In this month’s president’s report, I want to reprint a letter that was recently e-mailed to all members from the Local 802 Executive Board.
On December 30, 2019, the AFM-EPF Trustees formally applied to the U.S. Treasury to reduce pension benefits. A copy of the application is available on the Treasury’s website within 30 days at www.treasury.gov/mpra. Today, 802 members who are AFM-EPF plan participants received a notice that included a personalized statement with each participant’s current monthly benefit and estimated reduced benefit, if applicable. If the cut application is approved by the U.S. Treasury Department, benefit reductions would go into effect around January 2021.
The leadership of Local 802 recognizes that many of our members will be severely impacted by the impending cuts. To best represent our members during the upcoming year we are implementing the following:
First, we will continue to demand that the trustees personally appear at your Local to explain what is going on, and to answer all your questions. The Trustees should appear in person and not by webinar. With cuts to our hard-earned benefits now becoming a reality, AFM members deserve an opportunity to engage in dialogue directly with the trustees.
Second, to ensure an accountable process for 802 members, we will be carefully monitoring the cut process, including the sufficiency of the application itself. Further examination of industry dynamics and demographics of the AFM-EPF is needed. We plan to examine every aspect of the application to the Treasury and will report back to you with our own analysis.
Third, as many of you know, Local 802 members Andy Snitzer and Paul Livant filed a class action lawsuit against the AFM-EPF trustees, charging them with breaches of fiduciary duty. Read the full court transcripts to date on the 802 website at www.bitly.com/802-pension-statement. The trial for the class action lawsuit against the AFM-EPF trustees is set to take place this spring in federal court. Local 802 will be monitoring and reporting on any developments in the trial in order to keep members informed.
Fourth, in June 2019, Local 802 announced the establishment of a new 401(k) plan, co-sponsored by the Broadway League, which will be employee contributory only. The new 401(k) gives musicians a powerful way to shore up their retirement security. Eligible musicians can contribute up to an annual total of $19,000, or $25,000 at age 50 or older, to their 401(k), lowering their taxable income and allowing their investment to grow tax-free. The new 401(k) also brings our union in line with many other entertainment unions who already offer the option. We expect the new 401(k) to be up and running in mid-2020.
Fifth, Local 802 will monitor and report on legislative activity in Washington. The Butch Lewis Act has unfortunately collapsed for now. Two bills have been introduced in the House to bring it back to life. Local 802 will stay engaged in Washington to get the help we need. But until there is a bipartisan proposal in the Senate, the path forward in Washington remains problematic.
Sixth, while Local 802 attempted to effect a change in trustees, pushing for much-needed Board reform with the goal of appointing more proficient and better-equipped pension trustees with Resolution 9 (Proposed Resolution #1 within the 802 Executive Board Minutes) at the AFM convention, we were unsuccessful. But we will continue to do everything in our power to continue these efforts on behalf of Local 802 members. The task of overseeing actuaries and investment managers in a multi-billion-dollar fund is extraordinarily complex. The training and education that our trustees go through may be helpful but cannot provide the kind of sophisticated and critical expertise which financial and actuarial professionals would bring to the Board. We believe the AFM-EPF is in need of a Board of Trustees that is more accountable, more dynamic, more solution-oriented, and more responsive than the one we have now.
Finally, as a community of union musicians we must come together in hopes of addressing what will be hard times for many friends, colleagues, and fellow musicians. Local 802 will be putting together a committee with a mission to draw public attention to the pension crisis in order to help support fellow musicians affected by cuts and give musicians a public voice. The initial goal of the committee will be simple: to start organizing public concerts which will help draw public attention to our cause and raise money to help musicians who are in need as a result of the pension cuts. If you are interested in participating, please visit www.bitly.com/802-pension-committee.
HOW TO CONTACT THE PENSION FUND
For questions specifically about the proposed pension benefit reductions, call the pension fund’s Benefit Services Center at (800) 725-4478; specially-trained representatives are available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For general questions for the pension fund (new or pending pension applications, address changes, direct deposit changes, etc.), call (212) 284-1311 or (212) 284-1200, option 2.
You can also submit questions online through the Contact Us button at www.AFM-EPF.org.
ALSO: TELL THE U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE PENSION FUND’S PROPOSED PLAN TO REDUCE BENEFITS
You are encouraged to contact the U.S. Treasury Department to give your comments about the pension fund’s proposed plan to reduce benefits. Please note that all comments are posted publicly, but you are allowed to post anonymously. The comment period is open through March 2. To begin, click here: www.regulations.gov/docket?D=TREAS-DO-2020-0005