The Musicians’ Voice

Letters to the editor

Volume 121, No. 5May, 2021

Allegro welcomes letters to the editor; click here to submit a letter.

Celebrate the bailout of the AFM Pension Fund? Let’s take a closer look…

The AFM Pension Fund was facing insolvency after years of poor financial choices, and benefit cuts were proposed long before Covid. I stood to lose over 30 percent of my pension payments — others even more. But most of the membership was ready to tightened their belts and do what was needed to save the fund, provided there was meaningful fiduciary reform.

The Butch Lewis Bill started off as a 30-year loan to troubled multi-employee pension plans. It contained controls and reform provisions to provide a path for long-term financial sustainability. Non-partisan efforts were underway to pass this bill in Congress, but those non-partisan efforts ended after the 2020 elections.

When Butch Lewis was attached to the recent Covid relief bill, it was stripped of its restrictions and regulations, and the loan became a lump-sum handout — it never has to be repaid. Pension funds remain free to be run as before — badly, with no accountability. Furthermore, in order to fund the pension bailout and still meet the spending limit on the larger relief bill, extended unemployment benefits for all workers were reduced one week less than originally planned.

Will Congress now turn away public employees after it just bailed out private sector pensions? I doubt it. The money spigot has been turned on and the bailout of public sector pensions will make the first $86 billion seem like a pittance.

In the end, who pays for all of this? Taxpayers — the vast majority of who will never have a pension plan of their own.

Yes, our payments have been preserved, but we should be embarrassed that they were done so at the expense of others less fortunate than ourselves. This is not a time for celebration.

Bob Haley

Solidarity with my fellow union members

First of all, let me say that Local 802 leadership is to be commended for seeking ways to better serve the membership. From my perspective as an upstate resident and a lifetime member of of AFM Local 380 (Binghamton), I know that I can contact any of the departments of Local 802 with questions or concerns I might have. My reason for joining Local 802 stems from learning back in the 1990s that there existed some type of device that could produce very realistic orchestral sounds, thereby replacing live musicians in Broadway theatre orchestra pits. I remember this early model being called a “virtual orchestra machine.” I had written a score for an original musical comedy that was fully staged at the University of Michigan in 1974 and if it were ever to make it to Broadway, the thought that it might have a virtual orchestra “playing” my music was completely anathema to me.

I feel a sense of solidarity with my union kin working in New York. These are trying times for all of us, but especially in the New York Metro area where the cost of living is so much higher than where I live. I am confident that my union dues are being put to good use to help those in the city who are facing difficulties that were unimaginable before the sudden arrival of the pandemic. Union-friendly politicians such as Senator Schumer are sympathetic to the plight of working people. A few years ago I played for the grand re-opening) of a supermarket in Rome, New York. Senator Schumer was heavily involved in securing new ownership to keep the supermarket open, thus saving a large number of jobs.

My father used to say: “Watch out for changes,” advice that all of us should take seriously. The rapid advancements in technology frighten me, such as computers or apps being used as composers. I’m optimistic that the general public will always place value on quality entertainment and support those providing it.

Twenty-five years ago I had a part-time job teaching English as a Second Language classes to adults from around the world. From that experience I truly sensed that we are indeed one family, and it is my hope that getting along with one another will always be everyone’s desire.

— Jim Ford

Allegro welcomes letters to the editor; click here to submit a letter.