L.A. Meeting on Film Scoring Focuses on Strategic Planning

Volume CI, No. 3May, 2001

A meeting called by the AFM and focusing on a strategic approach to contract issues and collective bargaining brought together representatives from the AFM, the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) and nearly a dozen AFM locals from across the United States and Canada in January. While focused on problems in the film scoring industry, the meeting explored the powerful techniques a number of unions are using to deal with problem employers and seemingly intractable contract issues.

The four-day seminar was led by Andy Banks, an educator with the AFL-CIO’s George Meany Center, and Teresa Conrow, a strategic campaign coordinator now working with the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers Union. Additional research work was presented by Julie Farb of the Workers Center, a research arm of the King County Labor Council in Seattle, Wash.

Banks and Conrow took participants through an 11-step process that is used to prepare bargaining units and unions for particularly difficult struggles. The process teaches participants how to “think strategically” by working through an analysis of the union’s and the employer’s strengths and weaknesses, establishing goals and issues, developing a campaign theme, selecting targets and allies and then, finally, mapping out an overall strategy, particular tactics and a time line of activity. The first step in the process, and a step emphasized as critical to its success, is the involvement of the union’s rank-and-file membership.

In opening the seminar, AFM President Steve Young emphasized the importance of the meeting and the difficulties that face the union in regard to film scoring. Estimates are that work in film scoring in Los Angeles is down by some 30 percent, despite record profits in the film business. Jobs have moved offshore and to nonunion environs.

Young urged participants to develop a plan to reverse this trend. While musicians may not be familiar with some of tactics being presented, he said, it is urgent to think in these terms and to prepare for the kind of militant battles being waged by other unions, including other unions of professional workers.

One immediate outcome of the meeting was a new level of contact and cooperation among AFM locals dealing with the immediate problems in film scoring, particularly Los Angeles and Seattle. The exchange of information between locals in the United States and Canada was also extremely valuable. Along with representatives of several Canadian locals, Canada was represented by the AFM’s Vice-President from Canada David Jandrisch, who described the agreement in place covering Canadian film projects – films entirely funded and produced by the Canadian film industry.

Local 802 participants in the seminar were Vice-President Erwin Price, Assistant to the President Bill Dennison, Assistant Supervisor of the National Contracts Department Jay Schaffner and Director of New Organizing Tim Dubnau.

Other locals represented included 47 (Los Angeles), 10-208 (Chicago), 257 (Nashville), 99 (Portland), 76-493 (Seattle), 145 (Vancouver), 406 (Montreal), 149 (Toronto), 9-535 (Boston) and 104 (Salt Lake City). The National Office of RMA, the L.A. Chapter of RMA and the International Association of Symphony and Opera (ICSOM) musicians were also represented.

As a follow-up to the meeting, Local 802 has begun work on establishing a two-way communications network within the recording field to further involve rank-and-file musicians in our organizing efforts. The union has also begun researching the film scoring industry in New York to determine potential targets and devise organizing strategies.