Recording Musicians Improve Wages, Health Contributions

Phono Agreement

Volume CII, No. 1January, 2002

The AFM and representatives of the phono industry reached agreement on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement on Nov. 9. It was the second of the Federation’s national agreements to be negotiated during the current three-year bargaining cycle.

The agreement contains wage increases of 2½ , 2½ and 3 percent. These are somewhat lower than the 3 percent increases negotiated in most previous years – but unlike the last two contracts, which were achieved during periods of extremely strong sales, this was negotiated post Sept. 11, during an economic downturn and in the second year of slumping record sales.

Improvements in health and welfare contributions are one of the most important features of the new contract, which takes effect on Feb. 1. The current rate of $17.50 per original service and $14 for each additional service will rise to $19 and $15.50 in the first year. Local 802 President Bill Moriarity made the AFM presentation on the necessity for Health Plan increases, assisted by Hal Espinosa, President of Los Angeles Local 47.

The CBA also specifies that health contributions on overdubs will be paid at the same rate as contributions for additional services. This provision is expected to make it possible for many musicians who have not previously qualified for the plan, but who are doing considerable amounts of overdubs, to qualify.

The contribution rate to the Special Payments Fund will rise to .55 for sales in excess of one million royalty-bearing units. This is expected to generate additional income for both the Special Payment Fund and Music Performance Trust Fund. The labels initially pressed to reduce contributions to MPTF, but withdrew these proposals the later rounds of negotiations.

With a number of new, smaller labels now signatory to the agreement, the AFM agreed to modify some aspects of the low-budget agreement. In the past, low-budget wages increased by two-thirds of the total increase in scale wages, tending to widen the gap between low-budget and full master earnings. Low budget scale wages now will increase by the same percentage called for in the basic agreement. Health benefits for low budget sessions rose from $10 to $12. The new agreement raises the ceiling on low budget recordings from the present $90,000 to $95,000 as of Feb. 1, 2002, and $99,000 in the second year.

A lower-budget category was also established, that covers recordings produced with a budget of $40,000 or less. It provides a minimum scale of $150 per three-hour session. All other provisions of the Low Budget Agreement apply, including full pension and health benefits and the right to receive phono special payments. This is an experimental provision, which may be modified or eliminated after this contract expires on Jan. 31, 2005, if the parties conclude it does not serve their interests.

The parties agreed to leave open how internet sales may be compensated and agreed to revisit this point during the course of the agreement.

Reflecting changes in recording technology and in how music is played, the name of the agreement was changed from Phonograph Record Labor Agreement to Sound Recording Labor Agreement.

A Federation presentation on employer noncompliance with the contract, and the difficulties involved in having Form B contracts filed and musicians paid in a timely fashion, was delivered by Jay Schaffner, Assistant Supervisor of the 802 Recording Department. These problems were discussed extensively during the negotiations. A mechanism was set up for holding periodic meetings at the local level, between the A&R personnel of the various labels and the local union, with the goal of removing all obstacles to the timely payment of musicians.

The parties also extended by six months the period during which the union can make claims for the payment of musicians. This had previously been limited to 12 months from the date of the service.

The Federation’s negotiating team, led by AFM President Tom Lee, included Vice-President Harold Bradley, Canadian Vice-President David Jandrisch, Secretary-Treasurer Florence Nelson, and RMA Vice-President Steve Gibson. AFM legal counsel George Cohen of the firm Bredhoff & Kaiser acted as lead negotiator, assisted by attorneys Anne Mayerson and Jeff Freund.

Representing Local 802 in these negotiations were President Bill Moriarity, Recording Vice-President Erwin Price and Jay Schaffner. From the NY RMA, at different times, were President Mark Shuman and Vice-President Roger Blanc. NY RMA Executive Board member Juliet Hafner attended most sessions. Local 802 Senior Business Reps Pedro Rodriguez and David Sheldon, and Recording Representative Russ Agdern, also participated.