I apologize for taking so long to finish this. I was hoping to do it on the flight home, but found I'd packed some of what I needed in my suitcase, and was both swamped and exhausted upon my return home.
Ray called the meeting to order at 9:07 AM, and described the agenda for the session.
The first order of business was the report of the Election Committee, although anyone who cared already knew the outcome (and the numbers were posted at the entrance to the meeting room).
Lovie Smith-Wright, Chair of the Diversity Committee, gave the committee’s report. The committee suggested that, in light of 2019 being both the year of the next Convention and the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the US, the Convention should include a focus on womens' issues.
John O’Connor, chair of the Organizing Committee, prefaced his delivery of the Committee report with a rendition (with, I believe, Eve Goldberg and Tret Fure) of “Step by Step”:
Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won
Many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none
And by union what we will can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill, singly none singly none.
It was a lovely performance. He reported that the Committee had met twice for very good discussions on the current state of musician organizing. He said he’d been coming to AFM Conventions since 1993 and had never been more encouraged about the state of organizing within the AFM; that these were small blossoms to date, but that they were there to be nurtured. He described the biggest challenge as lack of resources, but that there was a commitment to organizing that didn’t exist even three years ago.
The committee made the following recommendations for the AFM to:
- undertake training for local officers and activists
- to organize, along with Locals, in support of our legislative efforts
- to use organizing principles and practices to achieve other legislative goals
- to increase research capacities to support organizing.
Ray thanked AFM IR Cass Acosta for attending during his continuing recovery from health issues. Cass received a standing ovation.
The Chair of the PR committee (whose name I never did catch) delivered the committee’s report. The committee suggested the substitution of the word “communications” for “PR” in general. They also recommended expanding the use of the word “professional” as a description of AFM members, as well as enhancing public awareness of the AFM by more participation in national events and trade shows. He said we have, in the stars of the music business, some of the most popular and fascinating celebrities on the planet to help us. The committee also recommended updating the PR strategy guide and toolkit for Local officers.
He described Locals as akin to franchisees of the AFM, and talked about how McDonalds’ franchisees don’t buy the billboards or the TV commercials to “convince our children that what they sell is actually food”; perhaps the second-best line of the entire Convention.
Ray brought to the dais AFM General Counsel Jeff Freund. Freund told the Convention that he was retiring as AFM General Counsel. He talked at length about how the AFM is not just a client for Bredhoff & Kaiser, but really a calling, and that the AFM was deep in the DNA of the firm and vice versa. He said he was brought to the firm in 1987 by Henry Kaiser as a trial lawyer to fight the many charges brought against the AFM by the NLRB.
He talked about the importance of the Lancaster Symphony case for the future of musicians as employees and organized workers, and how it needed the resources of a national union to fight a case like that. He received a very long standing ovation from the delegates.
A delegate rose on a point of personal privilege to point out that the Westgate was being picketed that morning by the Carpenters Local 1977 over the use of migrant workers with substandard wages and working conditions.
Gary Sirone, Chair of the International Musician committee, made his report with a balloon in hand and a tinsel crown on his head. “Happy 100th Convention!” He said that, in 2013, the IM Committee recommended that the IM increase its web presence and exposure at music conferences and trade shows. He said that most of that had been done. The staff has been able to collect data from visitors to the IM website and increase web ad revenue. The website now pays for itself with ad revenue. Meanwhile, paper copies of the IM continue to be important. The committee recommended that there should be clear goals for the IM.
Sam Folio said this was going to be Gary’s last convention as IM Committee chair, and presented him with a plaque.
Ray said there were a couple of delegates with birthdays today. One was Vice-President from Canada Emeritus Dave Jandrisch, The other was Deacon John Moore, long-time delegate from New Orleans, who turned 75 today after a lifetime of working with legendary musicians. Ray said he’d influenced everyone in the room, even if they didn’t know it, and asked him to come to the dais.
Deacon John Moore described it as a very emotional moment for him, as his birthday coincided with the day the first person of color (John Acosta) was sworn in as a member of the IEB. Ray asked him to sing, and he did: a stunning a cappella rendition of Sam Cooke’s It’s been a long time coming:
I was born by the river
In a little tent
And just like the river
I've been running ever since
It's been a long, long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will
It's been too hard living
But I'm afraid to die
I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
I go to the movie and I go downtown but
somebody keep telling me don't hang around
It's been a long, long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh yes it will
Then I go to my brother
I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees
There's been times that I thought
I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come
Oh, yes it will.
Ray was in tears by the end, and I’m sure he wasn’t the only one. It was a truly great moment; one of the best of all the great moments I’ve seen over ten AFM Conventions.
Bruce Fife invited four delegates to the dais to thank them for 25 years of AFM Convention attendance.
Alphonso Pollard made the TEMPO Achievement Awards to Dave Pomeroy of Local 257 (Nashville), Pat Hollenbeck of Local 9-535 (Boston), Ed Malaga of Local 161-710 (Washington DC), and David Schoenbrun of Local 6 (San Francisco).
Ray and Tammy Kirk did a little morning talk-show host act while introducing the TEMPO sweepstakes drawing. The winner of the prize, a Yamaha electronic piano donated by Sam Folio, was Don Warner from Kansas City. Ray invited him to New York to pick it up and take advantage of all the work the AFM has done on the issue of instruments as carry-on baggage.
Candace Lammers, TEMPO Committee chair, reported that TEMPO had raised over $7,000 at the Convention.
Tom Baskerville of Local 30-73 rose on a point of personal privilege to thank the Convention for the remarkable acts of generosity shown to his local at the 2013 Convention. He said they had enabled the Local to keep its doors open during the SPCO and Minnesota Orchestra lockouts. He also thanked the members of those orchestras for supporting a significant increase in work dues, needed to return the Local to financial health.
Eddie Bayens, Law Committee chair, presented Resolution A, which enabled the IEB to act between Conventions and to correct any non-substantive errors in legislation that had been passed at the Convention. At least I hope that’s all it did, as it passed without objection. (In fairness, similar resolutions have been passed at the conclusion of all previous Conventions I’ve attended.)
Ray thanked Ken Shirk for all his work in putting together the Convention, and Ken received a standing ovation. Ken thanked the many staff who had worked on the Convention planning, including Diane DePiro, Nadine Sylvester, and Barbara Owens. He also thanked Pat Variale.
Ray suggested that the Convention award Jeff Freund the title of AFM General Counsel Emeritus, to which there was no objection.
Joe Carfagno moved to give Sam Folio the title of AFM International Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus, to which there was no objection. Sam received a standing ovation.
Ray gave an impromptu closing address. He thanked the staff and the IEB for helping him “survive the past 6 years.” He then said he wanted to say some “personal and positive things” about two fellow officers. He praised retiring Executive Officer Vince Trombetta, who he described as having “50,000 hours of experience” in recording in film, TV, jingles and everything else. He said that Vince would continue as a trustee of the Pension Fund.
Vince received a standing ovation.
Ray then talked about Sam Folio. He described meeting Sam at the AFM Convention in 1983 in Phoenix, at which Sam was elected to the IEB when he was a member of the so-called “West Virginia Mafia” (which included former AFM Secretary-Treasurer Kelly Castleberry and former Executive Officer Tom Bailey). He said he and Sam became close friends and walked many picket lines together. He described how, when his father died, Sam unexpectedly showed up at the service in the Methodist Church in Meridian, Mississippi, saying “you know I can’t let you do this by yourself.” He said Sam was one of the best friends he’d ever had and that he’d miss him.
Sam Folio then spoke. He said that one thing he learned from working with B.F. Skinner (the legendary psychology researcher) was about teachable moments, and this was one. He described getting a text from his granddaughter, telling him she hoped he wouldn’t win so that he could go home.
He said that one thing he wanted to make sure the union did not lose sight of was that we were nothing if we did not work for social change as well as for justice and fair treatment for musicians, and in particular that the AFM could do better in the area of disability issues. He spoke directly to the needs of blind musicians to get the same opportunities as everyone else.
He thanked his staff: Nadine Sylvester, Michelle Ledgister, and others. He talked about the need to increase the infrastructure and staff of the LA office in order to collect an additional $40 million for our members. He thanked all of the IM staff and editors, and said he saw members reading it (pointing out that symphony musicians always start at the back, with the help-wanted ads.)
He said he prepared three envelopes to give to Jay in the event Jay got into trouble. In the first envelope was a note that said “blame everything on your predecessor.” Sam said that would work for three years. In the second envelope was a note that said “re-organize.” That’s good for another four years. In the third envelope was a note that said “prepare three envelopes.”
Sam received a standing ovation.
Ray invited both departing and returning officers to speak. After that, the oath of office was administered to the elected officers by President Emeritus Mark Tully Massagli.
The convention was adjourned at 12:13 PM.