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Home » Officer Columns » Unity Conference Offers Valuable Union Insights to Attendees

Unity Conference Offers Valuable Union Insights to Attendees

  -  AFM Vice President from Canada

The annual Canadian Conference, which took place in Windsor, Ontario, August 7-9, was special this year as it was a Unity Conference, held in conjunction with the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM). The two conferences normally have significantly different agendas. While the attendees to each come from different backgrounds and have completely different roles, they are all connected by one common denominator— membership in the AFM.

Meeting new people and building relationships is so very important in music, yet much of that personal contact has given way to social media contact. While the Internet is tremendously valuable, it cannot take the place of one-on-one conversations. This was an opportunity to get back to basics, learn each other’s role in the industry, take advantage of the networking possibilities, and learn from diverse thinking in problem-solving exercises.

There were presentations from Local 145 (Vancouver, BC) and Local 406 (Montreal, PQ) to help the delegates better understand the current lack of film scoring in Vancouver and the unique circumstances involved in bargaining in the province of Quebec. Both spawned considerable after-hours dialogue, resulting in at least one resolution to form a committee to address the changing film scoring scene and review the existing scoring agreements. While a primary concern of the Vancouver local, Quebec also has a huge vested interest in the possibility of attracting scoring from Europe and other French-speaking areas. In addition, there are other francophone communities in Canada that are a market for this content.

While many topics were discussed, one of the most urgent was work at festival and trade show events where, while live music is often centric, musicians are largely unpaid, yet recorded and broadcast on cable or Internet. Another was the status of freelance players who are not covered by collective agreements. While they represent the largest sector of the membership, they are also the most vulnerable to exploitation, unpaid gigs, and unauthorized recording, and therefore deserving of far more AFM attention and specific services. That said, our freelance musicians and self-contained bands are the most difficult to organize, since the concept of Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) or collective actions are foreign to them. For the most part, they find their own shows, market to their specific fan base, produce and distribute their own recordings, and seldom give a thought to utilizing AFM contracts for any of it.

An area of particular concern to the OCSM delegates was the erosion of CBC remotes. In previous years, each orchestra looked forward to at least a half-dozen broadcasts, which would both significantly increase the revenue on the gig, and generate interest in classical music among listeners. With the government’s slashing of funding and subsequent budget cuts, the CBC is left airing existing commercial recordings. The OCSM Media Committee, along with representatives from the CFM, is looking at creative options.

One of the highlights of the conference was the address by AFM President Ray Hair. An information-packed PowerPoint show began with the formation of the AFM, its roots, opponents, and raison d’être. While touching on the evolution of the Federation, it outlined the current agreements in place with employers—both US and Canada—and progress that has been achieved in the area of performance rights, regulations, and negotiations with other countries, ensuring proper compensation for commercial uses of North American music. Hair continued, describing attempts at union-busting (unfortunately, much from within), as well as the solidarity necessary to overcome, adapt, and prevail. He further used the AFM’s controversy with the Musicians’ Rights Organization of Canada (MROC), in its initial stages, as an example of the benefits to members that could be accomplished with dialogue and patience.

Any Conference loaded with that much information, controversy, and constructive communication must be deemed a success, and the contributing factor, in no small part, was the careful planning and flawless execution by the officers and members of Local 566 (Windsor, ON). Special thanks to Secretary Lynne Wilson-Bradoc and President Chris Borshuk for their hard work, attention to detail, and of course, the presentation of some of the finest musicians in the Essex-Kent area.

It was also pleasing to note many musicians attending as visitors from the local, as well as local officers. Special thanks to Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi and Local 5 (Detroit, MI) President George Troia for attending and acting as resources for delegates. Members are always welcome and encouraged to attend these events to gain greater insight and see solidarity in action.

Pour la version francaise, cliquez ici.

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