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 25, 2015IM -
by Christopher Durham, Chief Field Negotiator, AFM Symphonic Services Division
Employees who work under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) are represented by a labor union that was authorized by the first employees who worked under the original agreement. When the union was established, the membership elected officers to handle the negotiation, enforcement, and administration of the agreement. Other union responsibilities and procedures are prescribed by either law or internal bylaw. The musicians who perform in orchestras elect orchestra committees and ancillary committees to assist the union in the negotiation, enforcement, and administration of the agreement.
This structure, while common in our union, is somewhat unique to the labor movement. Over time, symphonic bargaining units have assumed, through their various committees, a prominent role in the day-to-day governance of the agreements. A consequence of this expanded role should not be to disregard, ignore, or place the union in a subordinate role. The union, as the certified bargaining agent, has the legal responsibility to oversee the performance of the agreement as well as the liability for the action of its agents. It’s important to have an effective working relationship between a rank-and-file committee and the union in order to provide strength through communication and unity. The union is the pivot for members who may not work in the bargaining unit. It has important relationships in the greater community that, when properly networked, can make the difference by providing outside influence during times of hard bargaining.
Orchestra committees who seek the authority to administer the agreement must also acknowledge the responsibility and liability for decisions made under their watch. There is no hiding, denying, or abstaining from the same duty of fair representation that is expected from the union. Symphony orchestra committees are not your fathers’ civic or fraternal organizations, where you serve your time or complete your project and all is well. Representing the business interests of your colleagues and their families is a huge responsibility.
In all matters relating to the agreement, the committee must measure when and what to report to the membership. It is responsible for handling day-to-day business, including variances, and processing and investigating grievances in a timely and thorough manner. Committees must also bring experience to the bargaining table. They are responsible, by their recommendation, for directing the unit to accept or reject tentative agreements or final offers. Committee members don’t have the luxury to pick and choose the grievances that they want to handle nor to limit themselves to decisions that won’t cause confrontation. Conversely, the rank and file is well-advised to listen to the debate respectfully and to not attack a committee they have elected when it is serving in their best interest.