pixar, Live!

“The scales and working conditions have steadily improved under the current 389 administration,” says Higgins. “The Orlando Philharmonic, which was a non-union successor to the unionized FSO, has been organized and we are working with
management to forge a consensus for a CBA going forward.”

“We are in negotiations with the OPO, as our CBA expires August 31,” says Avila. “Due to the aforementioned relationship-building these are the most productive talks we have ever had with an Orlando-based orchestra in my 34 years in Florida. Both sides are working hard to come to a place of mutual satisfaction.”

Meanwhile, Disney has also hired two other full-time bands with benefits, two part-time bands working three days per week, and several solo and duo musicians to entertain in the resorts. The 51-piece Candlelight Orchestra begins its run in mid-November with 37 nights of performances. “Prior to our philosophical change in 1999, that orchestra was contracted (1099) with no pension or benefits. Because of our changed relationship with Disney they are all now working in-house as employees,” says Avila. “Disney is providing a total of around 140 services for Orlando’s orchestra musicians in 2017.”

“This covered work has served to bring some local musicians on board with the union, thus strengthening the union in numbers and influence in the community,” says Local 389 Secretary-Treasurer Sam Zambito, who is also president of the Southern Conference of Locals. “Our working relationship with Walt Disney World has been amicable and productive.”

Disney also worked closely with the union to produce a Star Wars concert recording and streaming event, featuring the Orlando Philharmonic, conducted by John Williams of Locals 47 (Los Angeles, CA) and 9-535 (Boston, MA). “We’ve had several long-running engagements during the past 24 months where Walt Disney World staffed their shows under the conditions of our CBA, rather than turning to third-party contractors,” he adds.

To increase their negotiating power with Disney even more, in January Local 389 joined a coalition of representatives from every major labor organization that has a CBA with Disney World and Disneyland, including Local 7 (Orange County, CA) leadership, President Bob Sanders and Secretary Tammy Noreyko. “East meets West!” says Zambito. “It was fairly informal, focused on sharing our knowledge base and strategies. We are now working together for mutual success.”

“The union has gained great respect. We have created a situation where it is so clear that all the musicians benefit by working under CBAs. Some of the most vocal union opponents have realized that things are really improving and have come on board, says Zambito. “The state of Florida is traditionally extremely anti-union and the central part of the state doubly so. We have about 95% participation rate overall. In the long term it’s going to help us achieve greater solidarity.”

“The current anti-union sentiment in our country is disturbing, to say the least. And it is frustrating that so many in the labor force fail to see that only unity can provide balance in the workplace,” says Higgins. “In a right to work state with a governor and legislature who wake up every morning with a commitment to ensuring that unions never regain strength, the battle is uphill and ongoing. The AFM, both nationally and locally, must remain mindful that balance is found through consensus and mutual respect, not ugly rhetoric.”

Eastern Conference

Conference Gathers Eastern Locals for Informative Exchanges

by Mary Plaine, Eastern Conference Secretary-Treasurer and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD)

eastern conference

AFM staff and delegates of the Eastern Conference met in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, April 22-23.

A historic meeting of Federation and local officers and delegates took place at the Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Saturday, April 22, when the Eastern Conference of Locals, comprised of locals from New England, New Jersey, New York, and the former Penn-Del-Mar-DC Conference, was called to order by Eastern Conference President Candace Lammers of Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT). After a lot of work on the part of many people, it was gratifying to see 50 people sitting around the U-shaped table ready to attack a full agenda.

Following the opening business of the conference, the attendees heard presentations from AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, who spoke about the financial state of the Federation, and Department of Labor Investigator Nicolle Spallino, who spoke about locals and their need for financial safeguards, internal controls, and record-keeping.

AFM President Ray Hair brought the group up to date on several issues, including negotiations for Pamphlet B, the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SLRA), and TV agreements. He spoke about changes in media consumption and the Federation’s new revenue streams to help underwrite the Special Payments Fund and the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF). Then, Hair was joined by employer and employee representatives for a discussion of the AFM-Employers’ Pension Fund.

AFM Legislative and Political Director Alfonso Pollard reviewed the many issues he has been wrestling in our nation’s capital: copyright and intellectual property legislation, instrument carry-on rules for domestic and international travel, national “right to work” legislation, and immigration.

Labor Attorney Harvey Mars closed Saturday’s business with the address, “The Impact of the Trump Administration Upon Labor in the Arts and What We Can Do About It.” Mars stressed three actions Federation musicians should take to keep themselves strong: fight for the NEA and other federally funded arts and cultural programs; fight for the right to be treated as employees and not independent contractors so that we can receive our full rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act; and fight to protect the right to organize and to protect union security—fight against right to work legislation. (See page 6 for a longer synopsis.)

On Sunday morning, the first speaker was MPTF Trustee Dan Beck, who updated the conference on the activities of his organization. Following Beck, two Federation employees, Symphonic Services Division (SSD) Director/Special Counsel Rochelle Skolnick and Touring/Theatre/Booking Division Director Michael Manley, gave presentations.

Skolnick described the personnel and operations of the SSD. She spoke about the SSD Resource Center in the For Members/Document Library section of the AFM website. She explained that serving as one of the AFM’s three in-house legal counsels allows for more efficiency as the AFM aggressively enforces its media agreements. She then reviewed recent legal actions.

Skolnick also spoke about the Federation’s new three-part approach to local officer training: webinars; two days of education held prior to the regional local conferences; and three-day intensive retreats to foster mentorships and peer-to-peer help. Well-trained local officers are more important than ever in strengthening the Federation and providing support to our members.

Manley’s presentation was “Freelance for Hire, Gig Organizing Strategies for Local Officers.” He addressed work not covered by collective bargaining agreements, such as single engagements of musicians hired to back up touring artists (Idina Menzel, for example) or productions such as The Legend of Zelda. Manley encouraged local officers to become familiar with contractors, venues, and peer unions in their jurisdictions, and to know what events are taking place in the venues.

Additional conference business included the adoption of new and revised bylaws and the election of officers. The current Eastern Conference Board is: President Matthew Cascioli, secretary of Local 45 (Allentown, PA); 1st Vice President Tom Olcott, financial vice president of Local 802 (New York City); 2nd Vice President Pat Hollenbeck, president of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA); 3rd Vice President Tony Scally, president of Local 16-248 (Newark/Paterson, NJ); 4th Vice President Michael Angelucci, president of Local 341 (Norristown, PA); and Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine, secretary-treasurer of Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD).

Many thanks to all the people who helped bring the Eastern Conference to life, with a special thank you to Angelucci, who was the conference’s lifeline to the hotel.

Next year’s Eastern Conference is planned for April 14-15 and will again take place at the Valley Forge Casino Resort.

Hamilton Local

Hamilton Local Doubles Its Membership

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

(L to R) Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) Executive Board Members: Brent Malseed, Ron Palangio, Janna Malseed, Larry Feudo, Paul Panchezak, Reg Denis, Brenda Brown, Glen Brown, and John Balogh.

(L to R) Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) Executive Board Members: Brent Malseed, Ron Palangio, Janna Malseed, Larry Feudo, Paul Panchezak, Reg Denis, Brenda Brown, Glen Brown, and John Balogh.

In 2012, when President Larry Feudo and his board took over the leadership of Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) they faced a tough challenge. “Our membership had been decimated to under 300 because of poor prior leadership and embezzlement,” he explains.

The first step was to evaluate the local’s assets and needs to identify specific areas of focus: office procedures, political lobbying, and community outreach. Feudo recruited a new board that included Secretary-Treasurer Brent Malseed and 2nd Vice President Janna Malseed, former board members of Local 293 with years of experience.

“We organized the office and started cleaning up bad clerical practices; then we moved on with a membership drive waiving initiation fees, and taking advantage of various AFM tools that are available,” says Feudo. Along with recruitment, the local made a big effort to grow its reputation in the community and among musicians through both public relations and action.

“We did a lot of advocacy for local musicians—weighing in on timely issues in the media and standing firm for musicians’ rights,” he says. The local built its reputation by contributing to music scholarships at the local college and making charitable donations to community partnerships. “There was a great deal of personal commitment from all our board members to the concept of collectivism.”

The Local 293 board thoroughly understands that actions speak louder than words. In August 2015, after a year-and-a-half battle, the local was instrumental in getting money owed to musicians who were stiffed when the Opera Hamilton suddenly pulled out leaving them unpaid. “We got a $20,000 grant for the musicians from the city of Hamilton,” says Feudo. “That was a very concrete example of what the union does for its membership, but the main thing was that our members walked away with the money they were deserving.”

Brent Malseed, who is in the office five days a week, works hard to build the local’s reputation among its members and the Hamilton community. “We try to keep up to date on Facebook to keep our membership informed, plus we publish our newsletter, Libretto,” he explains. “Many of our board members submit articles and reports. Having the board involved in the newsletter shows that the board is working well together.”

“In the office, we try to answer every single phone call. I think it helps to give that personal touch to our members,” he says. “If they have a question, and we don’t have a answer, we get them one. Members feel confident that we are getting the job done properly.”

Janna Malseed grew up in a musical family and has a strong knowledge of the business of music. “One of the things we feel very strongly about is that musicians need entrepreneurial education,” she says. “There’s performance, but there is also the business component—negotiating contracts and paying the side people. We work very hard with our members to provide educational seminars and give them guidance for directing their careers.”

“One of the things that I think has led to our success is that we have a board committed to collectivism,” says Janna. “Older members came back because the organization rebuilt its credibility, and not just because they are still performing musicians, but also because they enjoy the idea of being in a fraternal organization.”

Board members are involved in the community, even bringing Mohawk College music students to their office for programs. “We try to brand ourselves and get the name out into the community: Hamilton Musicians Guild—your source for the professional musician,” she says.

“We screened the film Broke—a really good documentary about the music industry—and then had a panel discussion about it. You need to engage people in dialogue about things that matter to them,” Feudo says. The local draws nonmembers in by opening up educational events to the public. Members get discounted admission, which is another membership benefit.

“For the younger generation, it’s more about services and what the union can do for its members,” Brent says, adding that the board is extremely aware of diverse communities in the music industry. Among the perks for younger artists is assistance with immigration and P-2 visas for travel to perform in the US. Due to Hamilton’s proximity to Buffalo, New York, it’s the fourth largest local in terms of submitting visas to the US.

Younger members are also grateful to the AFM for helping them access low-cost liability insurance, says Brent. “One young kid came in who found out two days before he was set to leave that he needed proof of liability insurance to play a gig in Michigan. He phoned one insurance company that wanted $1,000 a year for $1 million coverage. Within a couple hours, our insurance provider was able to set him up with $1 million coverage, for one year, for $50. That word spreads around to our younger members.”

The Local 293 board is excited about its future, thanks to community involvement. The city of Hamilton is trying to brand the city as a music center for Canada and Janna, along with Local 293 Director Glen Brown, sit on the city’s Music Strategy Implementation Team. “We got in early enough to steer them away from Austin’s SXSW model of putting on music for free,” says Feudo. “If we didn’t have a seat at the table, we wouldn’t be able to get our message across.”

The local is also hosting the Canadian Conference of Musicians, August 11-13, 2017, which it hopes to extend to a week of performances and events that recognize local musicians. “We are getting all kinds of support from the city,” says Brent.

The local has doubled its membership in the past four years. Brent says that one of the keys to retention is getting new members involved. Rather than just collecting their dues and hoping for the best, the local makes a point of spending time with them, explaining benefits, giving career advice, and making them feel welcome.

Everyone is encouraged to attend general meetings, which are more than just mundane administrative sessions. “We give 25-year pins to members and make it a big event. The young people hear stories of their peers and what they have done in the music industry. Our members enjoy the camaraderie—younger members learning from older members and older members learning from younger ones,” says Feudo.

“Emphasizing the fellowship of musicians is important,” he continues, explaining how they gather together to participate in events like the city’s annual Labor Day parade. The local has gotten Lester Petrillo Memorial Fund money for members who had fallen on hard times, and Music Trust Performance Funds to hire musicians for live music events. It’s even assisted in rallies with other union locals.

“If you aren’t sitting at the table, you don’t have a voice,” Feudo says. “We are trying to be at as many tables as possible, representing the Hamilton Musicians Guild and our members. The end result is that they know the Hamilton Musicians Guild and that means more work for our members.”

“We have a passion for strengthening this local. I think that is the crux of our success,” says Brent. “That passion comes across as genuine to our membership and they appreciate that we really believe in the cause.”

Full List of the 2015 Grammy Award AFM Member Nominees

The full list of the 2015 Grammy Awards have been revealed and we wanted to highlight and congratulate our fellow AFM members who were nominated.


Best American Roots Performance

Keb’ Mo’ local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)


Best Rock Performance

Arctic Monkeys’ members: Alex Turner (keyboard), Matt Helders (drums), and Jamie Cook (guitar) from local 802 (New York City).

Black Keys’ member: Patrick Carney, local 24 (Akron, OH)


Best Engineered Nonclassical Album

Keb’ Mo’ local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)


Best Metal Performance

Slipknot member: Corey Taylor, local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)


Best Country Duo/Group

Keith Urban, local 257 (Nashville, TN)


Best Country Solo Performance 

Hunter Hayes, local 257 (Nashville, TN)

Keith Urban, Local 257 (Nashville, TN)


Best Americana Album

Keb’ Mo’ local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)


Best American Album

Rosanne Cash, local 802 (New York City) – The River & The Thread

Nickel Creek members: Chris Thile (mandolin) and Mark Schatz (bassist) local 257 (Nashville, TN) and Sara Watkin (fiddle) local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)


Song of the Year

Meghan Trainor, local 257 (Nashville, TN) – “All About That Bass”

Taylor Swift, Local 257 (Nashville, TN) – “Shake It Off”


Best Country Song

Kenny Chesney, local 257 (NAshville, TN) – “American Kids”

Glen Campbell, local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) – “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”


Best Rock Album

Black Keys’ member: Patrick Carney, local 24 (Akron, OH) – Turn Blue

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) – Hypnotic Eye


Best Rock Song

Black Keys’ member: Patrick Carney, local 24 (Akron, OH) – “Fever”

Ryan Adams, Local 257 (Nashville, TN) – “Gimme Something Good”


Best Pop Solo Performance

John Legend, Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) – “All of Me” (Live Version)

Taylor Swift, Local 257 (Nashville, TN) – “Shake It Off”


Record of the Year

Taylor Swift, Local 257 (Nashville, TN) – “Shake It Off”

Meghan Trainor, Local 257 (Nashville, TN) – “All About That Bass”