Tag Archives: vote

2020 federal elections

The 2020 Federal Election: Prepare to Participate

Now that November 2019 state elections have occurred, AFM members should prepare to exercise their right to vote in upcoming 2020 national elections. The federal elections that will take place on November 3, 2020 will play a major role in determining the forward progress of the nation and, with major challenges to our pensions, our workplace security, important kitchen table/family issues, as well as the future direction of our industry, now is the time for each of us to weigh in with our vote.

It is also the time to prepare to participate. There are five major considerations for each of us to place on our crucial “to do” lists. By using the following tools, you can assure that you are firmly up to date and ready for the 2020 elections.

Register to Vote

Registering with the political party of your choice is the first priority. Registration is permanent in most states. States will require re-registration if you decide to change parties, change your address, change your name, or, in some instances, you marry.

You may gather official information on voter registration online at www. vote.gov. Here you can find out where to register by state. If you would prefer to register in person, you may do so at your state or county election office, your department of motor vehicles, armed forces recruitment centers, state and county public assistance offices, and some public libraries. Each state, except North Dakota, requires each voter to register. However, if you voted in the November 2019 state elections, you are considered officially registered.

Registration deadlines can be found by state at www.usa.gov/election-office. Likewise, early voting and absentee voting is permitted in most states. You can determine what your state allows and what the rules are for exercising such privileges at www.usa.gov/absentee-voting.

When to Vote

There are two official dates to cast your ballot in 2020. First, on presidential and congressional primary dates and, secondly, during the General Election on November 3, 2020. A list of primary dates by state can be found here: http://bit.ly/when2vote. Polling places will be assigned once you register.

Who Should You Vote For?

Voting is a guaranteed right afforded to you by the Constitution. Aside from your personal preferences for any given candidate, the AFM would never dictate for whom you should cast your ballot. However, when it comes to workplace issues, we often make strong recommendations based on the voting records of House and Senate incumbents.

The following issues passed in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate give musicians greater latitude as relates to earning and job security. Please see the boxes below for congressional votes, bill cosponsors, and special caucuses that have been important to us over the years. I have also included a list of House and Senate Arts Caucus members who have helped save the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) by championing our issues over the years, time and time again.

2020 federal election
midterm elections

Midterm Elections Are Upon Us: Are You Registered and Ready to Vote?

Midterm elections will take place across the country on Tuesday, November 6. Much is at stake in Washington, DC, for AFM professional musicians. Though many primaries have already taken place, more are still to come. As we review the legislative, judicial, and political issues that impact our jobs and our families’ lives, the question will always remain, who in Congress will step forward to look out for our interests? Through experience, we know who “on both sides of the aisle” has stood firm with us, leading us to understand how important it is to help keep these musical champions seated here in the nation’s capital. This is why your vote counts. Without our champions, should anti-union forces have their way, all that we have accomplished can be wiped out in an instant.

What Are the Issues? Why Should We Vote?

Over the years, AFM members fortunately have been able to celebrate some significant musical policy gains. It is equally as important to celebrate and thank our champions, as much as it is to identify those who do not see their way fit to support our movement. The following is a brief list of issues, some positive and negative results, as well as a list of our champions and those detractors who need to hear from us.

Legislative Issues

Music Modernization Act (HR 5447): This bill has three components 1) the Music Modernization Act creates a collective to distribute royalties to songwriters; 2) Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act (CLASSICS Act) provides a performance right royalty to artist/creators whose music was performed prior to 1972; 3) The AMP Act, which will provide royalties to producers and engineers and other technicians who participate in the production of music sound recordings. This bill sailed through the House of Representatives on a voice vote without the need for floor debate or amendments. As this issue went to print, the Senate had just passed the bill. Result—A positive outcome for working musicians. Write to thank members: https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/115th-House-Judiciary-Committee-Updated-9-10-18.pdf.

Support (Appropriations Funding) for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) (HR 6147): The NEA recently underwent threats from the White House about zeroing it out. Members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee have both reported increased funding levels ($155 million for the agency). At this writing, it is now in bicameral conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate bills. Though there may be a slight debate on the continued validity of this federal agency, it is believed that Congress will, in its usual infinite wisdom, approve agency funding. Result: Positive, members in bicameral conference. Write to thank members of the House and Senate Cultural Caucuses: https://www.americansforthearts.org/congress/house-and-senate-cultural-caucuses. (Site address courtesy of Americans for the Arts.)

The Supreme Court

Though the following are both judicial decisions, the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of the US rests in the hands the US President. Even more so, once the president informs Congress of his or her nominee, it is up the US Senate to hold confirmation hearings to approve or reject the candidate. Hence, votes from ultra-conservative members of the US Senate often lead to the placement of conservative judges that might support an anti-worker agenda.

Rebecca Friedrichs, et al. v. California Teachers Association: At issue was whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overruled, and whether public-sector union “agency shop” arrangements should be invalidated under the First Amendment. Also, whether public employee rights are violated under the First Amendment, requiring that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing what is referred to as nonchargeable speech by public sector unions under collective bargaining. The question remains, should public sector employees be required to consent affirmatively to subsidizing union political speech? The case centered on the California Teachers Association, which is an affiliate of the National Education Association. Result: Affirmed in a 4 to 4 split decision. A win for labor unions.

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31: The Supreme Court determined that states and public-sector unions may no longer collect agency fees from nonconsenting employees. The Court set aside, overruled Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, determining that it was “poorly reasoned.” It ruled that “fair share fees” paid by nonunion members violate a worker’s First Amendment rights, and cannot continue unless the employee consents to pay.
Result: Vote: 5 to 4 in favor of the plaintiff. A loss for labor unions.

These major judicial decisions, positively or negatively, shape the future of the union movement and the earning potential of our members. In each case, it is elected officials who make final determinations about who is assigned to the courts and who the winners and losers will be.


Now that you have the details of some of our active issues, it is vitally important that you let your legislators know your position. Never underestimate the power of your vote. Voting is both a civic responsibility and a privilege. When we disregard that privilege, we leave policy and leadership in the hands of those who may not see things our way.

Voter Registration

State registration requirements usually originate from the local or state election office. These offices can be found in a number of different locations including in city government, county government, and state voter election offices. Rules differ state to state, so be sure to contact these offices directly, especially if you require an absentee ballot or need to determine your polling place. Some states have ballot drop sites. This information is readily available at your local voting office. You may also be able to register to vote at state motor vehicle offices, Armed Forces recruitment stations, as well as at state and county public assistance offices.

USA.gov notes that citizens who are overseas and military voters (and eligible family members) living outside the US, can register to vote and/or request an absentee ballot through the Federal Voting Assistance Program. You can also register to vote in languages other than English with a National Mail Voter Registration Form, which you must print, complete, sign, and mail to the location listed for your state. The form is available in Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. In addition, voter guides include information on registering to vote and are available in Cherokee, Chinese, Dakota, Japanese, Korean, Navajo, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Yupik.

Avoiding Questionable Information Sources

A lot has been said about false media sources/postings and advertisements that mislead voters. For many, the Internet is a valuable source of information. However, use only trusted news and government sources that you are familiar with to get your questions answered. When in doubt, contact a reliable source. Also, report any suspicious notifications, and at all times, verify any news item that you question with a reliable news organization. The best sources for voter information remain state, national, and local election sites. Don’t be misled by notices that change voting dates, site locations, or give exceptions to certain groups of people about when and where to vote.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact AFM Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard by email at apollard@afm.org or telephone at 202-274-4756.

In Historic Victory, Los Angeles Times Votes to Unionize

On Friday, January 19, journalists at the Los Angeles Times voted overwhelmingly, 248-44 in favor of a union. It’s a milestone for the 136-year-old paper that historically has been under management hostile to unionization.

Through their membership in the News Guild-Communications Workers of America, LA Times reporters and staff members, all “at-will employees” without benefits, can now focus on negotiating job protections. There are few reporters who have not felt the “specter of layoffs,” says reporter Carolina Miranda. The LA Times, which employs about 500 newsroom employees—down from 1,200 at the turn of the millennium—has experienced multiple layoffs and buyouts, including a mass layoff of 250 people in 2008.

According to Dave Roeder, a consultant for the Chicago News Guild, “[The LA Times union drive] has prompted a lot of discussion among journalists here in Chicago who are not in the union. Is it a time to organize so we can better advocate for ourselves with ownership? In the difficult state of this business, you find old-line media that are in the hands of owners who may not have journalism as a core principle; they might just be interested in mining the company for assets, selling what they can, and leaving the rest. The case for being in a union in this field, in particular, is very clear right now.”

Hospital Ratifies First Union Contract

Nearly four years after the initial voting took place to join the Service Employees International Union (United Healthcare Workers West in 2014), more than 500 employees at Parkview Community Hospital Medical Center in Riverside, California, ratified their first contract.

The hospital initially contested the vote, but was forced to recognize the union in November 2016. Among the goals of the workers was to improve patient care by having a voice in decisions affecting them every day. The contract will also allow the hospital to attract and retain quality workers.

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.”

Minnesota Co-Op Votes to Unionize Despite Threats

The majority of Whole Foods Co-Op workers in Duluth, Minnesota, voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1189. “The organizing committee worked really hard even though management was working every day to make people afraid,” says Diana Tastad, the lead organizer. “I am so proud of them for sticking together, despite the fear tactics.”

Whole Foods Co-Op is the second Minnesota co-op to organize.

Right to Work (for Less) Amendment on Virginia Ballot

This November Virginians will vote on a proposed amendment that would put the provisions of the Virginia right to work (for less) law into state constitution. Passage of the amendment would make the right to work more permanent. While the General Assembly can change a law, a constitutional provision can only be changed by another constitutional amendment. The Virginia AFL-CIO says the proposed amendment is unnecessary and would make the law almost impossible reverse, adding that the amendment “is designed by a handful of powerful corporate interests to silence the voices of working Virginians.”

Teamsters Vote to Strike

Teamster mechanics have overwhelmingly rejected United Airlines’ final offer. More than 93% of the 9,000 mechanics in the bargaining unit who voted, were against the company’s “substandard” proposition.

Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President, says, “At a time when United Airlines is incredibly profitable, it is clear that mechanics deserve a better offer from the company. United is profitable because of the dedication, passion and professionalism of their workers and the carrier needs to reflect those characteristics in their negotiating position.”

Brazilian Court Makes McDonald’s Accountable

McDonald’s workers, labor leaders, and elected officials from five continents testified before a Brazilian Senate committee last week. The hearing comes as the fight for $15 per hour grows internationally. The workers, including one from Chicago, spoke about the companies labor practices.

Brazilian Senator Paulo Paim, who spearheaded the Senate hearing and chairs the Brazilian Senate’s Human Rights and Participative Legislation Committee said in a statement: “McDonald’s is one of the most recognized brands around the world, and this hearing makes clear that its corrosive business model spans the globe as well. Brazil can be the country that leads the way in holding this company accountable. Let this hearing mark a moment where governments around the world join together to demand that global companies like McDonald’s do better by workers and the public as a whole.”