AFM May Collect Dues on ‘Promulgated’ Contracts

Volume CIX, No. 7/8July, 2009

A federal judge recently ruled that it’s proper for the AFM to collect work dues on promulgated agreements.

So what is a “promulgated” agreement? It’s an agreement that doesn’t involve face-to-face bargaining with either an individual employer or a group of employers.

Clear as mud? Here’s an example at the local level.

Every three years, Local 802 negotiates with each of the so-called freelance classical orchestras. (There are ten of them: the New York Pops, American Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Bronx Arts, Riverside Symphony, Little Orchestra Society, Long Island Philharmonic, Opera Orchestra of New York, Queens Symphony and Brooklyn Philharmonic.)

Once we’ve settled the negotiations, we create our freelance classical scale sheet. At that point, our freelance scale is considered “promulgated” or put into effect.

Then, when a new orchestra wants to sign a union agreement with Local 802, we don’t necessarily conduct face-to-face negotiations with the new orchestra. Instead, we produce our freelance scale and ask the new orchestra to sign it.

The same thing happens in the club date or wedding field. We first conduct real, face-to-face negotiations with club date employers.

But once we’re finished, we write up the master club date scale. We promulgate the scale, or publicly declare it. If a new club date office approaches us, we don’t necessarily enter into one-on-one negotiations. Instead, we produce our club date scales.

Local 802 and nearly every other AFM local in the country promulgate limited pressing recording agreements and demonstration recording agreements in their respective jurisdictions.

National recording agreements which have been promulgated by the AFM include basic cable television, industrial films, syndicated radio, television station I.D.’s, videogame music and others.


Almost two years ago, three recording musicians from Los Angeles – supported by an organization called “FarePlay” – sued the AFM. They claimed that the union does not have the right to collect work dues on promulgated agreements, since technically the union didn’t negotiate them with employers and musicians didn’t vote on them.

The AFM argued that when an employer says yes to a promulgated agreement, that is a negotiation, even if it’s a short one. The union further argued that such an interpretation is consistent with its own bylaws.

On May 21, U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow ruled in favor of the AFM.

The particular legal point that won the day came down to whether or not a court should interfere with a union’s interpretation of its own bylaws. Judge Morrow found that “courts have long recognized that ‘there is a well-established federal policy of avoiding unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of unions.’”

This is the federal standard that is applied to all unions in our country by the court system.

Therefore, the judge ruled that the AFM may continue to collect work dues on promulgated agreements, since such practice is within the scope of the AFM’s bylaws. Judge Morrow also ruled that it was reasonable for the union to do so, since collecting work dues is essential for the operation of the union.

The full opinion is posted at and