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


Home » Officer Columns » Union Election Transitions

Union Election Transitions

  -  AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

In the December 2016 issue of the International Musician, I devoted my column in part to union election transitions. It seems like a good time to revisit the topic. We think of December as the month that brings the year to a close and January as a month that sets the stage for new beginnings. Many union elections take place in December, and from time to time, new union officers are elected to take the reins of their local. On occasion, the election can be preceded by contentious campaigns that leave the outgoing officers feeling unappreciated.

If labor unions are truly democratic, change is inevitable. Though change can be difficult and can often be a hard pill to swallow for incumbents who are not re-elected, evolution can be healthy, if those newly elected understand and respect the hard work done by those who came before them. Let me assure outgoing officers, your time in office is greatly appreciated. You’ve spent evenings attending meetings, building community relationships, and visiting with bargaining unit members; weekends traveling to conferences; and seemingly endless negotiations accompanied by sleepless nights worrying about a bargaining unit that is about to or has actually gone out on strike. These are but a few of the responsibilities, and at times stressful moments, a union leader takes on when becoming an elected official. There truly are no words to thank you for the time, dedication, and devotion you have so generously given to the AFM.

What some officers forget is that it is not about any particular individual or administration. What it is about is maintaining the health and wellbeing of the local and its members. Creating a smooth transition benefits the members and should be our highest priority. We have all worked so hard to create a democratic union. If we truly believe in our mantra, “You are the Union,” then casting ballots at election time is the collective voice of the membership.

We should focus our energy on attacks from outside our union. Infighting weakens us and provides an ideal entry point for management to exploit and supplant our interests with their own. You can be sure those who wish to dominate our workplaces are waiting for these opportunities.

Another important responsibility of all union officers is to make sure we have trained members in place to step up in union leadership roles. Some officers are reluctant to do this. They believe training someone is tantamount to setting the stage for their own defeat. If your main goal is re-election, term after term, then you are ignoring your responsibility to the local to develop capable future leadership. Believe me, the members will decide when your time is up, whether or not you’ve met your responsibility to support succession. It’s not about what’s good for us as officers, but rather what’s good for the membership.

I know only too well that someday I will need to take my own advice. When that day comes, I know it won’t be easy, but focusing on the accomplishments achieved during one’s term(s) in office and passing the torch is much healthier than focusing on the hurt. 

And for those who challenge incumbents, but are unsuccessful, we need you to stay involved. If you cared enough to run for office, your caring shouldn’t stop because you didn’t get elected. The more membership involvement we have, the stronger we are as a union.

The AFM has been around since 1896. There have been many local and Federation elections. Some administrations are better than others, but whatever the case, we will carry on and thrive as long as there are those who care and are willing to do their part to help keep our union healthy, relevant, and strong.

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