A rookie’s view of the AFM convention

Views from the Board

Volume 123, No. 7July, 2023

Martha Hyde

June 25: I arrived around 4:00 local time after a somewhat bumpy flight from JFK on a flight delayed by an hour. Two more 802 delegates were stuck in Newark until the wee hours. After checking in and finding the convention area of the Westgate hotel, I submitted my credentials and registered.

There were already a lot of people who had arrived days earlier. Several AFM regional conferences (for example, the Southern Conference) met earlier for the convenience of attaching those meetings to the full convention. Additionally, the International Executive Board (IEB) and some of the heavier lift committees like Law and Finance also met in the days before the convention. 802 President Tino Gagliardi served on the Finance Committee.

The first event I attended was the opening reception featuring the North Texas State Jazz faculty, burning it up on the bandstand followed by the peerless Ray Chew, a Local 802 member. Still on NY time, where it is three hours later, I folded around 10:00 pm and retired.

June 26: First-time delegates are always introduced to the convention at the new delegate breakfast. Besides being attended by new delegates, it was attended by the IEB and the committee chairs. Most delegates, old and new, are assigned to committees to discuss and debate “Recommendations” (proposals from the IEB), and “Resolutions” (amendments to AFM bylaws and policy) submitted by locals, members and player conferences. 802’s Greg Riley was the only delegate from 802 not assigned to a committee because he was registered so late. This was because there were several last-minute cancellations by 802 elected delegates and Greg was one of the alternate delegates.

After breakfast, the convention began in a large ballroom where long tables with ends facing the dais were organized by regional conference. Delegates sat with other delegates from their locals. Local 802 is a member of the Eastern Conference. At the opposite end of the room there was a large bandstand where the JOI Jazz Orchestra played until the convention was called to order.

There were speeches by outgoing President Ray Hair, President Kate Shindle of Equity and others. The rules of the convention were read. The rules include the proper way to be recognized to speak on the floor. This first meeting of the convention went from 11:00 to 5:30 with an hour lunch break.

About 15 minutes after adjournment, most of the committees met. 802’s Bud Burridge was assigned to the Organization and Legislation Committee and I was assigned to the Good and Welfare Committee. The meaning of this name escapes me, though I have heard Good and Welfare before. We were considering Recommendations that dealt with granting emeritus status to outgoing AFM officers, rules about presidential votes on the IEB and Resolutions about AFM membership for DJs, Hip-Hop and EDM artists and endorsing Medicare-for-all. President Hair made the committee assignments and ensured there were no two delegates from the same local on a committee. This encouraged delegates to get to know members of other locals.

After the committee meetings (some of which ran quite long), there were various receptions held by candidate slates for AFM office and by TEMPO, the political action committee (PAC) that lobbies Congress on behalf of the AFM.

June 27: As we entered the convention hall we were greeted by the sweet-sounding Las Vegas Chamber Players, a lush string orchestra. The first event was a moving memorial service honoring AFM members and staff and notable non-AFM musicians who passed away during the four years since the last convention in 2019.

After the service, there was a long session as committees reported out favorably or unfavorably the Resolutions and Recommendations that had been assigned to them. After the reports, motions were made. Some were passed immediately and unanimously by voice vote. Some motions had discussion and debate. Delegates stepped up to mics close by their chairs. President Hair would call out the mic number to recognize them and when recognized, they would give their names and local numbers and present their arguments.

There were more speeches interspersed with committee reports and in the afternoon nominations for AFM office were made from the floor. Two candidates, Alan Willaert for Vice President from Canada and Ken Shirk for International Secretary-Treasurer, were the sole candidates nominated for those positions and were thus declared elected by acclamation.

After business in the hall concluded there were more committee meetings. Some ran as late as 10:00.

June 28: The session in the convention hall opened an hour earlier — 9:00. There were more committee reports and some of them sparked a considerable amount of debate with delegates lining up at mics and being recognized. The last piece of business was the election of officers. This meant we sat in the hall for a long time as each of the 132 locals were called to pick up their ballots.

Local 802 gets 50 votes. Because there were 5 of us delegates we each got 10 ballots. The vote is by secret ballot at voting booths very similar to the voting booths now being used in New York, and while candidates are not listed by slates, the names of the slates followed the names of the candidates. The election was run by the Election Committee which comprised delegates just like me, including 802’s own Lynne Cohen. After voting we were directed out of the convention area. The results began to come in from observers around 10:00 that night.

June 29: Once again the business in the convention hall began at 9:00. The Las Vegas Pop Strings Orchestra greeted us as we came in. There were fewer people in the hall as some had gone home after the election. There were a few more speeches. We heard from the heads of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) and Theatre Musicians Association (TMA). There were several more bylaw resolutions, some of which were debated and amended on the floor.

After that, the chair of the Elections Committee announced the winners of the officer elections and the vote counts. The motion was made, seconded and passed by unanimous consent to accept the results.The successful candidates came up to the dais and were sworn in by President Hair. Each gave an acceptance speech. There were some appreciations and announcements given from the floor; each committee was to have its picture taken for the International Musician. Then President Hair gave his farewell speech and after making sure no one was standing at any mics with anything more to say, he gaveled the convention to a close.

These are the successful candidates. They will take office on August 1 for terms to expire on July 31, 2026.

  • International President: Tino Gagliardi, Local 802 New York
  • International Vice President: Dave Pomeroy, Local 257 Nashville
  • Vice President from Canada: Alan Willaert, Local 149 Toronto
  • International Secretary-Treasurer: Ken Shirk, Local 99 Portland, OR

International Executive Board (IEB):

  • John Acosta, Local 47 Los Angeles and Local 1000
  • Luc Fortin, Local 406 Quebéc
  • Dusty Kelly, Local 149 Toronto
  • Ed Malaga, Local 161-710 Washington DC
  • Tina Morrison, Local 105 Spokane

I had two major takeaways. The first was that for the most part, everyone was respectful. No one booed or shouted, everyone was orderly in being recognized to speak and anyone who wanted to speak was allowed to. The committees were likewise respectful and everyone listened and spoke in turn. This is a large group of 132 locals and well over 200 delegates plus the players’ conferences. People came from all over the US and Canada and brought their own concerns, backgrounds and political points of view and not everyone would agree with everything. But they were respectful.

The other takeaway was from talking to people from cities like Austin and Houston, Texas, Nashville, Tennessee and other right-to-work states where legislators are enacting laws that harm workers and deny health care to people based on their very identities. And yet, these folks carry on anyway.

It’s inspiring.