Bylaw resolution would put judgement back in the hands of members
Sometimes big changes come in small packages. In the last issue of Allegro, a bylaw resolution was printed that will be considered at our June 16 membership meeting.
The resolution was written in the typical legal language that is customary for these kinds of proposals, and it’s quite possible that readers skipped over it without giving it another thought.
This resolution is actually quite important, however, and I’d like to discuss it further here. If you missed it, it’s posted on our website.
(See “Two bylaw proposals submitted for June 16 membership meeting”.)
The resolution deals with the situation of what happens when officers are brought up on charges. (As usual, “officers” refers to the president, recording vice president, financial vice president, all members of the Executive Board and all members of the Trial Board.)
There are several components to the resolution. I’m going to discuss the highlights below, but I urge you to read the resolution itself, which should be considered the authoritative document.
The resolution would provide that officers who are brought up on charges be tried by an elected committee of Local 802 members.
This was the standard procedure in Local 802 for generations until the previous administration discovered an unpublished “lost bylaw” that requires such hearings to be heard by an outside arbitrator.
Even if the terms and implementation of this “lost bylaw” were actually legal, I believe the approach is wrongheaded.
Officers need to be answerable to their members, not to a third party. The resolution’s approach is common sense and it would restore the autonomy of Local 802 members in handling their own affairs.
Rather than challenge the legal murkiness of the “lost bylaw” and its suppression, discovery, implementation and exorbitant cost to the local, I believe the most direct approach is to adopt a new bylaw that essentially restores the long-standing procedure.
Another provision in the resolution would make it clear that neither the Executive Board nor the Trial Board can dismiss or conduct a “procedural review” of charges against officers.
As you may recall, such an action was the reason that officers in the previous administration were brought up on charges in the first place.
That case had many layers, but the main sticking point was that the Executive Board conducted a procedural review of charges against officers and then dismissed the charges. This appeared to have violated the long-standing Local 802 bylaw prohibiting either the Trial Board or the Executive Board from hearing charges against officers.
There’s one more thing I’d like to note. The current language in our bylaws states that officers can be brought up on charges only for “gross intentional” dereliction of duty. That phrase seems to preclude consideration of charges against officers even before a case has been heard as long as “intent” is not established. This phrase has been deleted under the proposed resolution. This will leave the question of intention to the hearing process where it can be explored properly.
The Executive Board is in favor of this resolution and so am I. It is simply good for the union, good for the officers and good for the members. I urge you to come to the meeting and vote for it on June 16. The official notice of this meeting is on the back cover of this issue.
TV MUSICIANS MEET
Recently, I invited Dennis Dreith to meet with our recording department and with New York City musicians working in live television.
Dennis is the administrator of the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, which, among other things, pays musicians when movies are sold as DVD’s. (For those members not in the recording field, that’s what’s known as a “secondary market.”) The fund also pays musicians for secondary markets covered by the Live Television/Videotape Agreement.
Not only did Dennis accept my invitation, he also brought with him two guests: Shari Hoffman from Los Angeles and Susannah Juni from New York.
Shari is the fund’s new manager of the Live Television /Videotape Supplemental Markets Fund, and Susannah is the fund’s auditor.
The meeting, held on April 16 at Local 802, provided a rare opportunity to meet with Dennis and his staff to discuss issues and concerns directly affecting our members.
In addition, those in attendance were able to hear, first-hand, about new collection and enforcement procedures – including prospective audits of those distributing Television/Videotape productions in supplemental markets.
My hope is that this was just the first in a comprehensive series of meetings among musicians, Local 802 personnel, and those administering our agreements to find new and creative ways to improve compliance with our agreements and increase revenue to those working under them.
I want to thank Dennis, Shari and Susannah for making themselves so available to Local 802 musicians and staff.
MORE ON PENSION
The last issue of Allegro contained detailed reports on the AFM Pension Fund’s recent problems. Members who wish to review these articles online can do so here.
These articles have been extremely well received and have been picked up by many AFM locals around the country as well as by various blogs and Web sites.
In fact, we almost “sold out” that issue of Allegro – nearly all of the copies were picked up from the building by members and visitors. This is one of the first times this has ever happened.
Since those articles were published, I have received many e-mails from members, with comments and questions.
Most questions were in regard to the elimination of subsidized early retirement benefits for pre-2004 contributions.
This drastically reduced benefits for those taking early retirement (pre-age 65) pensions based on contributions received before 2004.
Notice of the reduction was given five days after they were put into effect and most members feel that it was unfair to make such a change without giving musicians a chance to adjust their plans in accordance with the new policy.
The trustees’ action in announcing the reduced benefit rates after the reductions had gone into effect was apparently based on concerns that, if participants were notified in time to act on the information, there might be a “run” on the fund which could further undermine the fund’s financial status.
Whether or not this was a significant danger, this tactic has apparently somewhat undermined member confidence in the fund’s policies.
At an April 7 meeting here at Local 802, pension fund representatives explained that the adjustment was made because the subsidized early retirement benefit was actuarially more valuable (and more costly) than the age 65 benefit and that the trustees decided that, with only a finite number of dollars to allocate to pension benefits, it was in the best interests of all participants to use those dollars to protect the fund’s viability for all participants, including those whose early retirement benefits are not subsidized.
Other questions and comments concerned the general health of the fund and the possibility of insolvency.
It is important to realize that the fund is not facing insolvency and that these very changes were made to protect the fund and to assure that it continues to be able to function and pay out for many years to come.
Indeed, on March 1, the fund announced this on its Web site:
“Entering critical status does not mean that a plan is insolvent or even close to insolvent. The Plan’s actuary projects that the Plan will not become insolvent over the next 40 years, which is the longest period over which the actuary has made projections. Accordingly, the Plan expects to be able to pay all benefits that become due over this 40-year projection period.”
Here is a link to the entire announcement.
As I mentioned above, on April 7, several representatives from the pension fund met with members here at Local 802. In attendance were:
- AFM President Tom Lee, co-chair of the fund
- Maureen Kilkelly, executive director of the fund
- Will Luebking, the fund’s director of finance
- Vinni LoPresti, the fund’s director of benefits
- Anne Mayerson, union-side co-counsel
- Rob Projansky, industry-side co-counsel
- Kevin Campe, fund actuary from Milliman.
I was very happy that these fund representatives were able to make time for us, but the meeting itself was both disturbing and reassuring.
The complicated nature of the changes and the rules governing the fund were difficult to explain and to digest and the information given provided only little comfort.
The most important aspect of the meeting was that the representatives were there to offer as much information as possible so we could better understand the situation in which we find ourselves.
Finally, I can report that, as of yet, I have not been appointed to the pension fund as a trustee.
We are continuing to follow this situation closely. I promise to keep you informed.
LABOR HISTORY MONTH
May is Labor History Month, chosen to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in May 1886. There, Chicago police fired on workers during a general strike for the eight-hour day.
Check out our feature spread by Local 802 member Sue Terry about the Works Progress Administration. The WPA was one of the bright examples of music in labor history and shows us how the government can use its influence to create opportunities for musicians.
Also, see John O’Connor’s column about his own experiences with music and labor history.
Finally, you can peruse a calendar of events for Labor History Month.
A COUPLE OF GOOD-BYES
Last month I had to write about the loss of my friend Rich Raffio, and I’m sorry to have to say that we lost another friend on April 1. Jan Rosenberg was the former advertising manager of Allegro and was also a long-time Broadway musician, conductor, theatre delegate and union activist. She was my colleague and friend and will be dearly missed. Her obituary is printed in this issue.
I must also report that longtime Recording Department supervisor and former Executive Board member Jay Schaffner has resigned from Local 802, effective March 31, and will take his pension after 19 years of service to this union. We wish him good health in his retirement