When Allegro last went to print, I was in the midst of attending the 97th AFM Convention in Las Vegas. Much of what must be reported about the convention is negative, but in spite of that fact, I think Local 802 made the best of the situation, at least as far as our parochial interests are concerned.
There were two issues of great importance before the convention. One was the continuing and serious financial deterioration of the AFM; the other was the split between the national leadership and the Los Angeles chapter of the RMA, which has resulted in the formation of a rival organization — the Professional Musicians’ Guild — as well as the encroachment of New Era Scoring.
As to the first issue, there were a number of proposals on the table to increase dues which would have had a negative impact on Local 802 and its members. Most were defeated.
Our delegation successfully opposed increases in work dues for symphonic musicians and for Broadway theatre musicians, even though we were repeatedly told that the prior administration had volunteered to support federation work dues on theatre engagements at the 2005 convention.
We were also successful in getting an exemption to the 15 percent work dues for new use for conversions of Broadway cast albums to industrial use. Now musicians will pay the regular 4 percent work dues on these conversions.
On the negative side, a 2 percent work dues was imposed — over our objections — on payments from the Theatrical Film Secondary Markets Fund and the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund.
Also, the AFM succeeded in persuading the convention to pass a one-time dues increase of $2 per member. Local 802 members will see this charge on their dues statements. (Note that this charge is not being imposed by Local 802: the money will be passed on to the AFM.)
A bright light at the convention was the election of our former vice president and current trial board member Erwin Price to the International Executive Board.
Erwin won this office on his first attempt in large part because he has been a respected and long-time delegate from Local 802 to the AFM Convention. I am sure that he will be an able and committed representative for issues that concern our local at the federation level.
On the negative side, I was disappointed that the convention only furthered the split between recording musicians in Los Angeles and the AFM.
The formation of the Professional Musicians Guild in advance of the convention served only to harden attitudes toward that local and the musicians it represents. Nothing that happened during the convention seemed to offer hope that there will be a rapprochement between the parties soon.
I believe that the attempt to form a splinter group in opposition to the AFM is extremely misguided.
At this point in time, it is not realistic to believe that a new union of musicians will be able to gain recognition from the giant corporations that dominate the film and recording industries, nor would it be able to obtain a contract equal to the one that the AFM already has in place.
The result will likely be a weaker stance at the bargaining table and more concessionary contracts in the future.
The decision to start a splinter group seems to be a replay of past RMA tactics, taken without regard to the possible negative consequences that will come in the current environment.
Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, we should be looking at the external reality and determining what steps must be taken to increase our leverage at the bargaining table and organize sectors of the recording industry that are currently operating almost entirely nonunion — like cable and game music.
If we are unsatisfied with our ability to defend our contracts and press for gains, we should not be breaking apart into smaller and weaker components that will inevitably be pitted against each other.
Instead, we should be looking for a strategic merger that will make us stronger.
Unfortunately, there are few voices for merger within the AFM or our local, and those that do exist are, in my opinion, too concerned with elitist concerns about our artistry rather than practical concerns about gaining and maintaining leverage at the bargaining table.
Instead of confronting the reality of our situation, the resolution to study merger submitted to the AFM Convention was not funded. This was the most serious failure at the convention.
We must find a way to join together with other workers who face the same corporate entities at the bargaining table or the demands for concessions will never cease. That should be the first priority of our union.