Report on the AFM Convention

Volume CIII, No. 9September, 2003

Bill Dennison

The 2003 AFM Convention took some important steps towards solving the organization’s ongoing funding problems, but not without difficult debate and compromise that came in the very last hours of the three-day meeting.

Besides dealing with finances, the other convention highlight was the resounding and unanimous acclaim afforded Local 802 for its courageous defense of theatre orchestras on Broadway and for the history-making solidarity it produced from other Broadway unions.

The financial package adopted by the convention was presented by Law Committee chair and Local 802 President Bill Moriarity on the final afternoon of the convention. It was the result of more than a week of committee hearings, debate and discussion with various AFM constituencies. In the end, however, the package was adopted nearly unanimously (read it in its entirety here).

In total it will increase the AFM’s annual income by about $1.1 million beginning in 2004.

The additional resources will come from an increase in locals’ per-capita and work dues payments.

But by far the largest portion will come from a fee to be paid on payments distributed by the two special payments funds (film and sound). Neither fund’s payments had previously been subject to any assessment or work dues, despite the fact that they are negotiated payments contained in the AFM’s national contracts.

Local per-capita dues payments will rise by $2 per year in each of the next four years. Periodic local membership dues are to be increased by the same amount. Symphonic work dues paid by locals to the Federation will increase from 0.5 percent to 0.55 percent.

Of the 2 percent work dues on new use and clip use currently going to locals, 0.5 percent will now go to the AFM. (The total work dues is 12 percent – the new split will be 10.5 percent to the AFM and 1.5 percent to the local.) In addition, the 0.5 percent work dues on travelling engagements which have been going to locals will now be retained by the AFM.

Until this final action by delegates, the highlight of the convention was discussion of the highly publicized fight over live music on Broadway fought out earlier this year by Local 802.

AFL-CIO vice president Richard Trumka, addressing the convention on its first day, described the Broadway strike as “an award-winning performance” that labor across the country was closely watching. He spoke of the growing importance of the entertainment industry unions to the AFL and the need to create what he described as “seamless union alliances” in dealing with employers in this industry.

Both Actors Equity President Patrick Quinn and Local 1 IATSE President Ed McConway addressed the convention.

Quinn saluted Local 802 for “saving live theatre for the next 10 years” and described the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds as “a model of solidarity.” He discussed the expected difficulty Equity is facing in its own negotiations with the League of Theatres next year and urged the AFM and convention delegates to support their union’s efforts to organize nonunion road tours.

McConway spoke of the importance of the kind of direct union to union contact that COBUG has produced. “When Bill (Moriarity) came to our Executive Board and explained the issues, we understood and had to support you guys,” said McConway.

The theme of union solidarity was also brought to convention delegates by AFTRA President John Connolly and by British Musicians Union (BMU) president John Smith. Connolly thanked the AFM for its support in their recent contract battle against Clear Channel and the effort to keep live radio. He added, “My one regret in 32 years working in this business was that I was not on stage in New York City in March so that I could have walked out in support of live music on Broadway.”

Smith brought greetings from the 31,000 members of the BMU. “We were watching very closely the Broadway strike,” said Connolly. “Unfortunately we couldn’t have duplicated it because secondary or support strikes such as your friends at Equity and stagehands participated in are outlawed under our labor laws.”

Despite this, Smith said the BMU is working closely with British Equity and British stagehands on common issues.

Connolly also spoke of the increasingly importance of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM). “In Eastern Europe, primarily in Prague, film scores are being recorded for the equivalent of $10 an hour. I don’t blame the Czech musicians,” said Connolly, who instead put the onus on multinational film companies reaping extraordinary profits from such circumstances. “FIM,” he said, “must deal with this issue.”

The lack of diversity among the AFM’s membership has been an issue of discussion among convention delegates for a number of years. It resulted in the formation of a diversity council nearly 10 years ago that has continued to explore how the union might better reach out to younger musicians and to musicians performing in a wider range of music genres. At this convention, the AFM Diversity Council was given official status and beginning with the next AFM convention, will be renamed the AFM Diversity Committee and will have all of the authority and privileges of other AFM standing committees.

As part of the Finance Committee’s report to the convention, it was suggested that the next AFM convention consider the convening of conventions every three years rather than two years, as is currently the case. Such a change would save the AFM money and would also require a change in the terms of its officers.

A new AFM Vice-President from Canada, Bobby Herriot, was elected by Canadian delegates. In the contest for International Executive Board, incumbent IEB members Hal Espinosa (Los Angeles), Mark Jones (Buffalo), Ken Shirk (Portland, Ore.) and Ed Ward (Chicago) were returned to office.

Newly elected to the Board was Ray Hair, President of Local 72-147 (Dallas-Fort Worth).

Local 802 was represented by President Moriarity, Vice-Presidents Tina Hafemeister and Erwin Price, Executive Board member Maura Giannini and delegate Al Hood. Also attending the convention were Assistant Director David Lennon and Assistant to the President Bill Dennison.