As the largest local of the AFM, Local 802 played an important role at the AFM’s 2007 convention. On several issues, Local 802 was the most vocal advocate not only for our members, but also for musicians across the nation.
DEMOCRACY — OR NOT
“One member, one vote” seems a no-brainer for anyone serious about union democracy. Unfortunately, this remains an elusive goal for members of the AFM. Currently in the election of AFM leadership, each local is allocated one vote for every 100 members — but with a 50-vote cap! Therefore a local with 5,000 members gets 50 votes. A local such as ours with 9,000-plus members also gets 50 votes. More than 4,000 members of 802 are thereby disenfranchised. Our delegation argued strongly that this cap should be eliminated. We were not successful. The tragedy is that musicians in the centers of the music industry are not given an equal voice in the governance of their union. This distorts the AFM’s priorities and its ability to respond to the needs of its members. It’s a recipe for disaster that has to be changed.
FUTURE OF THE AFM
For the past decade Local 802 has been seeking a restructuring of the AFM to better service its members. The most logical plan would be a regional structure reflective of the entertainment industry within which we work. An effort at the last convention to move in that direction was not implemented by the current AFM leadership. Similarly, members at the last two AFM conventions asked that a serious examination be made of a possible merger with another union in order to increase bargaining power and organizing potential. That also went nowhere.
At this convention, delegates from 802 argued strongly for a Merger Committee that would be properly funded and empowered to seriously explore this issue. This committee would be required to meet on a regular basis and report to the IEB regarding its progress. A resolution was passed establishing the committee, but without funding. It remains to be seen if it will produce results.
WAR AND PEACE
Local 802 — with the support of delegates from across the country — succeeded in passing a sweeping resolution calling for an end to the disastrous war in Iraq. This ill-advised Bush administration adventure has killed or maimed thousands of our young people, wasted billions of our nation’s badly needed resources and destroyed our nation’s credibility around the world. The AFM Convention joined a chorus of unions, churches and civic organizations calling for its end.
NATIONAL HEALTH CARE
Local 802 introduced and argued strongly for a resolution making the AFM part of the growing movement for national health insurance. Members approved a resolution endorsing H.R. 676, which is a bill calling for a single payer solution to the health crisis. It’s been introduced by Rep John Conyers (D-MI).
Musicians across the United States remain a disproportionate percentage of the uninsured. Those who can afford coverage face sharply escalating costs. For musicians health care is a crisis that must be addressed at the national level. Local 802 was strongly supported at the convention by our Canadian brothers and sisters who vocally defended the Canadian health care system. Despite what some deride as “socialized medicine,” Canadian musicians said that they and all of their fellow citizens are provided with high quality health care at no cost to the individual. As one Canadian delegate put it, “You folks in the U.S. have to decide what you want, but I can tell you that our Canadian health care system works for us and we will fight to keep it”
The AFM is only the eighth international union to endorse H.R. 676.
The convention passed a resolution calling on Congress and all state legislatures, “to extend all societal benefits, as well as applicable contractual benefits of our own collective bargaining agreements, to all couples living in civil union/domestic partnerships — and thereby entitled to such benefits afforded all other couples…”
The resolution also called on the IEB to develop a broader policy and to initiate educational discussions amongst the membership of the AFM.
The resolution that was originally submitted caused considerable debate within the Good and Welfare Committee, and it was obvious the committee would not be able to recommend it unanimously — if at all. It was sure to be a divisive question on the convention floor.
802 delegate Jay Schaffner, a member of this committee, re-drafted the resolution, which then won full endorsement by the committee.
The committee then presented this re-written resolution to the convention floor unanimously, and it passed overwhelmingly.
The AFM thus joins many other international unions in urging equal protection for those living in either civil unions or domestic partnerships.
On behalf of our members, Local 802 introduced several resolutions suggesting ways in which the pension fund could be more open with members about its decision-making and investment policies and provide for a more user friendly interface with plan participants. In advance of the convention, the fund launched a Web site (www.afm-epf.org) that took steps in this direction. And while none of the proposed resolutions were passed despite our efforts, both fund trustees and staff who attended the convention expressed their commitment to a more open policy in dealing with member issues and questions.