Tag Archives: organize

University of Chicago Grad Students Organize

In October, graduate students at the University of Chicago became the latest to vote to unionize, despite opposition from administrators. Currently, 12 academic institutions host Graduate Student Unions. Penn students faced the same opposition when they voted for unionization last year.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a 1964 UChicago graduate, commented in a letter: “Having a union ends the arrangement where the employer makes all the decisions unilaterally, and institutes a legal process where your union organization collectively bargains with the employer regarding the issues you have identified as needing improvement. I respect the critical work you do every day, and wish you the very best in your efforts to create a democratic workplace where your voice can really be heard.”

Electronic Media Services Division

An EMSD Perspective on the AFM Officer Training Program

Electronic Media Services Divisionby Patrick Varriale, Director AFM Electronic Media Services Division

I have had the privilege of participating in the AFM Convention mandated Officer Training Program, joining my AFM colleagues in bringing valuable information to local officers in an up close and personal way. These training programs take place prior to AFM regional conferences. So far, sessions have been held at the Eastern Conference in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; the Southern Conference in Orlando, Florida; and most recently the Canadian Conference in Hamilton, Ontario, where I gave a presentation with Contract Administrator Dan Calabrese, the electronic media representative for Canada.

My role in the training is to help “demystify” electronic media. There are so many facets and possibilities in this day and age. I advise local officers about the many tools available to them to help make AFM projects a reality. 

My presentation starts with an overview of the national agreements administered by the Electronic Media Services Division—the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA), Commercial Announcements Agreement, Motion Picture and Television Film Agreement, Television Videotape Agreement, and more. My intent is to bring clarity and relevance of those agreements to the local. As an example, the SRLA and Motion Picture and Television Film Agreement have low budget options available that can make lower volume recording projects possible. The Commercial Announcements Agreement has regional and local provisions that provide flexibility for producers of those types of commercials.

I then review the many other agreements available to capture AFM work—Local Limited Pressings, which now contains a visual component for concert DVDs; Demonstration Recordings, which also contains a visual component; Local Made and Played Commercial Announcements for local stores, restaurants, etc.; Local Broadcast Media; Limited Videocassette Release; Visual Archival Recording; Single Song Overdub; and Joint Venture, to name a few.

The Joint Venture Agreement is one of the more popular items. It enables a self-contained band to record itself and make the recordings available. Under this agreement, the only AFM-related requirement is the filing of a form with the local where the recording takes place to document the session. The understanding is that the musicians share equally in proceeds from the sales of the recording. It offers protection for future uses of the recording that were not contemplated by the Joint Venture Agreement.

Throughout the training, I stress the importance of ensuring that the company engaging the services of the musicians is a current signatory to the appropriate agreement for the work that is being performed and that the B (session) Report Form and music preparation invoices reflecting the activity of the musicians are properly completed and filed with the AFM local where the recording activity takes place. When a B-4 Report Form is filed for work under the SRLA, the musicians who performed services on that session automatically qualify for payments from the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SPF) and for potential new use of the recordings in motion pictures, television films, commercial announcements, or other media.

To help ensure that the B-4 Forms are properly filed, we provide recorded product CD jackets from the recorded product to locals. Signatory companies are required to provide the jackets to the AFM. The liner notes contain recording information such as where the sessions took place and the names of the musicians. The locals can check to see if they have the B-4 Forms and if those forms are consistent with the liner notes. If the local has no B-4 Forms for a project, local officers have the opportunity to make the proper inquiries and secure the forms.

Participating in these training programs gives me the opportunity to catch up with local officers, some of whom I have known for many years through interaction at conventions, conferences, and discussions of electronic media projects over the telephone.

I applaud local officers who have participated in this program. In addition to the above, there are many anomalies in the world of electronic media. I am more than glad to work with local officers in all aspects to demystify the many intricacies of the EMSD.

LA’s Top Musicians

LA’s Top Musicians Organize Gatherings to Build a Stronger Union

by Marc Sazer, Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President and Member of Locals 47 and 802

Our AFM is in the middle of the first of two negotiations with Hollywood producers, working on the Live TV/Videotape Agreement with the TV networks and preparing for film/TV negotiations with the Hollywood studios. A key focus on both fronts is in the area—I should say areas—of new media. This covers everything from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu to YouTube, CBS All Access, HBO Now, and HBO Go. It includes programs originally made for these platforms as well as shows brought to them from movie theaters and other media. These various streaming platforms represent the future, both economically and artistically. Paying close attention to the patterns of bargaining of our sister unions in the industry, we expect significant improvements in our coverage in these areas.

In an effort to reach out to our whole film/TV community, we have embarked on a series of intimate meetings where musicians open their homes for a collegial evening of food, drink, and PowerPoint. Our meetings are open to all AFM members and focus on two topics: tax credits and negotiations. Our goals are to motivate, educate, and learn from our colleagues. We’ve learned some important lessons.

We now have a strong sense of the need to understand how collective bargaining works—the nuts and bolts of negotiations. We’ve also found that many musicians are deeply interested in data and information about their own business. And, we’ve learned that, in an era of ongoing attacks on unions, “right to work” laws are frequently misunderstood.

Right to work means that musicians can work and enjoy all the benefits of a good contract—wages, job protections, pension, health care, administration of the contract, and upholding of the contract—without contributing a penny of dues to support the union’s resource-intensive work. The goal is to economically strangle unions, attacking their ability to work for members. Musicians know that we need our contracts. Our contracts can’t survive with a weakened union.

A key issue that our meetings address is: what makes us stronger or weaker in contract negotiations? We are dealing with multi-billion dollar multinational corporations; how do we walk in the room with a stronger presence? We are strengthened in our position across the table as we pursue tax credit legislative relief that would benefit both sides of the table. Also, we are empowered by close relationships with our sister unions, made visible by reciprocal observers at their negotiations and ours. Most importantly, good communication among us musicians is critical for a clear and unified negotiating stance. And yet, our musicians are clear about the flip side. Dark dates, musicians not being full members of our union, and internal strife weaken us at the bargaining table. We have to acknowledge both our strengths and our weaknesses.

In Los Angeles, the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) is working with Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) to amend the current California film and TV tax incentive program to specifically support music scoring jobs. It is unfair that scoring jobs run away to London and other overseas locations. It is also unfair that actors, writers, grips, electricians, directors, drivers, and others are at full employment, as a result of the California incentives, but musicians are left out in the cold.

This campaign for legislative relief has been broadly successful in helping LA area musicians pull together and find common ground. But we are committed to success on behalf of all AFM members. In our last film/TV contract, we helped the AFM win a provision that directs 1.5% of the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (our residuals fund) as an unallocated contribution to our US pension fund. As a result, more music scoring will mean, not just new pension contributions for participants on the job, but a substantial raise in the unallocated Film Fund contribution that supports everybody’s pensions. Our deeply researched data shows that this will bring in thousands of jobs, millions of dollars in wages and benefits annually, as well as an outsized return on investment for the state in the form of tax revenues.

These home meetings are in many ways the most satisfying and uplifting of the RMA’s tasks as a player conference of the AFM. It’s a great feeling to sit around living rooms with some of the most incredible musicians on the planet, learning from each other, hearing people’s thoughts, and sharing our research and experience. We are a conglomeration of truly amazing artists and human beings!

Rally to Save the Arts in New York City

Members of Local 802 (New York City) joined other unions, including Actors Equity Association, for a Rally to Save the Arts in front of City Hall in New York City.


Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi was one of the speakers at the April Save the Arts Rally.


Hundreds of arts leaders, workers, and supporters turned out for a Rally to Save the Arts held April 3 in NewYork City.


Among the speakers at the New York City Rally to Save the Arts was Local 802
(New York City) member David Byrne, a founding member of the Talking Heads.

International Orchestra Conference

International Orchestra Conference Welcome to Montreal

AFM President Ray Hair addresses the 3rd International Federation of Musicians (FIM)International Orchestra Conference (IOC) in Oslo, Norway in 2014.

In May, Montreal will welcome the 4th International Orchestra Conference (IOC), hosted by the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) and co-organized by Québec Musicians’ Guild, AFM Local 406 (Montreal, PQ). The IOC 2017 will have a prestigious official ambassador: maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, recently named music director of the Metropolitan Opera, music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and artistic director and principal conductor of Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain.

Famous for its creativity and vibrant art scene, Montreal will be the first North American city to host the conference. Previously, the event was held in Berlin (2008), Amsterdam (2011), and Oslo (2014). In Oslo, 240 delegates from about 40 countries were reunited to network, debate, and discuss the major issues and unprecedented challenges faced by orchestras around the world in the 21st century.

For 2017, the programme of the conference will include the following topics: public value of orchestras, business models of orchestras; digital tools, and new approaches; responsibility and accountability: the role of musicians on orchestra boards; respective roles of trade unions and management regarding bullying and harassment; recorded broadcasts and the rights of musicians; and the role of trade unions in safeguarding the orchestra. At the end of the conference, the delegates will adopt a final declaration. A concert of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal at the Maison Symphonique, a beautiful concert hall inaugurated in 2011, is also part of the programme.

Home of NHL’s famous hockey team, the Canadiens, and Cirque du Soleil, Montreal is also the city where Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright, and Céline Dion grew up. The second most populous city in Canada, the bilingual and multicultural metropolis is the perfect mix between North American modernism and European heritage, brought by the French and the British, and reflected in its architecture and its unique “joie de vivre.”

The city, which celebrates its 375th anniversary in 2017, is well known for its friendly atmosphere, its lively nightlife, its delicious bagels, and its iconic Olympic stadium, among many other things. Montreal also has a rich music scene, with many classical ensembles and major symphony orchestras, the internationally acclaimed Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, conducted by Maestro Kent Nagano, and Orchestre Métropolitain, conducted by Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The conference will take place May 11-14 at the Delta Hotel located downtown. It is an opportunity not to be missed. For more information, please visit the website: www.ioc.fim-musicians.org.

Welcome to Montreal!

100th Convention is Open to All Members

Ever wonder what takes place at an AFM Convention? Ever wanted to watch your local delegates in action? This year, from June 20-23, AFM delegates will again gather in Las Vegas, Nevada, to determine the direction of the AFM for the next three years. While all locals send elected delegates, any AFM member may attend. The AFM is pleased to invite members and spouses who wish to do so to attend as guests. The convention headquarters—the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino—has extended its special low room rate to all AFM members during convention week.

If you choose to attend, you will be invited to the gala reception on Sunday evening, June 19, at the Westgate’s Ballroom that will feature the best in live music. There will be bands performing on Sunday afternoon in the convention area while the delegates and guests register for the convention. Visitors will be given badges that allow them access to the convention area, and entitle them to hear the floor debate on crucial issues facing the AFM today. They will also receive a souvenir 100th AFM Convention program and discount coupons for shows.

Visitors will have a chance to meet Federation officers as well as local officers from all around the US and Canada. They will also hear the Federation President’s State of the Union message and listen to the delegates debate the merits of many initiatives that will chart the AFM’s next three years. In addition, there will be plenty of opportunities to see the sights in and around Las Vegas. Day trips to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon are available, plus the many shows in and around the world-famous Vegas strip. So mark the dates on your calendar and prepare to watch democracy in action at the AFM Convention.

For your convenience, you may now book your hotel reservation online. Please visit the AFM website www.afm.org/convention and follow the link, which will connect you directly to the AFM Convention’s Westgate reservations page. You may also reserve your room by phoning the Westgate using their toll free number, 1-800-635-7711. If reserving by telephone, please provide the Westgate representative with the AFM’s convention code, SAFM6R

Fair Trade Music

Fair Trade Music and the Importance of Organizing Club Musician

Bruce Fife headshotby Bruce Fife, AFM International Vice-President and President of Local 99 (Portland, OR)

By the time you read this, the AFM Western Conference of Musicians will have taken place in Reno, Nevada. Local 76-493 (Seattle, WA) President Motter Snell is president of the conference this year, and has scheduled, as its centerpiece, a full day of discussions and training on organizing and Fair Trade Music.

As you should be aware from stories in the International Musician and elsewhere, Local 76-493 is well on its way to building a successful organizing campaign based on the foundation of Fair Trade Music, as created in Local 99 (Portland, OR). As with all successful campaigns, they were able to take our basic premise and continue to evolve and morph, moving it in directions that we never envisioned. I applaud the objectives and success they have achieved. It should be seen as a lesson and example for us all.

That said, one of the questions I still hear on a regular basis is: “Why are we working to organize these musicians, especially where there is no ability to create a collective bargaining agreement?” After all, they are not employees, but rather, independent contractors, and so, not subject to traditional labor law. I certainly understand why the question gets asked, but the simple answer is, it is a union’s job to represent the best interests of all workers in the workplace. And, one could argue that, had it not been for the court decision in the early ’80s, which determined that club musicians were independent contractors, we would still be organizing them just as we do orchestra, recording, and theater musicians. Just because we don’t have the same tools available to us, does not mean that we should not still do the work.

Let me highlight another reason for this to be a central campaign for the AFM. Clayton Christensen, author of the insightful book, Innovator’s Dilemma, focused on why big, successful companies fail or lose significant market share. The theory he presents is that often it was inferior products from small companies that caused the initial inroads to an industry that led to the eventual failure. Steel companies were not threatened by “mini mills” manufacturing rebar, as it was a low margin product, just as the auto industry was not initially threatened by that little Toyota Corona that first came into the country in the 1960s because Detroit built “real” cars. In both cases, because of this low level access, these “startups” got a foot in the door and were able to build up and out and eventually alter the course of each industry.

The same could be said of the music industry. The technology revolution allowed musicians to enter the game at a very low cost. Home recording became affordable, as well as promotion, marketing, manufacturing, and distribution. It has challenged the major/minor label system. We are a part of that system, because we negotiate with labels on behalf of the musician employees, so it affects us as well. One could argue that, just as in the steel and auto industry, when the first transitions were taking place, the quality was also not as good. CDs, the standard, sounded better than MP3s, and a full-blown studio certainly had better finished audio quality than a home studio. But, people didn’t seem to care. Independence and do-it-yourself was more important than the quality. As time has moved on, those quality differences narrowed and home studios and MP3s have become commonplace or the de facto standard.

So what does this have to do with Fair Trade Music and organizing? Even if the business operates differently than it once did, we have to constantly analyze the marketplace and adapt to the realities that exist. We also have to make sure that, while we are reacting and adapting to the changes, we are working to maintain the standards (wages) that we have negotiated for over the years. That’s no easy feat.

Even with all the innovation and opportunities created, we are looking at a group of musicians that has never had to work harder to survive in this industry. The rules seem to change every time we turn around. That is why the very foundation of Fair Trade Music, as with all organizing, is to meet with the musicians, listen to their stories and challenges—the areas of the business that are not working for them. Then, as AFM President Ray Hair loves to say, “identify, articulate, and prioritize the issues and develop plans of action” that can move us forward. It starts on the ground with these ever more marginalized musicians because, even though the focus of Fair Trade Music is live club dates, these are the same people that can just as easily be, and are, marginalized with their recorded product.

We are not obligated to be subject to the precedent described in Clayton’s book. Others have successfully avoided the pitfalls. To do so, we need to not be held hostage by “the way it’s always been.” At every level, from the locals, to our Federation and player conferences, to the Federation itself, we need to be open to analyzing and evolving our approach to work with all types of musicians, at every step of their careers. That is how we will rebuild and become a more powerful representative body, a more powerful union!

The Best Defense Against “Right to Work”

The Best Defense Against “Right to Work”: Organize!

Todd Jelen, Negotiator, Organizer & Educator, AFM Symphonic Services Divisionby Todd Jelen, Negotiator, Organizer & Educator, AFM Symphonic Services Division

It has been my privilege to visit orchestras around the country to discuss so-called “right to work” legislation. This simple slogan does not explain the resulting destruction to the middle class and working people in states where “right to work” laws are enacted. When a state passes a “right to work” law, there is an immediate decrease in the average wage. This translates to about $6,000 less per year than the wages in free bargaining states. “Right to work” states also consistently report lower household incomes, less employer sponsored health insurance coverage, and weaker unemployment benefits, than states without “right to work” laws.

In addition to taking money out of our pockets, “right to work” laws undermine democracy in our workplaces. When we decide to form or join a union, we vote. To choose our representatives, we vote. For all of the union’s business, we vote. “Right to work” laws seek to weaken our collective will by purposely providing loopholes in the membership requirements that workers have negotiated with their employers—agreements that the Supreme Court has upheld in free bargaining states. Proponents of “right to work” legislation often cite contractual freedom as a reason to pass these laws, but this is ironic considering that they are actually stifling workers’ freedom to make agreements with their employers.

Without a union contract our workplace rights are at the whim of our employers, whereas we can personally oversee the maintenance and enforcement of our agreements, if we are unionized. Employers know this, and that is one of the reasons behind the current wave of “right to work” legislation. By dividing us into different categories, employers are attempting to weaken our will and effectiveness as organized workers. We must realize that there is nothing that says we have to opt out of union membership. We can and should refuse to be divided by these laws! If we see past the laws in our states and learn about the Federal protections offered to us, we realize that we have a larger toolbox than we thought we had. Too often, orchestras don’t embrace the tools they already have to manage their own contracts.

“Right to work” does not have to mean the destruction of our workplace rights, if we work to ensure that we are organized. You may be thinking, “this won’t work in my city or state,” but I assure you that it will. I have found models for organization that exist in places considered unfriendly to labor. As a result, these locals enjoy more activity, visibility, and greater membership density. Together we have been able to begin to change the culture and perception of the local towards greater respect and congeniality. If you would like to learn how you can organize your orchestra and make your local more relevant in the eyes of your musicians and management, please contact me. Together, we can turn the tide of “right to work” laws toward a brighter future for orchestra musicians!

Worker Summit Set for October in Toronto

The Industrial Workers of the World’s Toronto General Membership Branch will host the Working For Each Other, Working For Ourselves: A Revolutionary Worker-Organizer Summit, October 3-4. The event will gather grassroots workplace organizers from around North America. The event is open to the public, but anyone interested in attending must register by September 7. For more information and to register visit: