On The International Front: A Week in Washington with the IEB
Volume CVI, No. 4April, 2006
It was a busy week for the AFM International Executive Board when we convened our first quarter meeting in Washington D.C. last week, from March 28-31. I would like to take this opportunity to review some of the highlights of those meetings.
JONES RESIGNS, DUCKER ELECTED
First, on a sad note, the meetings began with an announcement that Executive Officer Mark Jones had submitted his resignation for personal reasons. Jones had served on the IEB for many years and at the AFM’s most recent convention received the highest amount of delegate votes of any of the Executive Committee candidates. Jones was elected president of the Buffalo Musicians’ Association (Local 92) in 1993. He also served as secretary-treasurer of the New York State Conference of Musicians. In 2001, he was chosen by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney to be on the board of directors of the Western New York Area Labor Federation. Jones’s many years of devoted service rightfully earned him the respect of many in the AFM and the labor movement at large. Whatever his recent difficulties, I know that I am not alone in wishing him well and thanking him for all his good work over the years.
With the vacancy created by Jones’s departure, the IEB moved forward with nominations for the open board seat. After much discussion, two candidates were nominated: former AFM field representative Dennis Lynch and chair of the AFM Diversity Committee, Otis Ducker. Lynch had received the highest number of delegate votes at the convention of those candidates who were not elected. (There are five executive committee positions on the board; Lynch came in sixth.) Ducker, a member of Local 161-710 in Washington D.C., has devoted over 50 years of service to the AFM. I personally had the privilege of working with Ducker on the AFM Futures Committee.
In the end, Ducker won the vote and was sworn into office on the following day. In what AFM President Tom Lee noted as “a historic step,” Ducker will be the first African-American ever to serve on the board.
MET MUSICIANS MEET WITH IEB
At the request of Local 802, a significant discussion took place on behalf of the musicians of the Metropolitan Opera on the board’s second day in session. As previously reported in Allegro, in June 2005 Local 802 and the Met reached agreement on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement on behalf of the regular orchestra at the Met. The agreement was ratified in September. (Negotiations are well underway for the associate musicians and will soon commence for the Met music staff.) As part of the deal, the parties agreed to undertake negotiations to reach a comprehensive agreement concerning electronic media, subsequent to ratification of the master agreement. These negotiations will impact all 802 members working at the Met. Talks for the new media agreement began in December 2005 and are ongoing. Local 802 requested that this discussion be placed on the IEB’s agenda in accordance with Article 14, Section 4 (b) of the AFM bylaws, which requires the approval of the international president, in consultation with the IEB, of any electronic media provisions in local symphonic collective bargaining agreements. A little recent history is necessary here. Last year, the AFM began negotiations with 59 symphony, opera and ballet orchestra managers for a national symphonic recording agreement. The Met chose not to participate in the national talks. Also, the Met is currently in a management transition. Longtime General Manager Joseph Volpe will be retiring later this year. His successor, Peter Gelb, comes to the Met with an impressive media background as a television and film producer and former record company president. He brings with him a team of media experts with the goal of securing the Met’s future through a comprehensive media plan. The plan includes aggressive marketing and promotion through advances in technology and the digital delivery of content that can instantly and effectively reach a global audience. When in our recent meetings with the Met it became clear that we might need to approach the Met’s proposed plan in a new and different way, I informed the IEB that I believed that we were now at a point where it would be productive and important to schedule a discussion between representatives from the Met Orchestra Committee and the IEB. Both the regular orchestra and associate musicians were represented at the meeting. Orchestra committee members Kingsley Wood, representing the regular orchestra, and Shem Guibbory, representing the associate musicians, came to Washington to appear before the IEB. Also present for the discussion via telephone conference were the musicians’ legal counsel Mel Schwarzwald and ICSOM electronic media chair Bill Foster. The discussions were helpful and informative. Although it is premature to report on any details of the ongoing negotiations, the meeting with the IEB was important in bringing musicians’ voices directly to the International Board. While some concerns were expressed, I believe we all took a big step forward in recognizing that the ultimate goal of revitalizing electronic media activity in the symphony, opera and ballet world might be achieved through different approaches. Sharing information while our negotiations are in progress is critical to ensuring that we don’t reach deals that inadvertently undercut or harm other orchestras. That is why we came to the IEB at this point in our negotiations. I believe significant progress was made.
OUTSTANDING SRSPF/FMSMF FEES
The IEB also reviewed the status of outstanding fees owed by musicians associated with the 2004 Sound Recording Special Payments Fund (SRSPF) and the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund (FMSMF) distributions. As many of you know, these fees that were adopted at the 2003 AFM Convention were ultimately quite controversial. Many members objected to paying the fees and withheld those payments. This issue was the focal point of the debate that took place at the Joint Law and Finance Committee, at the 2005 convention. The joint committees worked tirelessly to structure a package that would still generate much needed revenue to the AFM, while eliminating the SRSPF/FMSMF fees. For the most part, we succeeded. Emergency Recommendation #1, passed unanimously by the convention delegates, completely eliminated the SRSPF/
FMSMF fees effective Jan. 1, 2005. The recommendation also put in place a formula that would generate approximately two-thirds of the revenue anticipated by the previous SRSPF/FMSMF fees, through the increase of work dues on the front end of certain AFM electronic media agreements. Local 802 chose to absorb that dues increase and not pass it on to our members. Following that resolution, most of the 2004 fees that were initially withheld by musicians were paid. However, various AFM members have still failed to remit those fees. In January 2006, the IEB passed a motion that those still owing fees would be fined in an equal amount to their unpaid fee balance and that such fines would be held in abeyance for 60 days. That action generated some more payments from those still owing. However, there are still AFM members — some who are 802 members — who have not yet met their obligation. I will be personally contacting those 802 members in an effort to resolve this matter.
ST. LOUIS — AN INNOVATIVE SOLUTION
In July 2005, the Musicians Council of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra submitted a request to place the orchestra in the Orchestra Services Program (“OSP”). Under AFM bylaws, in the event that a local does not or cannot provide certain representational and administrative services as outlined in Article 5, Section 38 of the bylaws, either the local or the members of the orchestra may request placement in the OSP program. If the IEB approves the request, the orchestra would then be placed under direct IEB supervision, at a cost to the local of 2 percent of the scale wages received by the orchestra members under their collective bargaining agreement. Obviously, this would have serious ramifications for a local that largely depends on that orchestra’s work dues as its main source of revenue. The matter was placed before the IEB at its January 2006 meeting. Each side made oral presentations, answered questions and discussed the situation with the IEB. No decision was made at that time. The IEB then scheduled a special meeting convened in St. Louis in February 2006, for further consideration of the OSP request. Some weeks later, in a phone conference held prior to last week’s meetings, the IEB rendered its decision. The IEB will appoint a symphonic representative and an IEB representative to work with the parties in order to improve the communication and relationships between the orchestra and the local as well as the representation of musicians of the Saint Louis Symphony. Former 802 president Bill Moriarity was appointed as the symphonic representative, and International Executive Officer Joe Parente, president of Local 77 (Philadelphia), was appointed as the IEB representative. The symphonic work dues owed by the musicians of the orchestra, however, shall continue to be paid to the local and be divided between the local and the AFM as required by AFM bylaws. The IEB believes that this remedy holds the best promise for improving this difficult situation. It is somewhat innovative in that it incorporates elements of the OSP program, while maintaining the financial stability of the local. Hopefully, these actions will improve the situation for all concerned.
A SPECIAL MEETING WITH FIM
On our final day in Washington, the IEB had a rare opportunity to meet with members of the Presidium of FIM, the International Federation of Musicians (Federation Internationale des Musicians). FIM, founded in 1948, is the international organization for musicians in over 72 unions throughout the world, including Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. The AFM president holds a seat on the Presidium. Although our time together was relatively short, we were able to exchange ideas and concerns on matters of common interest to all our members. We concluded our morning with a tour of AFL-CIO headquarters and had the opportunity to meet briefly with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. It is clear that we must find ways to increase our opportunities to communicate with one another and to connect our members. For example, the shared experience of the rank and file musicians of London’s West End and Broadway would be invaluable. After all, we are not only dealing with the same issues — we are dealing with the same employers. As we prepare for the 2007 Broadway negotiations, I will be exploring such initiatives with the Theatre Committee and the Local 802 Executive Board.
As I said, all in all it was a busy week. The minutes covering all items on the IEB’s agenda will be published on the AFM’s Web site shortly after our second quarter meeting in June. For more information, log onto www.afm.org.