The AFM convention gave us a new president
and new responsibilities: Local 802 is once again
represented on the International Executive Board
It was quite a trip. As I write this, the Local 802 delegation has just returned from the 98th convention of the AFM in Las Vegas. A great deal happened there.
First, Ray Hair, president of the Dallas/Fort Worth local, defeated incumbent Tom Lee for president of the AFM by a vote of 408 to 324.
Ray is a man of integrity and a champion of the rank and file. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated musician who understands and defends the tenets of union democracy to guide the Federation in the coming years.
This was my first AFM convention and I am honored and grateful to report that I was elected to the International Executive Board. I view this as a huge opportunity to work to strengthen the Federation and to represent Local 802 members and all AFM musicians, especially with respect to national issues such as our pension fund and electronic media.
We also have a new International Vice President. Bruce Fife of Portland won the position by a vote of 469 to 249. Bruce is an expert organizer and will bring many creative ideas to the table in addressing the many problems we face in getting more work on the card and recruiting new members.
Sam Folio, the incumbent candidate for secretary-treasurer (and a Local 802 member), was re-elected and I welcome him back and look forward to working with him and the other officers to deal with the financial hurdles we face going forward.
The rest of our newly-elected IEB includes Vince Trombetta (L.A.), Dave Pomeroy (Nashville), Tina Morrison (Spokane) and incumbent Joe Parente (Philadelphia).
I am thrilled to be part of this group of highly talented and insightful musicians, a true brain trust of creative and dedicated officers.
Bill Skolnik (Toronto) was also re-elected as Canadian vice president. Only delegates from Canada may cast ballots for this position, although the Canadian delegation is empowered to vote in all categories of the Federation. Given that the actions of the AFM vice president from Canada affect all members of the Federation in this global economy, perhaps the time has come to take a hard look at what could well be an inequity in AFM voting eligibility.
All the recommendations and resolutions brought to the convention were dealt with, but I would like to share with you the outcomes of the ones I mentioned in my last report.
DUES INCREASE FAILS
Delegates voted down the original dues raise recommendation. A compromise recommendation also failed. The economic state of locals across the country made passage of any per capita increase impossible. The delegation finally adopted a contingency plan that will give the newly-elected leadership a chance to look at the current financial state of the AFM and the authority to do what it takes to get the Federation back in the black.
Also, the tax on special payments to recording musicians was eliminated and the AFM International Executive Board was empowered to propose a new fee. This fee would affect only recording musicians and would go into effect only if recording musicians vote to approve it. It was agreed that any Federation dues for recording musicians be subject to a secret ballot vote by the members to which they apply. Like membership dues, or symphonic dues to ICSOM or ROPA, this new fee would be a flat, fixed amount. It is intended to help pay for “turnkey” or baseline expenses of the AFM.
The resolution to remove the 50-vote cap when AFM officers are elected was withdrawn by the maker, as was the resolution to require roll call votes for all business of the convention. I believe this was done in response to the opposition voiced by some of the smaller locals based on their belief that it would give an unfair advantage to large locals.
Speaking as the president of the largest local in the Federation, this was not the issue to battle over at this convention. It is and will remain my belief that no matter the size of the local, we all deal with the same issues and have the same obligation to the musicians of our union. For me, the real battle lay with addressing the changes in our industry and the leadership needed to deal with those changes effectively.
The recommendation to lower rank-and-file representation on the pension fund’s board of trustees was withdrawn by the IEB. Not having been appointed to any of the committees, I can only conjecture that the objections dealing with this issue when presented to the Law Committee were so compelling that the IEB itself recognized the deficiency.
Other recommendations withdrawn by the IEB were the $10,000 unreportable expense account for the top three officers and the recommendation to eliminate the position of secretary treasurer. I believe the IEB recognized that the Federation was in no position financially to accommodate such increased expense account costs. There was also concern among the delegates that now would not be a good time to eliminate an executive position when we have so much work to do to get the union back on track financially.
There was a resolution on the table to save the Music Performance Fund by redirecting money coming in to the AFM from the processing of visa applications from foreign musicians approved to work in the United States. This was a creative solution that we supported. Many of our members across the country need the MPF. Quite simply, it pays for gigs and helps promote live music. The MPF is facing bankruptcy because it is supported only by CD sales and not by digital downloads of recorded product. Once again, the delegates were faced with a financial dilemma: save the MPF – or allow the Federation to use that money for services to the members of our union. It was a difficult decision but in the end the resolution was defeated.
Fortunately, a recommendation was passed dictating that the Federation commit its full and unconditional support for the Music Performance Fund and directing the International Executive Board to seek to negotiate provisions in all electronic media agreements that would improve the financial well being of the Fund.
STEVE STEPS UP
Musicians who work in the various areas of the recording field know that these industries are complex and rapidly changing. Serious leadership is required, and I’m happy to report that Local 802 has appointed Steve Danenberg to be the supervisor of our newly-named Department of Electronic Media Services. Because of his expertise in music preparation and his dedication to those musicians who work in that field, Steve will continue to administer the Music Preparation Department as he takes on his added duties.
Steve is uniquely qualified for both jobs. He began his career as a trombonist and, along the way, he earned a degree in music education from NYU.
Steve worked in the show bands at many of the big Catskill Hotels and cruise ships, as well as on many record dates in the fields of jazz, jingles and educational recordings.
His career in music preparation took off when many of the nightclub acts he played for asked him to copy and arrange some charts for them.
In 1983, after many years as a copyist, he became one of the owners of Wedo’s Music, along with Local 802 members Mark Suozzo, Mark Patterson and Ted Allen.
Steve worked with many well-known film composers – such as Elmer Bernstein, John Barry, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mark Suozzo and David Campbell – in various capacities from music copying to contracting soundtrack recordings.
One of his longest and most enjoyable associations was with Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops. Steve handled all their music prep work from the Pops’ inception for a period of nearly 20 years.
He contracted record dates for Celine Dion, Rosie O’Donnell and TLC, and he copied music for hundreds of commercials as well as many Broadway shows. We’re happy to have Steve with us.
Some members may wonder why we changed the name of the Recording Department to the Electronic Media Services Department. We updated the name to reflect that “recording” now includes all kinds of digital media, not just albums, jingles and motion picture soundtracks. Musicians are now recording for video games, Internet sites, cell phone ring tones and much more. Our department must reflect the future, not the past.
KUDOS TO ALLEGRO
At the last award ceremony of the Metro New York Labor Communications Council, I was happy to be present to witness our own Allegro winning first place for general excellence in the annual journalism awards contest. I am proud of our newspaper and thank all of the staff that make it a success.
PENSION FUND UPDATE
I am very happy to report to you that with new leadership comes real change. The next morning after the election results were announced, AFM President-Elect Ray Hair asked me to hold a position on the pension fund’s board of trustees. After months of neglect, Local 802 will once again be represented on the governing board of our pension fund.