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July 13, 2005


A dialogue such as this, in the open for all to see and for all to participate, assures us all that we're on the right track. Robert continues to prove that the AFM will be shaped by those who are willing to stand up and express their views - Ken also for many years.

Thank you!
Pete Vriesenga

One of the untold tales in the saga of Tom Lee vs. the recording musicians unfolded at the end of 2003. The LA RMA newsletter had been distributed that contained scathing criticisms of Tom Lee and AFM behavior. Tom Lee called the IEB together seeking its advice on how to respond to the newsletter. In general, we counseled him to respond moderately. Tom Lee replied that since he had been personally attacked, he had to respond on the same level. We counseled him that a union leader had to rise above that kind of behavior with its members. After an hour's discussion, the entire IEB had come to the conclusion that Tom should not respond at all, because it would touch off an internal battle that would be bad for the union, and which would likely show no prospect of ending. However, Tom ignored all our advice, and fired off a very unfortunate counter-attack, which was deep down dirty and personal. It pretty much set the tone for the last 18 months.

At the following meeting of the IEB, two LA RMA members had filed a protest with the IEB, asserting that Tom Lee had exceeded his authority, misspending union funds in responding to the RMA newsletter in the manner that he had. They demanded that the IEB investigate whether Tom's letter had violated federal labor law.

General Counsel had done advance work on the issues and advised the IEB that Tom Lee's letter violated no statutes, and fell within his authority. While the IEB had not supported sending the letter, it also recognized the truth of General Counsel's advice. Quite surprisingly, however, General Counsel had prepared a draft response that went beyond the pale, containing, in addition to the legal reponses, very disparaging and condescending jabs at the two LA members. The Board interposed itself, directing that the response be toned down to the bare essentials.

Since then, the IEB has met or teleconferenced an extraordinary number of times to deal with the latest episode of this developing drama. All along, our desire was to do what could be done to bring the conflict down and find a way to collect the SPF fees, to protect the interests and image of the AFM, and support the president as best we could.

We called ourselves and RMA to a June '04 meeting to find a formula for peace. Five very basic points were agreed to, and everyone left with a cautiously good feeling. Unfortunately, by the end of the summer, Tom Lee was back to squabbling with RMA, and the tentative good feeling was washed away.

With this crisis growing, the SPF fees remaining essentially uncollected, the sparring between Tom Lee and RMA continuing unabated, the IEB met a number of times between Dec. 04 and mid-February. We concluded that if we approached the convention with the SPF fees uncollected, there would be an unacceptable level of conflict between convention delegates and recording musicians, and that such a conflict needed to be avoided if at all possible. We recognized that time was running out, and that if there was not a solution in play by the end of March, we would be in deep trouble. We had been patient with Tom's behavior long enough, and informed him that the Board would have to find a solution even if it embarrassed him or made him look like he was at fault (which I always thought he was). We tried to set up one more meeting with the RMA musicians in February, in conjunction with the meeting of the Western Conference. Unfortunately, that meeting fell apart for purely avoidable reasons.

Ray Hair picked up the ball, however, stating that even if the IEB wasn't going to meet officially with the RMA, he, as a union officer, wasn't going to stand by while the last chance to work things out sailed by. I, Mark Jones, and Hal Espinosa agreed, and we set up an informal, unofficial meeting with RMA reps from LA, Nashville, Miami and elsewhere.

That meeting resulted in the following basic points:

(1) We promised that we would carry forward to the full IEB policy proposals to give recording musicians the same kind of participation in their bargaining and contract administration that any symphony member has in their local (like the right to select their own negotiating committee representatives, the right to be consulted before any contract waivers are agreed to by the union, to name a couple),
(2) to give them input into the structure and function of their "business rep" (EMSD).
(3) We would look for an alternative to the SPF fees.

This was the roadmap to finding peace and harmony.

We previewed the points with the board members who were present at the Western Conference, with Tom being quite noticeable in his opposition thereto.

When we took up the policy proposals formally at the March Board meeting, Tom had apparently organized opposition to the proposals from amongst various locals, Canadian and US, including Local 802, who came to that meeting with a total misunderstanding of what we were thinking.

It was then that we realized that Tom was committed to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He would not accept peace if it was not on his terms. With a way out of the mess with the recording musicians at hand, Tom Lee was not going to go there.

The rest is known. The major portion of the SPF fees have been paid. The film negotiations have been concluded without a revolution.

Ed Ward stayed at Tom's side as long as he could. When Ed's advice ran counter to what Tom wanted to do, Tom stopped asking him for advice. When Ed, as with the rest of us, saw the potential for ending the SPF wars, he did as best he could to bring Tom along, but Tom would have none of it.

We all tried as hard as we could to give Tom Lee good advice, to back him up as best we could, to salvage the situation and everyone's reputation and honor. In the final analysis, however, he chose to follow his personal urges and satisfy his ego instead of follow the wiser and saner advice of his fellow officers.

Paul Harwood wrote:

You'd lock yourself in a room with Bill and both realising that the AFM is really in need of competent leadership, and one final last chance, you'd emerge from the room with THE slate I dream of: Bill 'More Reality' for Pres. and Robert Levine for ST."

I'm truly flattered, and it would be an honor to serve with Bill in any capacity. But I wouldn't make a good S/T, for some of the same reasons that Florence doesn't.

The logical slate would have had Bill for president and Ed for S/T. I think the decision to include Florence was both a substantive and strategic error.

Hi Robert,

You'd lock yourself in a room with Bill and both realising that the AFM is really in need of competent leadership, and one final last chance, you'd emerge from the room with THE slate I dream of: Bill 'More Reality' for Pres. and Robert Levine for ST.



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