Tag Archives: national endowment for the arts

Lee Greenwood Appointed to John F. Kennedy Center Board of Trustees

Two-time CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, and Grammy-winning country music artist Lee Greenwood was announced on November 1 as an appointee to the John F. Kennedy Center Board of Trustees by President Donald J. Trump.

Greenwood, a longtime member of Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV) and Local 257 (Nashville, TN), would serve as Member of the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees through September 2024.

He continues to serve on the National Endowment of the Arts’ National Council on the Arts, an appointment received by then-President George W. Bush in 2008.

“I just found out I was appointed as a trustee to the Kennedy Center. Thank you President Trump,” Greenwood said. “This is a tremendous honor. The Kennedy Center is the premier performance hall in the United States!”

The writer and performer of the iconic patriotic anthem “God Bless The USA” has met or performed for nine United States presidents. In October 2017, Greenwood hosted and performed for the One America Appeal—a hurricane relief fundraiser concert hosted by Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. The concert concluded fundraising on December 31, 2017 with $42 million raised from over 110,000 donors. To assist those impacted by the 2017 hurricane season, funds were distributed in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands.

Lee Greenwood with five past US presidents during the One America Appeal event.

Earlier this year, Greenwood celebrated the 35th anniversary of the release of his signature hit song, “God Bless The USA.” The song first appeared on his 1984 album, You’ve Got a Good Love Comin, and spent 37 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, becoming a Top 10 Hit.

Throughout his expansive career, Greenwood has earned multiple CMA and ACM Awards, a Grammy Award for Top Male Vocal Performance in 1985, and a multitude of other prestigious award nominations. His discography includes 22 studio albums, seven compilation albums, seven No. 1 hits and 38 singles. Known for his stand-out patriotism and support of the U.S. Military, Greenwood has been honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s National Patriot’s Award, and entertained troops on more than 30 USO Tours.

Greenwood was appointed to the council of the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008 by President George W. Bush, confirmed by the United States Senate, and continues to serve on the NEA at the pleasure of the President.

Advocacy and Pension Reform Take Precedence in Washington, DC

As AFM members are confronted with the uncertainties of both tax and pension reform, AFM President Ray Hair has refocused the work of the union’s Office of Government Relations to maximize its visibility and effectiveness relating to issues that impact our jobs and lives.

As I have stated previously, it is important for us to build relationships with coalitions that have similar interests. For some time now, the AFM has joined forces with nationally respected groups that come together to enhance our power of persuasion. One group we work with every year is Americans for the Arts, a nationally recognized organization that enhances the public policy voices of hundreds of national, state, and local arts organizations across the country.

For Arts Advocacy Day this year, in cooperation with the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE) Arts, Entertainment, Media Industries group (our primary coalition partner on most issues), American labor affiliates came together March 12-13 to make your concerns known to federal legislators who are recognized leaders on our issues. Seven meetings, attended by 12 union entertainment affiliates, worked both House and Senate offices on a variety of issues, including unreimbursed tax expenses; pension reform; support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; music licensing; and arts education policy.

Through one collective voice, key legislators learned of the negative impact that the elimination or weakening of these programs will have on artists, American communities, and the overall national economy.

National Endowment of the Arts: This federal program is one of a few that actually pays dividends back to the economy. We emphasized that NEA grants are not frivolous giveaways of public dollars to elite arts groups. In FY 2017, the NEA’s $150 million budget generated more than $500 million in matching support in communities across the country. For each of the 16,000 communities in every congressional district served that takes advantage of the process, every dollar in grant money awarded generates a $9 (9:1) return. As for the artistic value of the NEA, between 2012 and 2016, NEA grant programing reached 24.2 million adults and 3.4 million children. Challenge America grants also supported projects in communities where the arts are limited by geography, economics, or disability.

NEA school and community-based programs supported adult and student programming, state arts collaborations, and programs between arts institutions and pre-K, college, and university educators. Art Works supports art that meets the highest standards of excellence, and inspires public engagement and lifelong learning in the arts to strengthen communities. Last but not least, NEA grants support military veterans and their families through the Creative Forces Program, in cooperation with the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The NEA and NEH were not terminated and will each see a $3 million increase to
$152.8 million in the omnibus budget bill, which passed the Senate early March 23. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting received level funding at $445 million. This is a huge Congressional win for AFM members.

Taxes: For musicians suffering from shortcomings of tax reform changes in the new tax law, during lobbying visits the AFM and its affiliated unions made clear the disadvantages posed by the loss of itemized deductions. We took time with legislative staff to detail the effect of the shortsighted elimination of these deductions, specifically we listed items that will no longer be deductible for musicians working as W-2 employees. This issue also affects members of affiliate unions. Our concerted effort will help move this matter to the front burner when new tax negotiations begin.

As a tool to help understand the tax dilemma, in each office I left a copy of the article by Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX) member Scott Stratton, CFP, CFA, that appeared in last month’s International Musician on page 2. This useful tool was shared with each congressional member and his/her tax staffer to use as resource material. (We thank Stratton for his timely article and AFM President Hair for its prominent placement in the IM.)

Music Licensing and Protection of Intellectual Property Rights

As Congress prepares to introduce the comprehensive Music Modernization Act, affiliate unions joined in raising awareness in each legislative office about the importance of supporting new copyright reform/music licensing reform, which has not been updated in more than 30 years. Our primary ask was for members to sign onto one of the principal components of that bill, the Classics Act, which would require digital services to pay both rightsholders and artists for the use of recordings made before 1972. As the musicFIRST Coalition works closely with members of Congress to introduce the overall Music Modernization package, which includes the Music Modernization Act, the Classics Act, and the AMP Act (with willing buyer, willing seller language), the AFM and its affiliates continue to lobby legislators to increase cosponsorship of the Classics Act.

Overall, the DPE-coordinated labor lobbying group left a profound impact on staff and legislators. Many saw this as the first time organized labor made a concerted visit during Arts Advocacy Day to push their powerful arts and entertainment agenda. Though this lobbying group was organized by the DPE, it is our hope to reduce costs in 2019 in order allow more AFM Signature and rank-and-file members to join our lobbying efforts in Washington, DC.

Pension Progress

AFM President Hair, along with the AFM International Executive Board and the AFM-EPF trustees, has made it a priority to engage pension concerns on every level. Official word on AFM pension comes directly from the Office of the President in cooperation with pension plan trustees. However, Hair has instructed the AFM Office of Government Relations, after endorsing S.2147, the Butch Lewis Act of 2017, to monitor and report ongoing Washington, DC, multi-employer pension reform debate activities. Under the last continuing resolution, Congress inserted language that created a new Joint Select Committee to take up the issue of pension reform and solvency.

The comprehensive budget bill that passed February 9, formed the bipartisan-bicameral Joint Congressional Select Committee on Multi-Employer Pension Plans, comprising eight Democrats and eight Republicans from the House and Senate. It is governed by the rules of the Senate Finance Committee.

On process, the United Mine Workers of America reports on its website:

Committee members must be selected by February 23, and the committee must hold its first meeting by March 12 (which took place March 14). The committee is required to make a report to Congress by the last week of November 2018. If there is an agreement to take action, the committee will draft and submit legislative language as part of that report. Agreement to move forward will require at least five Democrats and five Republicans. Any bill they propose will go before the relevant committees in the House and the Senate, where it cannot be amended or voted down. The bills will get expedited votes in both chambers. There will be no amendments allowed. The committee will hold at least five meetings, of which at least three must be public hearings. The committee is encouraged to hold at least one field hearing, away from Washington, DC.

At the initial meeting, it was clear that there is a real need to come up with a solution to this issue. Failure to do so could have devastating consequences for all workers, retirees, affected plans, the public in general, as well as the national economy.

The responsibility of the AFM Office of Government Relations is to engage congressional staff, do real-time reporting of pension related events, and work directly with other AFL-CIO affiliated unions to coordinate information for the AFM President’s Office.

Now that the Select Committee is in full operation, the focus will shift momentarily to policy matters relating to the committee’s design on these troubled pension funds. Committee appointees include Republicans: Co-Chair Orrin Hatch (UT), Rob Portman (OH), Lamar Alexander (TN), Mike Crapo (ID), Virginia Foxx (NC), Phil Roe (R-TN), Vern Buchanan (FL), and David Schweikert (AZ); and Democrats: Co-Chair Sherrod Brown (OH), Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Tina Smith (MN), Bobby Scott (VA), Richard Neal (MA), Debbie Dingell (MI), and Donald Norcross (NJ).

Federal Attacks

Shedding Light on Federal Attacks on the American Working Family

If ever there was a time for workers, including musicians, to get engaged in the movement to protect jobs and benefits that promote healthy, secure workplaces and families, now is the time.

While many Americans have been distracted by the bevy of negative news reports focusing on political agendas, Congress has been busy introducing legislation that would unhinge the fundamental protections now in place for workers, leading to the loss of jobs, pensions, union security agreements, public school education, as well as workplace safety and security. These changes are focused on both the public and private sectors, relating to the work people in your communities do to provide basic services.

In the first two months of the 115th US Congress, legislation has been introduced that, if passed, would negatively change your way of life. Though much of this directly impacts this nation’s 2.1 million federal workers (confirmed in a February 9 Washington Times news article), the message it sends is that workers in both the public and private sectors are at risk of losing hard fought federal labor protections.

Federal AttacksLet’s start with our brothers and sisters in the public sector. The focus on federal agencies, hence their employees, has centered on union activity protected by law. First and foremost is the attack on “official time.” This is legal activity protected by law that allows union officials to perform legally sanctioned representational work while on the federal clock. HR 1364, the Official Time Reform Act of 2017, would limit the amount of time union volunteer officials take to perform representational work. It would also, in some cases, cut pension accrual for time spent doing that same union work while on the job, thereby making such volunteer work less attractive to union volunteers. The bill would have a chilling effect on union volunteer representatives who seek to protect worker’s rights on the job in the federal workplace.

Next, is the attack on the Environmental Protection Agency. This new legislation would eliminate health and safety regulations that effectively protect everyone in this country. An example is the Dakota Pipeline Project in which unregulated drilling would place rivers and other natural habitats in severe jeopardy, if the pipeline is damaged. This, of course, would result in catastrophic disaster that would never fully correct itself, not to mention the harm it would do to Native American territories that depend on a clean environment.

Attacks on Veterans Administration (VA) employees have taken a new turn. By refusing to recognize that poor management was at the center of the VA’s problems, HR 1259 attacks front-line workers and eliminates jobs that are necessary to guarantee the good health and safety of our veterans. If fewer veterans have access to care, where will they turn? 

AFL-CIO Legislative Representative Byron Charlton, a 30-year veteran of AFL-CIO policy issues relating to federal employees, sends a clear message to all in the labor movement: “To thyself be true.” If working people are displaced/laid off in large numbers, who will be there to support community organizations, local music festivals, the symphony, and student music and arts programs? When family budgets take a hit, people don’t go out and don’t spend money on entertainment nor arts education for their children.

So, why do federal employees matter so much to musicians? As workers, we are all in the same fight for survival. Musicians, like federal workers, steelworkers, teachers, boilermakers, telephone technicians, flight attendants, pilots, and railway and other transportation workers, are all subject to the effects of policies targeted at weakening job security. We must see ourselves as team players and come together to support each other’s causes. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option in this current legislative environment.

The famous Protestant priest Martin Niemöller made it clear in the 1930s when he pronounced this epic call to solidarity, which seems equally as appropriate today for the labor movement. In his post-World War II lectures he said: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” This begs the question, what will we do as trade unionists when our brothers and sisters in the movement are attacked simply because, as employees of the federal government, they can be? Our destinies as trade unionists are all intertwined.

Finally, the foundation of this attack on labor is rooted in the fundamental principle that unions are jaded and always operate in opposition to ultra-conservative principles. The legislation discussed here is but the tip of the iceberg for the 115th Congress. As discussed in my March IM article, the basic foundation of this anti-union animus is HR 785, the National Right to Work Act. As noted earlier, this bill prohibits union security agreements and is designed to give employers leverage to exploit workers by preventing them from forming and joining unions.

All these policies and more are making their way through the US Congress, while the American public’s attention is diverted by partisan political jousting. It is incumbent upon us to engage with our brothers and sisters in the movement so that other workers will be around when we need them. AFM local officers are engaged in state federation and central labor council actions designed to allow us to work together on these issues. We ask that you take a moment from your daily routine to support a public employee campaign. Bring a colleague and carry a sign. The workers you support will remember your commitment, and when the far right come after us (for example, cutting the National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, State Department cultural programs, etc.), they will be there to help.

Write your member of Congress in support of the National Endowment for the Arts. Go to the AFM website www.afm.org/2017/02/nea/. From this link you can send an email of support directly to your member of Congress. Then, tell a friend to do the same.

Tell Your Arts Story

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 signing of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, on September 29, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has launched a special site where the public can share their story of the arts via a simple form.

Anyone and everyone is invited to visit arts.gov/tell-us-your-story and share how the arts are part of your day, how the arts have inspired you to do something unique, how they have made a difference among you and your family, as well as in the communities and neighborhoods in which you live. Also, if there is a specific NEA grant that has had an impact on you and your community, let us know.

Starting September 29, the NEA will begin posting stories on its website and promoting them across our social media. Depending on the volume, the NEA may not be able to include all stories and material it receives.