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Home » Legislative Update » The AFM Directive that Brought Our Pension Efforts to Fruition

The AFM Directive that Brought Our Pension Efforts to Fruition


It was truly a remarkable moment in the history of this, our musicians’ union, when after four years of dedicated lobbying and political wrangling, AFM International President Ray Hair stood before the International Executive Board (IEB) and unequivocally pronounced to all senior staff and board members that it was time for “all hands on deck” when pension legislation came up in January 2021. If you were in that meeting when President Hair made that pronouncement, for sure, you immediately “clocked-in” to that singular, most important mission.

After years of frontline lobbying and more than 50 visits to the House and Senate, President Hair, members of the IEB including AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, Tino Gagliardi, Dave Pomeroy, Ed Malaga, Bruce Fife, and I, laid the foundation that kept musicians in this protracted game that eventually, years later, led to our members’ remarkable advocacy efforts resulting in final passage of HR 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This $1.9 trillion COVID-19 recovery reconciliation bill is the largest piece of legislation in the history of this nation and included long-fought-for multiemployer pension relief, among other labor essentials that our union musicians need and deserved.

Additionally, there are plenty of remarkable stories from our our union members, dedicated Player Conferences, the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), the Recording Musicians Association (RMA), the Regional Orchestra Players Associations (ROPA), and the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA), and their constituent members, local officers, and even our “stand up” TEMPO Signature members who took on President Hair’s directive and pushed “the big win” right over the goal line. This win can only be compared to the July 20, 2019 event when the AFM was invited to sit in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s box in the House chamber to experience first-hand the passage of the Butch Lewis Act! This was the first time in my experience on Capitol Hill that members of Congress stood and applauded organized labor.

The collage that follows here is a compendium of four years of concerted work in Washington, DC, Columbus, Ohio, and other locations AFM leadership traveled to help secure the future of AFM-EPF pensions. Each move brought us closer to our affiliate brothers and sisters at the AFL-CIO, the United Mine Workers, the Teamsters, the United Steelworkers, the bakers and confectioners, and a host of other labor unions that participated in the battle to preserve our pensions. We also thank the League of American Orchestras for their unique partnership in this effort.

The Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 is now the law of the land, becoming Public Law 117-2 on March 11, 2021.

March 28, 2017: Alfonso Pollard and IEB Member Ed Malaga attend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) pension briefing on Capitol Hill.

May 9, 2017: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) launches his pension legislation plan on Capitol Hill with senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

November 16, 2017: Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi roll out the original Butch Lewis Act with the Teamsters on Capitol Hill.
November 17, 2017: AFM International President Ray Hair went to Washington, DC to lobby the US Senate on the Butch Lewis Act.

May 10, 2018: AFM Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard and International President Ray Hair in the Hart Senate Office Building lobbying on behalf of AFM pension legislation. The pair made eight visits that day.

July 10, 2019: AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, Washington, DC and Baltimore local officers, and Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal posed for a photo before going to the House gallery—at Speaker Pelosi’s invitation—to watch the Butch Lewis Act pass the House.
July 10, 2019: AFM Members rally at the US Capitol Building in support of the Butch Lewis Act pension legislation, on the House Floor that day.

July 12, 2018: Alfonso Pollard with United Mine Workers of America President Cecile Roberts.
July 12, 2018: Alfonso Pollard and IEB member Dave Pomeroy with AFM Local 103 (Columbus, OH) President Douglas Fisher.
July 12, 2018: Pomeroy performs an original song written for the Teamsters, mine workers, and steel workers 13,000-strong pension rally in Columbus, Ohio.

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