President’s Report

Hear Our Voice: The AFM Convention

Volume CX, No. 6June, 2010

Tino Gagliardi

We’re heading off to the AFM Convention, which has a lot on its agenda.
First item: we say no to a proposed dues increase.
See full list of AFM resolutions and recommendations here.

An important event is on the horizon: the AFM convention. Every three years, the president of the AFM and members of the International Executive Board are elected, and various resolutions are considered that can have a big impact on both the AFM and on Local 802.

This year’s convention will be held June 21 to 24 in Las Vegas. For those members unfamiliar with how the convention works, you may be interested to know that you – the members of Local 802 – don’t have a direct vote in what goes on. Instead, last fall, you elected delegates who will represent you at the convention: Bud Burridge, Eugene Moye*, Gail Kruvand, Tom Olcott and Andy Schwartz. By virtue of my presidency, I too am a delegate.

(*Bettina Covo, who was elected to be an alternate delegate, will be attending the convention in place of Eugene Moye.)

You may also not know that when it comes to electing officers, the AFM convention is not a “one person, one vote” process. That is, although Local 802 has about 8,500 members, we don’t get 8,500 votes. Instead, each local gets one vote for each 100 members – but there is a cap of 50 votes.

The upshot of this is that the larger locals have a disproportionately smaller voice than small locals when it comes to electing officers.

That is not to say that our issues are different from the smaller locals; we just deal with many of the same problems on a larger scale. In issues that affect the music business and professional musicians everywhere, there is commonality.

The 50-vote cap can only become a problem when an election becomes heavily political or polarizing. At that point, the vast number of musicians in the metropolitan areas may find their voices diminished.

There is a resolution on the table to take away the 50-vote cap. We support this resolution.

As Allegro went to press, AFM President Tom Lee was unopposed for re-election. However, a rival candidate could possibly emerge at the convention. We do not endorse any particular candidate for office, be it Mr. Lee or anyone else. However, there are specific qualities that we believe should pertain to anyone holding office in the AFM. They include:

  • Above all, good communication. This includes transparency, consultation and basic respect.
  • A commitment to protecting jobs for musicians. There’s not much more important than that.
  • Adding members to the union through true organizing, not “recruitment.” We’re not just a club for people who play music. We are a union of working musicians who need strong collective bargaining agreements.
  • Leadership that works to unify members rather than divide them.

I strive to promote these values as president of Local 802. This is not the place to campaign, so let me just say, regardless of the outcome of the election, I intend to continue to represent musicians to the best of my ability and work to give our union a voice.

In addition to electing officers, we will be voting on various recommendations and resolutions that may have a huge impact on the union. We don’t have space to reprint them here, but they are printed in the May issue of the International Musician and we will post them on our Web site (see full listing here).

It isn’t possible for me to write about all of them now. Rest assured that your delegates will consider each one carefully and vote in the manner that will have the most favorable impact on you.

However, the very first recommendation on the table is a dues increase to the locals.

This is a so-called “per capita” (or “per head”) dues increase, which would require each local to pay $5 more per member per year to the AFM, beginning in 2012.

The proposal prohibits locals from simply absorbing the increase and actually requires them to collect the higher dues from their members.

It does this by mandating that locals increase their own annual dues by $10 per year and then give half of the increase ($5 per member) to the AFM.

Another dues increase incorporated into the resolution affects musicians who work under the Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement. Work dues under these contracts would rise to 4.75 percent from the current 2.35 percent.

The resolution does throw one bone to recording musicians. The 2 percent dues on distributions from the Special Payments Fund and Film Secondary Markets Fund would be eliminated, effective Jan. 1, 2011. We wholeheartedly approve of eliminating those dues.

On the other hand, we oppose any and all dues increases.

Even if the AFM needs the money, it is simply not the time to contemplate dues hikes on our members. It rubs us the wrong way.

We are all experiencing the effects of the nationwide economic downturn. Local 802 has budgetary issues that it needs to address and deal with and is doing so by accounting for every expenditure and learning to do more with less. It is equally important that the Federation follow suit and care for its own financial house in much the same way locals across the country are forced to.

Other recommendations and resolutions include the following:

1. The AFM wants to reduce the number of rank-and-file musicians on the pension fund to two, instead of three. This makes no sense and is undemocratic. We oppose this recommendation.

2. Sam Folio, the current secretary-treasurer of the AFM, has submitted a resolution that would eliminate his own position in order to save the union money. His duties would be picked up by the president and other staff. This is curious and unprecedented, but it appears to be motivated by financial prudence.

3. One recommendation is particularly troubling. It calls for a $10,000 per year expense account each for the AFM president, the vice president from Canada, and the secretary-treasurer, “the spending of which he/she shall not be required to make an accounting.” This not only seems to be reckless in practice, but not advisable financially given our current economic state.

4. A resolution has been introduced that would make so-called “roll call” votes the norm at the convention. On this, it’s important to understand the background. You have to realize that there are three kinds of voting at the convention.

First, the actual election of AFM president and International Executive Board is set up so that each local gets one vote for every 100 members, with a cap of 50 votes. (I wrote about that above.)

The second way to vote is the most common and is how most matters are decided. It’s simply this: each delegate gets one vote. And, as mentioned above, we will be sending six delegates to the AFM convention. So effectively Local 802 has only six votes at the convention, even though we have approximately 8,500 members. Our membership power is therefore blunted by the rules of the convention.

But there is a third voting mechanism built into the convention. If 30 delegates or 15 locals demand a “roll call” vote, then each local gets one vote for each member.

We support making roll call votes the norm, not the exception.

Members who want to know more can e-mail me at


Every member should have received an e-mail around May 1 from both Tom Lee and from us, which contained a link to the details of the pension fund’s rehabilitation plan. The fund has also sent out paper letters to every member.

This recovery plan is the same as what we’ve been reporting in the past two issues of Allegro, but the pension fund has now fleshed out all of the details.

As we reported previously, one aspect of the pension fund’s rehabilitation plan is that employers must increase their pension contribution percentage by 4 (or 5) basis points this year, and by 9 (or 10) basis points next year. If employers agree and sign a supplemental agreement with Local 802, they can take advantage of the lower percentage increase and the amount accrues as a benefit to the musicians participating in the fund. Otherwise, they pay the higher percentage as a surcharge and the money does not benefit those musicians on whose behalf those contributions are being made.

This is good and bad for us. It’s good because pension contributions will increase. It’s bad because employers will have to pay more and therefore may use this against us in upcoming negotiations. We have sent out letters to each of our employers, letting them know about this increase in rates.

Keep in mind that all of our agreements will have to take into account this new pension increase. So if you’re currently working under a union agreement that pays pension to you, you can expect a contribution increase.

Here’s one detail that you must understand. If you’re currently earning a pension of 10 percent under one of our union contracts, according to the rehabilitation plan your pension will go up to 10.4 percent, not to 14 percent. That is, the 4 percent increase is on the percentage itself, not on the wage to which it applies, making the actual increase pennies on the dollar.

Broadway musicians should note that the increase will be on the base rate in the Broadway contract (which is 5 percent), not on the Turkus Award rate. So the base Broadway pension will go up to 5.2 percent, which is a 4 percent increase on the 5 percent contract rate. For pre-production and theatres that do not participate in the Turkus Award, the rate will now be 8.32 percent.

Lastly, allow me to restate that all early retirement benefits under the rehabilitation plan only affect those individuals whose annuity date is on or after June 1, 2010. If you are currently collecting a benefit, you are not affected.

By the way, at least one member has raised a fundamental question: should we rely on the fund’s facts, figures and statements? Harvey Mars explores this more in his legal column on page 16.

Finally, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have still not been appointed as a trustee to the pension fund. On the other hand, the last three Local 802 presidents were appointed to serve as trustees. This break with pension fund precedent is not in anyone’s interest.


Members will consider two bylaw resolutions at the June 16 membership meeting. We can now report that both have been reported favorably by the Executive Board.