Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.
As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.
The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.
Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.
August 31, 2015IM -
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!