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August 06, 2005



More really productive conversation. I'm really growing to enjoy this blog. I have a few observations as someone on the "outside" of these discussions. And when I say "outside" I mean that I am not a member of the AFM but I do perform a variety of consulting work for musicians represented under CBA's (please don't hate me just for that). I have strong beliefs about the necessary good that collective representation provides orchestra musicians and as one of the only presenters at the upcoming ICSOM conference who has never actually been paid directly by the AFM (on any level) for services rendered I hope to bring some unique perspective to the issues at hand.

I find the debate surrounding the authority of Local union officers vs. hired consultants intriguing. From my viewpoint, everyone is actually talking about the same thing and making the same points. What I mean by that is I agree that unions should always do everything they can to educate and empower their members to be productive, engaged individuals within the collective organization. What I see within these conversations is a variety of individuals framing the universal problems within the business. What I don't see as much of is individuals coming to conclusions that all of the specific solutions presented are necessary to build a bigger picture. Instead, I see a number of black and white solutions.

However, that doesn't mean outside assistance is in itself, inherently evil. Are their bad consultants who leech off their clients for their own good? Absolutely, just look at a number of consultants who are employed by respective orchestra management's out there. Are there bad union officers who don't do their duty of fair representation or take the time to become the knowledgeable representatives they should be? Absolutely, just about everyone out there with at least five years in an ICSOM orchestra can probably think of of example. I can provide dozens of examples from rank & file musicians who contact me looking for counsel because they aren't getting satisfaction from the union officers.

But does that mean there's also a universal solution to the problem? No. I can't imagine how some of the contentious situations throughout orchestras over the past few years would have played out without the assistance of talented, thoughtful outside legal and PR professionals offering their services (and some do it pro bono don't forget) to musicians.

Having said that my presentation at the ICSOM conference next week is entitled "What To Do Between Negotiations". It's a comprehensive plan of action to empower players' organizations to become more involved in their organization on better terms than currently exist in most outfits. It doesn't suggest the wholesale elimination of outside consultation, instead it encourages players to determine where their needs are right now and go about finding the best way to improve their situation to a minimum acceptable level.

Personally, I think that in order for this to come to pass sooner than later, it's going to take the input and assistance of outside consultants to get the ball rolling. It doesn't mean these consultants are always going to be around but it will allow each organization to determine when and how they need help throughout the years. As environments and the immediate levels of need change, so will the requirements for outside help.

Walling yourself off to become and island unto yourself is rarely a good global strategy. You may become entirely self dependent but you also remove yourself from the resources found in the mainstream environment outside your island. There's definitely a balance to be reached and, even though I'm just an outsider, I want to help find a way for musicians to improve identifying & harnessing their internal resources AND getting the best possible use out of outside consultation.


The post below"

Michael Moore should quit begging for a job with the federation. You're using up good space.

Posted by: | August 7, 2005 01:29 PM"

The NAZI is back trying to censor me.

Michael Moore should quit begging for a job with the federation. You're using up good space.

To: " Dumb local . . . . . ."

Exactly. The NLRA does not say "the Lawyer who was hired by the bargaining agent........."

Despite the fact that Leibowitz didn't file the 8(d) notice, the ultimate responsibilty to file the notice rests with the bargaining agent - in this case Local 2-198. They created the clusterfuck by not paying attention to their responsibilities or checking with Liebowitz to make sure he had filed it. Why wait for the lawyer. A local with CBAs should make a calendar of dates that 8(a) notices are due. Shame on them.

I have represent unions and myself and others in the court before as only legal council and won most of my cases, and I find that while there are many good hard working lawyers there are a portion who LEACH off of the Unions and there are even those who can not pass any State Bar, that wind up working for the Employers and present themselves as "Lawyers" and they are just union busters who are paid $150.00 to $500.00 an hour to bust the union.

There are some Lawyers and Consultants who represent the Union, but they are nothing more than Union Busters by incompetence.

The AFM needs to quit "Out Sourcing" our Union Negotiations and start training officers and representatives (who have little or no training) to become professional negotiators instead of hiring outside the AFM.

This will save the AFM a big bag of money, and make the union stronger, of course the voices against this will always be the people taking the bag of money out of the union.

If the AFM has the hired guns and they produce results then keep 'em if they are non productive send them a letter that their services are no longer required and pull talent from with in the AFM.

Many thanks AFM & NYBA member. What you have posted coincides with what I have been told by another NYBA Lawyer I know (not Lenny) I don't ask Lenny about this as I'm afraid it will taint his defense. Anyway I was reluctant to write anything as I am not a lawyer. However you have and right well to boot BRAVO!

Brad Buckley

Just a note of clarification concerning Brad's second issue re: filing of complaint against the negotiating attorney.

In New York State, authority over the conduct of attorneys rests with the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court and the discipline and grievance committees appointed by that court. Complaints must be in writing, and if the complaint describes conduct which would be considered improper, if proved, the attorney against whom the complaint is made must respond to the complaint in writing. If the committee determines after investigation that the attorney's conduct was improper, it can send the attorney a letter of caution, admonition or reprimand, advising him or her of the impropriety of the conduct. These letters are not made public, but are retained as part of the attorney's record. I have served on two committees.

1. It should be understood that approximately 85% of complaints are "sour grapes or get even" complaints. This complaint appears to fall into that catagory.

2. Although a complaint may be filed by anyone, not just the client, in this case, if the officers state to the committee that they are filing not as officers of the union,but as individuals, this would dilute the creedance of the complaint and put it in the above catagory.

3. Another issue is that in serious cases the committee will refer the complaint to the court for litigation. In this case, it will not happen.

What should concern the local officers is that it is within the rights of the complainee to take action against them. By their own statements their purpose of filing was to "instill future injury" on the complainee through lost wages.

Mr. Buckley's reference to two mistakes by the local seems on the mark from what I know of the situation. The first mistake cannot be rectified, but the second mistake can; simply by admitting that the complaint was a mistake and withdrawing it.

Finding fault is not resolving the situation.

"All of this against a background buzz that the union intended to run the next negotiation"

This has always been something that has puzzled the S**T of me with the AFM,
"the union intended to run the next negotiation" or
"the union intended to run the negotiations" of any kind?

Why in the F**K does the AFM have elected officers such as Local Presidents, Local Secretaries and International officers?

Every other Union has trained or professional officers to negotiate CBA, Contracts and agreements.

New officers and other officers can always be trained to negotiate.

What I see in the AFM is that there is way to many chiefs at the Bargaining table, and way to many agenda's

Clusterfuck! is a perfect choice of words for this issue, I am not against committees and rank and file being on the board, but it sure seems to me that to many times in the AFM's negotiations that there are Rogue negotiators and there is never a "party line" other people keep jumping in and out of the negotiations for their own interests, the recent Motion picture talks demonstrated this, I do not care who was right and who was wrong in those negotiations, it just looks like to me like "Unprofessional Bargaining" nothing more nothing less and our members suffer from this bullshit!

The AFM to me is starting to look more and more like a club of those who get a free trip to Las Vegas every two years and some of those "Club" members do not give a dam about the word "UNION"

Case and point:

1) Hiring of consultants costing big bucks and billable hours to make up for the lack of skill that some local office do not possess or desire to learn.

The potential for conflicts of interests are here, happen before and it will happen again in the AFM.

Consultants who become the CEO's of the negotiation instead of the local or federation officers, this is handing over the responsibility of the Union office to a "outside" non accountable person, who is not always a member of the AFM or maybe a "Employer" under the law.

How many of these "Consultants" have ever even taking the AFM's membership oath?

More importantly look at how they attempt to justify their existence working for the AFM.

2) Officers that should be at the bargaining table are "Missing in Action" where they can learn just by being in the room even if they say little of nothing, but why are they even elected if they do not do the job of Union Office?

3) Rogue voices & Divided voices
I have pushed that all voices be heard in the AFM and this needs to happen, but when you go into negotiations you cannot have dissent, the "Employers" will use this against the Union, They See it and they use it against us in negotiations.

I have seen that the factions in AFM negotiation over the years get the Item(s) they have personal interest in then they are not interested in the rest of the negotiations, or they fixate or obsess on an issue, blinded by the rest of the package on the table, once again the "Employers" see this and us it against us.

While there are many hard working good Union officers in the AFM there is a hand full of unprofessional, untalented, people working to destroy the AFM, they are not even aware of it to some degree they only see what is in their self interests and the words
"Collective Bargaining" are foreign to them!

They just do not even get having your s**t together will all interested parties on the AFM's side months before the negotiations start.

You have a chief negotiator at the table, if there is a need for a break or a caucus then you pull dissent away from the table to sort it out, do not display it in front of the other side of the table, which has happen in various AFM negotiations how STUPID is that?

I had a renegotiate right before a show once and I was working on getting the big prize for the band and I had one of my guitar players who was not present the whole time burst into the room and demand something it was small and I had already picked it up a few minutes earlier in my talks with management, but the key here was that management had agreed to the thing as part of something else, and may have not understood that and we were going over other items, Now the easy thing would have been to just tell my guitar player "We Got It" but it would have alerted management that they had give it away already, it's not my fault they were not on top of the negotiations, tables turned they would have done the same thing, there was not time to stop the meeting and pull my guitar player out of the room and tell him, he told me he wanted this "Item" before I went in to the talks, I did not forget it and I have gotten it for him, but in his impatience he almost lost it after it was bargained for. He was fixated on 1 Item not the whole Agreement!!!

I understand this mind set because it has happen to me before, now I can recognized it and put it in check, you can not show your whole hand to the other side of the table and sometimes when you get the thing that was # 1 on your wish list in negotiations you do not let the employer become aware of it, you move past that gain and work on the others and get the agreement signed!!!

Negotiations are not just skill, there is a "GUT FEELING" as well reading the other side of they table and going past their poker face.

In a perfect world, both sides would trust each other and just be open and work on a contract, but if it was a perfect world there would be no need for CBA's and contracts.

The fact of the matter is "Contracts" exist because people break their word by not living up to their word, sometimes they do on purpose and some times it is beyond their control and CBA's keep wars from happening and guarantee Labor Peace and if both sides honor the terms of the contracts.

In closing, by making this post I wish to impart you all of you that there are to many middle men/women (I do not mean our Rank & File members working under the CBA) in AFM negations and the result is some of the train wreck contracts and factions within the AFM.

It is time to quit "OUT SOURCING" negotiations within the AFM to lawyers and paid consultants, if lawyers and consultants are present, they are present at the discretion of the Union not vice verse, give their advice and counsel and "Sit Back" and let the officers & committees make the leadership decision, since they are the ones accountable to the membership and if they drop the ball, the rank and file can vote them out of office!
(In theory)

Has the Rank & File ever been able to VOTE the AFM Lawyers and Consultants off of the AFM dole?

If so show me where that has ever happen in the AFM?

The bottom line is that "Out Sourcing" AFM negotiations has "Weaken" and "Destroyed" more AFM contracts that it has created.

And some of the officers that keep hiring people outside of the Union to do their jobs do so because they do not have a CLUE on how to negotiate, time for them to learn or time for them to leave union office.

One reason some local officers do not want Rank and File doing the officers work is that the rank and file will get noticed maybe doing a good job as a negotiator and elected that member over the officer.

Unprofessional negotiations = bad overall contracts!

Contract is key is the Union business and the Union protects those Contracts by organizing the unorganized and rasing the Union's market share.

Robert Levine wrote:
"and it’s far from clear to me why the musicians chose to settle instead of simply returning to work under the imposed terms and continuing to negotiate, with the threat of a future strike when it became legal to do so."

Good question Robert. The orchestra settled because their leadership (the committee) was convinced that there was nothing to be gained by continuing the dispute any longer. As part of their presentation to the orchestra at the ratification meeting the committee said (sic) we are convinced that at this point there is nothing to be gained by continuing to negotiate or continuing the dispute. As might be expected there were a number of parts to the committee making that decision and one part was pressure from the Local union and Labor Council to settle. I am told that the union was concerned about lawsuits arising from an "illegle" strike and the labor council was convinced that there was nothing further to be gained by continuing to negotiate. Itws important to remember that the managements last offer after eight weeks of dispute was not a concessionary contract although it was not everything the orchestra wanted.

I think the union made two big mistakes. It should have just kept quiet at the ratification meeting and let the committee do the heavy lifting of convincing the orchestra to ratify, and it should never have filed ethical violations against the orchestra's attorney. It then exacerbated the situation by refusing to discuss the ethical violation with its membership and compounded that when the union VP told the orchestra at a meeting that the union filed the ethical violations in part out of concern for other orchestras that might want to hire Lenny Leibowitz. All of this against a background buzz that the union intended to run the next negotiation. As you can see this leaves the orchestra with the impression that the union is using the situation for its own power purposes by seeking to discredit the orchestras attorney and limit the power of the orchestra committee in future contract negotiations. BTW the three union officers have stated that they filed the ethical violation against Leibowitz as individuals not on behalf of the union as union officers. I find that interesting since the only "relationship" these officers have with Leibowitz is the attorney/client relationship as union officers

Brad Buckley

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