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What the AFM Is and Should Be......It's Up To Us!

Bill Moriarity (Used by permission)


What our union is today and what it needs to be tomorrow must become the concern of each member and officer of the American Federation of Musicians. It is true for us, as it is for the rest of the labor movement, that if we are to survive we must adapt and change. There is, quite frankly, no other way.

This booklet is a compilation of articles that appeared in the pages of the Local 802 newspaper, Allegro, between February and June 1996. The articles present my thoughts as well as some of the concerns, questions and ideas of other musicians and local officers across the country who I have spoken with over the past few years.

I believe that a number of the problems we face are presented. And, while the solutions are not quite so easy to lay out, it is clear in my mind that the challenges we face require us to rethink how our union is structured. Our industry has changed dramatically over the last century, but our union structure has changed very little. Of the 300 locals that make up the Federation, many are barely able to survive despite some dedicated and persistent local officers. Among the problems they face, in addition to a decline in work, is the absence of a new generation of leadership.

At the end of this booklet, I propose the establishment of a union wide committee to examine the current structure and to suggest changes. if such a committee is to be successful it needs support and input from rank and file musicians, as well as from local and international union officers. There needs to be a union-wide wide discussion on the future of the AFM. And most of all if change is to occur, there must be a political constituency for such change. My hope is that the articles collected in this booklet help in some small way to build the support needed to bring our union into the 21st century.

Bill Moriarity, President, Local 802 AFM, AFM International Executive Officer

What the Musicians' Union Is and Should Be

1996 marks both the 100th anniversary of the American Federation of Musicians and the 75th anniversary of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802. Both are historic milestones.

We should use the occasion to review where we have been and to look ahead to where we need to go, and the changes that may be necessary to get there. History is important. It helps us put our successes and achievements in perspective. And, perhaps most importantly, it helps us understand our mistakes.

The AFM was created by combining the remnants of a New York-based national craft union called the National League of Musicians with those musicians' locals that had been chartered by Samuel Gompers' American Federation of Labor. The primary impetus for this new national organization came from within the German musical communities in several of the larger cities, chiefly Cincinnati and St. Louis.

Musicians' locals at that time most often took the form of "Mutual Benefit Associations" or "Mutual Protective Societies." They were clubs that unilaterally set wage scales (usually at price list meetings) and promulgated and attempted to impose the scales on employers, both by internal union discipline against members and concerted action against the employers.

In addition, these "clubs" often provided a place for social gatherings, usually a meeting hall where food and drink were available, and a very minimal social service benefits program, most often a "death benefit."

After the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, which more clearly defined the role of unions under federal law, the national organization and a few of the larger locals moved towards becoming collective bargaining representatives for their members - real labor unions - albeit in a fitful, staggering manner. Article 2 of the AFM Bylaws states clearly and succinctly the philosophy which forms or should form the foundation of all unions within the American labor movement:

The object of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada shall be to unite all professional musicians without discrimination, regardless of race, creed, sex or national origin, through Local Unions into one grand organization for the purpose of:

1. Elevating and bettering the economic status, social position, and general welfare of its members;
2. Negotiating collective bargaining agreements with employers on behalf of its members;
3. Providing assistance in contract administration and enforcement for the protection of its members;
4. Resolving grievances, disputes, and controversies among Locals, members, and employers;
5. Encouraging and training Local officers in representing their members;
6. Advocating the interests of members and Local Unions to the public and governments...

Meeting these lofty goals requires an organization that is democratic in its processes, so that members' needs may be understood, and effective in its structure, so that these needs may be effectively addressed.

Although much has been done to democratize the union -as evidenced by the increased influence of the player conferences, especially the RMA and ICSOM, at the Federation level - the organization's basic structure has changed little in the last 75 or 100 years. It is an organization of locals conducting business with members and employers at the local level, loosely tied together at the Federation level.

These locals vary greatly in outlook and makeup. Some, like Local 802, cover large amounts of employment within their jurisdiction but also have much non-covered work going on simultaneously. Some have no work at all. A few (or maybe more than a few) are little more than work dues collection agencies, unconcerned about the work-related problems of musicians. Some have work taking place but, for esthetic or generational reasons, ignore it. Some act primarily as booking agencies; some as insurance providers.

Many wish to address the problems they know to exist but are without the necessary resources to do so. Many have officers who want to do the right thing but lack training and manpower. And many are worried that the next generation of officers does not seem to exist, and that the union they have spent so much of their lives supporting will disappear. A great many officers of medium-sized and smaller locals have no access to legal counsel and no training in the intricacies of U.S. labor law - this, in a business that is, in the words of Local 802 Counsel Leonard Leibowitz, "one of the most highly-regulated activities" in our governmental system.

At any given time, these locals - small or large, prepared or not - can be called on to deal with large multinational corporations. A major recording company may begin operation in San Antonio, a large theatrical company moves into Branson, Mo., or Disney comes to New York City.

For unfortunately, while our structure has remained static, the world around us has changed. Fifty or 60 years ago the musicians' union, representing the overwhelming majority of performing musicians and riding on the coattails of a surging American labor movement, was able to impose its programs on the music business. Today, in many areas of the business, we speak for only a minority of musicians. Meanwhile, the employers we sit across the table from regularly embrace and encourage revolutionary technological innovation in their pursuit of profit and have the ability to go next door, across the ocean, or halfway around the world to obtain the best deal.

If we are to meet the challenges set forth in Article 2 we must find a way to re-establish our authority and recreate some negotiating leverage. In order to do this, a thorough reevaluation of the Federation's structure may be beneficial.

The purpose of this booklet is to help initiate a discussion about what the AFM is and could be, to engender an examination of the problems we face and the potentials for growth, and finally, to look at how the Federation and its locals might be better structured to meet members' needs.

This is our union. It is a great union, but it is important that we continually reevaluate its place in our lives.

How Union Structure Affects Democracy

Figuring out the most effective forms, procedures and structures for our organization requires that we first define as clearly as we can what we are and what our mission is. In years past there might have been some debate as to whether the AFM is a professional association (akin to the American Medical Association or American Bar Association) or a union. In my mind, there is no doubt about this. We are a trade union of professional musicians. Our goal is to improve our members' wages, benefits and working conditions through collective action.

To marshal its members' collective power effectively, a trade union must first of all be as democratic and as open as possible. It must be driven by its members' needs, open to their input, and structured so that the working members determine policy and direction. And, much like an army, collective action requires an organization that is able to maintain order and discipline.

Earlier, I described the AFM as "an organization of locals conducting business with members and employers at the local level, loosely tied together at the Federation level." For change to occur it is first necessary to understand how this loose organization operates, and how changes may occur within it.

Our organization is a political entity. It has come into existence as a reflection of the needs, beliefs and influence of subgroups within the whole. The structure thus created is, in and of itself, a powerful policy statement.

How Leadership Is Elected and Policy Set

The AFM's leadership is not chosen directly by the membership. Rather, leadership is elected at biennial conventions attended by delegates who represent the approximately 300 locals within the Federation. These locals' voting power is determined by a formula that does not reflect their real membership numbers. One vote is allocated for each 100 members, with a minimum of one vote and a maximum of 20.

At the last convention, for example, the Denver local (1,032 members) had 10 votes, the Philadelphia local (1,982 members) had 20 votes, the Tacoma local (103 members) had one vote, the Joliet local (281 members) had three votes, and Los Angeles (9,503 members) and New York City (11,438 members) had 20 votes each.

Obviously, the vote of a musician from L.A. or New York is worth far less than the vote of a musician from, say, Denver or Philadelphia. Most decisions to modify the bylaws are taken by voice vote. Since locals are allowed a maximum of three delegates (plus one additional African-American delegate for those locals merged as a result of the AFM's civil rights policy) it is evident that numerical power, and therefore political power, rests not with the larger locals which almost invariably have the bulk of work within their jurisdictions, but with the approximately 80 to 90 locals of 300 to 1,000 members.

It is clear that the current structure of the AFM does not provide for the democratic input of the AFM's membership on a one-member, one-vote basis, nor does it reflect the jurisdictional breakdown of the work.

This lack of democracy reflects itself in a number of different ways, perhaps most importantly in collective bargaining. For example, the Federation's principal collective bargaining is in the recording field. Yet from 1989 to 1995 the IEB, the chief policy-making body within the Federation, contained no representatives from a major recording local.

Similarly, bylaw changes beneficial to working musicians in the larger locals can be very controversial and difficult to pass. (The financial packages put in place by the 1991 and 1993 conventions had support primarily from the larger locals, especially Local 802, and were approved by roll call vote, not voice vote. In 1993, it should be noted, many mid-sized locals ultimately, and at great sacrifice, backed the increases. More on that below.)

Democratic and thereby effective leadership demands that: (1) the needs of the majority of working musicians be addressed, and (2) the needs and concerns of other groups of musicians be respected. This is at times a difficult and complex process. Under the current structure it leads to situations in which groups that have no practical input are rendered irrelevant, no matter how much power they seem to possess structurally. The IEB - the Federation's chief policy-making body, according to the bylaws - takes no part in the AFM's negotiating activities. It does not approve initial proposals. It does not appear at the table as a body or vote on the final settlement.

Several decades ago, the Board designated the President, the two Vice-Presidents and the Secretary-Treasurer as the Federation negotiating team for national contracts. That has been modified - for reasons both good and practical. But to the best of my knowledge, the Board played no part in that modification.

This modification has consisted of adding several consultants: usually former officers or supervisors of Federation departments, who are important sources of advice on the negotiating history of an agreement; a rank-and-file representative; and, most importantly, the leadership of one or more of the player conferences, almost without exception the president of the National RMA and, less often, the chair of ICSOM. The individuals who currently hold these two positions are the most powerful and influential persons in the Federation, aside from the full-time officers: President, Vice-President from Canada and Secretary-Treasurer.

In the collective bargaining process, identified in Article 2 of the AFM bylaws as being of fundamental importance, these two organizations have supplanted the IEB in its negotiating function as provided for in Article 3, Section 7(e)(i) of the bylaws. That this has taken place shows how powerful, indeed inevitable, are the forces for a practical approach to negotiations.

Reconciling Disparate Interests

In essence, anyone elected to AFM leadership at the highest level is faced with the task of reconciling two disparate representative bodies: first, the IEB elected by the locals in accordance with the AFM bylaws, and second, the RMA and ICSOM leadership elected by working musicians because of their need for a voice in the process. In the 1960s this latter group, finding themselves powerless and underrepresented within the formal structure, formed highly effective pressure groups which have, over the past several decades, achieved limited formal recognition under the bylaws and a seat at the bargaining table. They have forced a policy of rank-and-file involvement in major national collective bargaining.

This change is of fundamental importance and cannot be overestimated. It has brought the AFM into closer conformity with the essential ideal of the union movement - to provide an effective mechanism for the worker to take part in the process - and has also, as with all efforts towards more inclusive democracy, inevitably strengthened our hand.

If the Federation is to regain the influence it had in the past, a major effort must now be made to modify the formal structure so as to increase this participation by working musicians while, at the same time, recognizing and addressing the needs of the locals. It is absolutely essential that the concerns of these two groups be reconciled.

Both local and national officers need to consider the degree to which our organization's credibility rests on the gains won at the bargaining table for working members. Since any structural change must come from action by the Convention, the large group of mid-sized locals must be persuaded that restructuring will be beneficial to the Federation as a body and to each of its components. Even if it were to become necessary to utilize a roll call vote to achieve change, these locals would be important players.

This is by no means an impossible task. At the 1993 Convention the combined Law and Finance committees, made up of delegates from locals of every size, recommended a package of per-capita and dues increases substantially in excess of that originally recommended by the IEB. This committee action, which placed the interest of the Federation before the locals' own self-interest, was approved by a roll call margin of nearly two to one. The delegates proved that, after receiving all the information and hearing all the arguments, provincial politics could be put aside and the good of the national organization prevail. It can be done - but a convincing case must be made that what is being proposed will benefit all.

On the other hand, working musicians must realize that their strength derives, in great part, from the solidarity offered by the diverse nature of Federation membership and by the sheer numbers of those under the AFM's umbrella.

In addition, organizing efforts among groups of working musicians currently outside the union must be aggressively pursued. This will, when successful, lead to increased credibility and prestige. Greater numbers of under-employed and part-time musicians will then see the union as a potentially strong advocate for their concerns.

The AFM Phono Agreement

Having discussed the AFM's structure and how it evolved in somewhat general terms, it is also worthwhile to examine specific situations so that theory does not stray too far from reality. A brief look at the history of our phonograph industry agreements and the Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Fund may help to explain my sense of urgency about the need to revitalize the AFM through structural reform and through organizing the unorganized.

The recent AFM Recording Industry negotiations, while fascinating enough because of the issues involved and the personalities of the principal negotiators, were made even more interesting by who is not at the table.

For management, the six major companies (CBS/Sony, BMG, Polygram, Capital-EMI, Warner and Atlantic) are present in force. However, a significant percentage of today's recordings are not produced by these six labels. Missing from the bargaining table are a host of other labels and production companies. While some of them are small, others have become important players in the industry We have not been able to convince many of them to sign onto what is probably our union's most important single collective bargaining agreement. Obviously, this creates an awkward situation and severely weakens our hand in these talks.

On our side of the table, the locals whose members do most of the recording work and are the most affected by the contract's provisions are not primary participants in the negotiating process. That is, they are not members of the negotiating subcommittee.

Neither are those locals which are most affected by the contract provisions that created the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF). None of these locals, either large or small, were directly involved either in creating proposals for the negotiations or in ratifying the final package. However, since MPTF is part of the glue that holds the AFM together, these locals form a looming political presence in the background.

How MPTF Was Won

MPTF had its origins in the shutdown of the recording industry from June of 1942 through November 1944, when then AFM President James C. Petrillo called on all AFM musicians to refuse all phono recording work. His goal was to force the industry to recognize - in economic terms - the vast numbers of live musical performances and venues that were being negatively impacted by the existence of recorded product. This strike, euphemistically called the record ban, was totally successful. Instrumental presence on recordings of every genre ceased. Petrillo was able to demonstrate his and the union's ability to control this industry.

Out of this strike came the Music Performance Trust Fund, a revolutionary concept that set aside the fruits of the labor of one relatively small group of workers and made them available for a far larger group of workers, in the form of wages for musical performances free to the public. There has been much debate over whether President Petrillo (who was quoted as stating, "When you make a recording, you're playing for your own funeral") was acting purely out of concern for live music or was propelled by narrow political motives. But' it cannot be denied that the concept had a profound political impact on the Federation's policies and politics - an impact that continues to the present day.

In the 1950s and early '60s, for example, the fact that money normally negotiated for salary increases for the musicians who were actually making recordings was instead being allocated to the MPTF finally led to the creation of a rival union. Primarily centered in Los Angeles, it was headed by Cecil Read, a Local 47 studio trumpet player. The realization that he would be forced to reach an accommodation with this group of musicians led to Petrillo's decision to decline nomination for another term as president at the AFM's 1958 convention. His successor, Herman Kenin, finally reached an accommodation which resulted in the creation of the Phonograph Special Payments Fund.

In 1987, again, the Federation's position in the phono negotiations led to substantial disagreements between then AFM President Victor Fuentealba and the presidents of Local 47 and Local 802, Bernie Fleischer and John Glasel respectively. This dispute was no doubt the biggest factor in President Fuentealba's unseating by Marty Emerson at the 1987 convention. The fundamental issue involved cuts in MPTF and Special Payments funding. Fuentealba was the only incumbent AFM president ever denied re-election.

At this year's phono negotiations, as in the last several contract talks, the AFM suffered cuts in MFTF funding. How-ever, the negotiating committee is to be congratulated for holding those cuts to a minimum and winning modest increases in other contract areas. For the undeniable fact is that we no longer possess the leverage that Petrillo had in 1942. A concept such as MPTF - which is intrinsically onerous to management - can only be sustained with the kind of strength we demonstrated at that time. Unless and until we represent recording musicians in the same proportionate numbers and variety as we did in the 1940s, our hard-fought gains will continue to erode.

Why We Must Organize

The recording industry is a hugely profitable industry that reports multi-million dollar profits every year. But protecting past gains and winning our fair share of these profits requires real bargaining strength. Regaining that organizational strength is not solely the responsibility of the Federation. It is also the responsibility of every local whose jurisdiction includes young recording musicians, no matter the ethnicity or genre of music. They, too, face abuse and exploitation in this extremely cut-throat but very profitable industry. Their needs and concerns deserve our attention. We ignore them at our own peril.

Organizing them is a top priority and, while it may require new and innovative methods, we must do it. If it means rethinking our scale structure, we must do it. if it means creating new contract forms, we must do it. if it means developing appropriate public relations and marketing initiatives, we must do it. And if it means that the union must look the same at the bargaining table as it does in the field, we have no choice; we certainly must do that as well.

We cannot continue to tolerate a 40 to 50 percent rate of non-union recordings on the charts. We can't be satisfied with only representing "session" players. We have to develop relationships with the groups that are actually providing profits to the companies - and we have to do it early in those groups' careers.

The union cannot exist effectively as an organization by representing only those who are relatively financially successful. A union attitude and a union mentality take time to develop, and individual musicians need to have the benefits of collective action demonstrated early in their careers by caring, trustworthy officials.

At this point in its history the AFM and its locals cannot afford to ignore any groups of musicians, any musical genres or any performance settings. We cannot assume that any musicians are beneath our notice or outside our purview. At the highest level, we need to make certain that all economic strata are heard and considered and that each member understands his or her dependence on the strength of the whole. That can only be accomplished through a structure that more accurately reflects the numerical and employment demographics of its membership.

Organizing: the AFM's Most Important Challenge

In 1991 and again in 1993, delegates to the AFM Conventions acted to stave off financial insolvency by mandating greatly increased per-capita payments from the locals and work dues payments from members. In 1991, per capita - the amount each local pays annually to the AFM for each member - was increased from $12 per member to $36 per regular member and $24 per life member. In 1993, the delegates increased the per capita to $46 for regular members and $30 for life members.

At both conventions, discussions on the floor about the increases did not center on members' ability, but on their willingness, to pay. At issue was the Federation's relevance to the vast majority of its members. Time after time, I heard someone ask, "What do my people need the Federation for?"

For Local 802, with its large share of national contract work, the answer is obvious. We need the AFM because it is essential to maintain a Federation-wide level playing field in as many areas as possible, and particularly in the recording and electronic media fields.

In 1993, my first year as president, Local 802 again supported per-capita increases - but for somewhat different reasons. Our local was scheduled to negotiate one of its cornerstone agreements - the Broadway contract - in the late summer and fall, and it would have been catastrophic to enter that negotiation (even though it was a local contract) with a weakened or potentially weakened AFM. I came to realize then, that without a viable national structure even the largest locals would be immeasurably weakened. And many mid-sized and smaller locals, even those whose members have no contact with the Federation, would all but disappear. The idea of a national organization holds us together and provides a single, unified message to our members and to the employers we deal with.

A passive AFM is better than no AFM because it contains, dormant within it, the potential for unified action. A strong AFM - such as we had in the 1940s and '50s - can unleash that potential at every level if a viable representative structure is in place. Of course, we cannot return to the '40s and '50s. We must recreate that power in a way that reflects today's realities.

The Power of Collective Action

When James Petrillo became president of the AFM, he assumed that he spoke for the membership and that the membership included all working musicians. The labor movement was vigorous and working people held union values in high regard.

Petrillo's assumption proved correct - but unfortunately the same assumption can no longer be made. Musicians are not as unified and society does not as readily accept organized labor's message. However, that message - with its advocacy of strength through collective action - remains the only viable alternative to the weakening of the workers' voice over the past four decades.

This is why organizing is the single most important task facing the AFM. Unless we organize and once again become the voice of all musicians working in various fields, we will disappear as an effective organization representing musicians' interests.

The labor movement as a whole has reached the same conclusion. Unions today represent only about one in ten private sector workers, down from nearly one in three 30 years ago. The new AFL-CIO leadership has pledged to devote $20 million a year to organizing and some of these resources are being made available to affiliate unions and their locals.

The guidelines for the organizing grants speak about the need for "strategic planning" and about selecting targets that "have the potential for shifting the balance of power in a region or industry" These are important concepts, and I will come back to them later.

In recent years the AFM has taken some small but important steps in the same direction. Five years ago the IEB established the Organizing and Recruitment Task Force, to help locals start organizing and recruitment efforts. Some people were hired and efforts were begun in several areas. However, the Task Force faced a number of problems. The most important was a general lack of clarity as to the goal: was it organizing or was it recruitment, and what is the difference?

Some of those hired believed that their job was to recruit new members for a particular local. But this can become a frustrating job, particularly if there are no long-term prospects for collective bargaining agreements that improve wages, benefits and working conditions for the new members. Not only was such recruitment difficult, it was confounded by the problem of retaining the new members when there seemed to be little real value in being an AFM member.

However, through the experience of the task force we learned what organizing means and came to have a better appreciation of the fact that the goal of organizing must be collective bargaining agreements.

By action of the last convention the AFM now has mandated in the bylaws an Organizing and Education Department with a director and a small staff. The question, now, is what kind of resources will be devoted to this department? What kind of "strategic planning" will go into its work? What kind of priority will organizing have within our organization, and what will be the involvement of those at other than the Federation level?

Focusing Our Efforts

I believe that we need to take a serious look at the music industry and consider where we need to focus our resources. In what areas has the "balance of power" shifted against us? What areas are strategic to our long-term goals of protecting and advancing musicians interests?

While it is difficult to get a firm grasp on what percentage of the music business is organized, we can make some educated guesses. In the recording field, for example, less than half of the recording going on today is under union contract (and some estimates put this figure as low as 30 percent). Our strength at the bargaining table in the recent Phonograph negotiations was a direct function of the fact that we do not have a larger part of the recording industry organized.

Basically, we have three years to turn this around before we again face the recording industry across the bargaining table. It seems to me that this has to be a top priority. We must build a true rank-and-file movement among recording musicians in all fields, strong enough to force more labels to become signatories, to end the dark dates, and to involve the musicians who are working in the many new areas of recorded product.

For decades we have ignored jazz record dates, blues recordings and Hispanic music. More recently, we have turned our backs on hip-hop and rap rhythm sections. In many parts of the Federation, we are still questioning whether rock and roll is here to stay. This cannot continue if we are to survive. We cannot maintain even our tenuous hold on the industry without substantial progress in organizing in all areas of recording.

There is an explosion of growth in the cable television industry Almost none of this is organized. Musicians in this field generally have no benefits, work with no set scales and have no job security of any kind. This growing electronic media field is an important strategic target.

In the musical theatre field, we are in a somewhat stronger position. Productions in the major theatrical venues around the country are mostly done under union contracts. However, a large and growing number of regional and summer theatres are non-union. An entire tier of split-week touring companies remains non-union, exerting downward pressure on wages and other standards. while these smaller summer theatres and split-week tours may require agreements somewhat different from our larger theatre contracts and Pamphlet B agreement, it is important to organize musicians who work in this area.

Musicians working in theme parks and music centers like Branson, Mo., continue to look to the AFM for help. They include many current or former AFM members. Besides the terrible wages and oppressive working conditions, most of these full-time musicians have no health insurance and are losing the opportunity to build on their pensions. Here, as in theatres, joint organizing with Actors' Equity and the Stagehands may be productive. AFM efforts in this direction must continue.

In addition, many touring musicians perform without the benefit of a union agreement. Festivals of all kinds, from jazz to chamber music, are produced every year without union agreements.

Even in the symphonic field, there are now major orchestras that are not covered by AFM agreements. These orchestras are being used to undercut scales in our film and TV agreements.

No Area Is Secure

From New York, Los Angeles and Nashville to San Antonio, Miami, Branson and Seattle and on to all the cities visited by touring musicians, all of us in the AFM - the IEB, local officers and every rank-and-file member - have an enormous stake in organizing. The simple truth is that there is no secure area of work - no field that is not threatened by the growing pressure of non-union and even viciously anti-union employers. It will become increasingly difficult to raise musicians standards as long as the non-union, unorganized parts of our industry continue to grow.

None of these tasks can be accomplished by the national organization alone. All will require unprecedented cooperation between the Federation and its subsidiary structure. Democratic representation of musicians at the local workplace level is absolutely essential to increase our organizational strength. How the AFM's subsidiary structure might be modified to better represent its members is an important question.

Restructuring Is Key to the AFM's Renewal

So far we have looked at the AFM's stated objectives, examined its political structure, discussed its most important collective bargaining agreement - the phono agreement - and discussed the importance of efforts to organize non-union electronic media, theatre, symphonic and touring activities.

Given the changes in the entertainment industry and the giant corporations that today control a good portion of it, we also have to take a long and serious look at the structure of the American Federation of Musicians. I have come to believe that the organization as a whole is mired in a structure that is outdated, outmoded and simply inappropriate for the real world of today's music industry. If we are to survive, change is necessary.

Too many locals are struggling to survive with too few members. Our structure does not maximize our leverage in national contract negotiations. In addition, we must make further progress in moving the AFM toward one-musician, one-vote democratic unionism. All of this requires re-examining how we operate.

In their day-to-day performances, musicians deal almost exclusively with locals. Even when their activities occur under the auspices of national contracts, individual members only rarely have contact with the Federation. This makes it very difficult for members to feel genuine workplace solidarity with their fellow musicians across the United States and Canada.

The Federation, which could serve as the unifying force, is perceived to be removed from the daily concerns of members and local officers and, many times, unresponsive to urgent cries for help. While both perception and reality have changed over the last nine or ten years, I do not think that further significant improvement can be made without a change in structure.

All truly effective organizations which have endured over time contain the capacity for change within their structure. Without the ability to adequately meet new challenges the AFM is destined to become a fond relic of the past. However, if we are willing to take on the hard task of reformation, we can again aspire to the strength we once had.

Despite the profound changes that have occurred since the AFM was founded, unions remain the only answer to the problems faced by working men and women as we prepare to enter the 21st century.

At the beginning of this publication we reprinted most of Article 2 of the AFM Bylaws. This section is the cornerstone of Federation policy and contains the seeds from which a new and more vital organization can grow. Here, again, is the beginning of that Article:

The object of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada shall be to unite all professional musicians without discrimination, regardless of race, creed, sex or national origin, through Local Unions into one grand organization...

The central organizational "idea" expressed here is of a strong, pro-active national union "[uniting] all professional musicians" and operating administratively through local unions to form "one grand organization." This does not describe the AFM of today nor the Federation of the past -but it does set forth an ideal which may help generate the strength to solve today's and tomorrow's problems. How do we begin this transformation?

Other Models

One step is to examine other unions' structures. While not necessarily models for the AFM, these may provide insight into what works, and what does not.

The basis for most unions' organizational structure is either the workplace, a geographical region, and/or a craft or profession. For industrial workers, the workplace generally dictates structure. For professional and craft workers, the profession or craft itself, combined with a geographic region, is often the basis for the organization.

In either situation, if the number of workers in a particular workplace or profession is small, several workplaces or geographical areas are grouped together to create a body with the critical mass to be effective. In some unions these "super locals" are simply the product of merging smaller locals. The larger locals then serve to reflect workers' needs, support the national organization and carry out policies formulated at the national level.

Other unions establish regional structures between the locals and the national organization. The regional bodies often play a major role in organizing and collective bargaining, while the local unions focus on local workplace problems.

The entertainment industry contains a wide variety of organizational structures. Actors Equity (as well as SAG and AFTRA) has a single national structure and no local organizations. Regional offices administer their national agreements.

The structure of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) is based both on region and on craft jurisdictions. For example, there are two locals for film editors, one on the west coast and one on the east coast. They basically share jurisdiction for all film editors across the country. In contrast, the stagehand locals cover much smaller geographical areas and can include a wide variety of craft workers, from carpenters to electricians, in the same local.

Do any of these models fit the needs of musicians and the AFM? And what can we learn from looking at their structure and operation more closely?

Federation Structure

Today the Federation is made up of approximately 300 local unions. Many have fewer than 100 members and cover jurisdictions with less than a quarter of a million in total population. These locals are simply too small to be effective. They do not have the resources to support full-time staff. They often have no collective bargaining agreements and more often than not function out of an officer's home.

Many of these small locals are led by dedicated and committed officers but, given the small amount of full-time work available for musicians, these officers operate under very difficult circumstances. They can do little more than promulgate scales for the work that does exist and then try to collect work dues. Under these circumstances it is next to impossible to maintain membership, let alone grow. Some of these locals are led by former or current band leaders and/or contractors, making it even harder to operate on trade union principles.

Another significant portion of the AFM's locals exist in cities with populations of over half a million. They are often anchored by symphony orchestras and have the resources for offices and some full-time staff. Yet these locals have a hard time organizing in today's climate, and often a good deal of music takes place without CBAs.

What do these locals need in order to grow? If they formed the anchors of a regional structure that included a greater metropolitan area of perhaps a million or more, could that strengthen their ability to protect and advance musicians' welfare? Wouldn't it be possible, by combining locals in a rational way, to create larger entities capable of effectively organizing, enforcing contracts and collective bargaining?

Perhaps less than five percent of the AFM's locals exist in major cities where the entertainment industry is a significant contributor to the regional and national economy. Most of the work under national contracts takes place in these major cities, where the industry conglomerates that account for much of the film, TV and recording product on the market are headquarters.

While these are the largest AFM locals and they have a firm grip on important segments of the entertainment industry, they still face serious threats. Increasingly, TV, film, jingle and recording work is being "contracted out" to smaller out-of-town production companies. No work or wage rates are secure as long as it is possible to find areas of the country (or the world) where work can be done non-union, and at rates dictated by employers.

If a regional structure were set up centered in these major metropolitan areas, could small nearby locals that are viable retain some identity and autonomy? Could a regional structure help to keep the work union, even if it does leave town? And wouldn't such a structure address the problems caused by widely varying casual dub date and concert scales within relatively contained geographical areas

The Roehl Recommendations

Finally, shouldn't we take seriously the long-ignored recommendation in the 1989-90 Roehl Report to the AFM that a trade division concept be considered? Under such a plan recording musicians, theatre musicians, symphonic musicians, traveling and touring musicians and casual club date musicians would be serviced by divisions dedicated to these fields.

Since our needs and problems are unique, the answers may not lie in any of the ideas mentioned. But I would hope that they could serve as a stimulus for discussion, and a starting point. In the process, we must be careful not to become too enmeshed in politics. When this happens the best interests of the membership can quickly get lost.

How do we avoid this? How do we focus any discussion of restructuring as much as possible on the needs of the rank-and-file musician? Maybe by concentrating on some basic principles, such as: Any new structure must ensure that every member has an equal voice in his/her union. It must be effective in unifying musicians across the continent, across areas of work, and across genres of music. And finally, it must be the most effective structure possible for dealing with our major adversaries across the bargaining table.

In 1990 then AFM President Marty Emerson created a broadly based ad-hoc committee, the Deliberative Committee, charged with finding a way out of the financial corner the Federation had painted itself into. It worked. The committee came up with a set of bold proposals to solve our financial difficulties. These were considered and, in the main, adopted by the 1991 Convention. In 1993 the Convention's Law and Finance committees, acting in much the same capacity as the Deliberative Committee, reformulated the IEB's financial recommendations in a more far-reaching way. They presented a plan which, after some modification and much discussion, was adopted by that convention.

Isn't it time to take our philosophical and structural problems as seriously as our financial problems? And isn't it possible that solving these philosophical and structural problems will help to solve our financial problems?

I would like to see the formation of a broad-based Federation Task Force to examine possible modification of the AFM's structure, similar in make-up to the Deliberative Committee. This should be done as soon as possible, so that its recommendations can be considered by the 1997 AFM Convention. The ideas outlined above, supplemented by ideas submitted from rank-and-file members, Federation and local officers, convention delegates, and/or possibly even some input from the AFL-CIO, could be the basis of its agenda.

Such a committee should be as inclusive as possible and should be chaired by someone known and universally respected. Scheduling of its meetings should be given the highest priority and the Federation's resources put at its disposal.

This would be the first step toward a renewed Federation.

The ideas expressed here came from many discussions, over the years, with members and officers of Local 802 and other AFM locals. The help of Assistant to the President Bill Dennison was invaluable in this process.

Bill Moriarity, President, Local 802 AFM.

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