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December 18, 2008


Robert promotes negotiations - a great idea! However from all reports, at the November "summit" meeting with the recording musicians, Lee, etc recently, the recording musicians' position was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition - here's a report from the COMMITTEE:


From the information we’ve gathered, the AFM/RMA summit held a couple
of weeks ago in LA was a bust. We understand that the RMA said all the
AFM’s “problems”, apparently referring to the recording musicians lawsuit
and other issues, would go away if the RMA was given control of the West
Coast AFM operations. This after the RMA insisted they had nothing to do
with the current lawsuit by recording musicians.

The day after the summit concluded, recording musicians war-chest Fareplay,
Inc. head Rafael Rishik sent a letter to recording musicians calling the 2%
work dues on special payment funds an “illegal tax”, saying legal action was
imminent to prevent recording musicians from having to pay these dues,
and encouraging a “wait and see” attitude to musicians regarding payment of
these dues.”

That's not negotiation, that's bullying and threats. Predictably, Lee did not fold. So much for negotiations.

The negotiations between Lee and the producers in Feb. should be interesting now that the recording musicians have virtually declared war on him personally... I have to wonder whether it's the brightest move to continually attack the very person who will control the negotiations by which your next contract will be the result of.

On a related note, Lee really should have called the Nashville winners by now. Bad form.

Downbeat wrote:

"Sorry to hear that Tom refused the meeting - did he give a reason? Did both sides agree the mediator was fair and impartial? Hmm..."

Mediation was refused by the AFM, but not, I believe, on the grounds that any particular mediator was not acceptable to the AFM. As for the real reason, Downbeat himself hit on it in an earlier post:

"Any basic read of Lee's history would have shown that he does not negotiate well "under the gun", and the more the recording musicians threaten, bluster and sue, the more Lee will dig in."

Of course, the same read of the same history would show that he doesn't negotiate well with the rank-and-file, or the player conferences, under any circumstances. He certainly doesn't want to negotiate with Phil Ayling, or even be in the same room with him.

It's also worth noting that, with regard to the lawsuit, the court has encouraged the parties to negotiate. That hasn't happened either.

It is an irrefutable fact that the current AFM administration/IEB does not believe it needs to negotiate with the community of recording musician. Whether this is on principled grounds, or simply because they want to crush the opposition, is less important than that negotiations are the only way out of this mess that will not result in a really bad outcome for the AFM, and possibly for the recording musicians as well.

Downbeat: I can't really justify spending much time discussing things with people who don't have the courage to use their own names. Not that your unbelievably obtuse follow-up comments merit much discussion anyway. If you want to believe what you spout is the end game for most recording musicians, go ahead, be my guest; I'm in a giving mood today. But that doesn't make it so.

Keep being confused; it fits.

OK, Antony - I'm confused. Are you saying that the PMG was not founded by, and is not being operated by recording musicians? Now who's not connected with reality? Who do you think created and runs this organization? Symphony guys? Wedding reception players?

PMG "reps" were shopping their score recording services at the Game Developers Conference a couple of years ago, however they've kept their current activities and goals a secret. Why they've done this is a question that should concern many.

This can be titled under the "walks like a duck, talks like a duck" heading - if it acts like a guild, calls itself a guild, and states clearly on its home page that it's #1 mission is to "negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits and working conditions for professional musicians", it's a musicians guild. And that means they compete directly with the AFM by their very existence.

Last I heard, the PMG officers were LA recording musicians Marc Sazer and Andy Malloy. That may not be current info, though.

Downbeat states: "When you disagree with an organization, you can choose to work within the system to affect change...."

How disingenuous! The RMA has attempted to work within the system for many years with varying degrees of success. Lee's mouthpieces need to be reminded that the AFM's officers are elected at a now triennial convention largely by delegates from locals where little or no full-time musical employment exists. If the AFM were a real labor union rather than a collection of hobbyists there would have been no need for the player conferences - ICSOM, RMA, ROPA, OCSM, TMA, etc. - to begin with.

Unlike the RMA/AFM situation, major symphony orchestra player committees handle their own negotiations with their locals' general approval to whatever the orchestra committee does. Since the AFM is truly the studio musicians' "local" because the contracts under which they work are national, the current AFM officers have left the RMA little choice but to sue. The RMA is simply asking for the same respect from the AFM that orchestra committees get from their locals.

Much of this has been said before on this blog and in other places. The recalcitrance and ignorance of the current AFM administration is really a result of the gerrymandered political structure of the AFM itself.

Downbeat: Your efforts to lump two unconnected organizations together in a deliberate smear tells me more about you than it does about the real situation in hand. If you think that recording musicians haven't been trying to work within the system for YEARS, then you don't know too much. Clearly it has been for naught, since the prevailing AFM attitudes are just like yours. And WHO amongst the recording community has declared the PMG is the way to go? It could only be so 'obvious' to one completely detached from reality.

As for 'scary'.....who are you anyway? At least I have a real name.

Antony - perhaps you should learn more about the Professional Musicians Guild (website: http://professionalmusiciansguild.org/)

Here is an organization that promises to, among other things, "Negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits and working conditions for professional musicians".

Strange, I thought that's what the AFM's role was, yet now we have this new organization telling the world on its website that this is what it will be (is?) doing, in DIRECT competition with the AFM.

When you disagree with an organization, you can choose to work within the system to affect change, or you can try and take business away from the organization by launching a competitive organization and attacking both financially and legally the original organization in an attempt to weaken and/or destroy it. I think it's pretty obvious which of these choices the recording musicians have made. Now it's a matter of seeing where this mess all ends up.

Lee and the IEB have no choice now, they must defend the AFM now that the "nuclear" option of federal lawsuits and creating an alternate musicians guild has been taken by the recording musicians. We all can only hope that a better AFM emerges from the current carnage, but how many careers will be made to suffer in the interim, on both sides of this? Scary.

Many of the comments so far completely miss the mark. It's as if Tom Lee and the AFM have never said a bad word about the recording community (apparently these bloggers are deaf, blind and worse), and has never tried to undermine their contracts and livelihood (while expecting/demanding that they pay through the nose for everyone else). As for PMG, that is a group that we only hear about via the AFM and bloggers; I haven't heard the very name raised in an eternity amongst working musicians, and especially from the RMA.

All of this reveals only complete detachment from the realities of what is going on. I don't think there are any recording musicians who wouldn't strongly back the AFM if it was felt that the AFM strongly backed them. Unfortunately, this is not the case. What is the case is a union that has worked solidly during the years of Lee's tenure to alienate that community, portraying them as the enemy, completely ignoring their input, and worse completely ignoring them! Witness that Lee has attended just ONE Local 47 membership meeting during his reign - and Local 47 is the AFM's LARGEST Local!!! Is it any wonder recording musicians are up in arms? Is it any wonder that Lee's little "Committee" in Local 47 has shown itself to be completely isolated and unable to impact ANYTHING?

Also witness what just happened in Nashville. The AFM received a black eye from the working recording community. Chances are that they will not learn from this, but continue to dig in and portray recording musicians in an even more negative light. More of the brilliant rocket science psychology we have been seeing from the AFM, who will still be digging their trenches as the lights go out.......

It's time they realize that recording musicians would be MORE than willing to help out if they were made to feel embraced, and not continually under attack, with their livelihoods threatened. Come on AFM, WAKE UP!

Singling out fi-core musicians (who pay all annual dues like regular members except for that portion of the dues (about 20%) that is allocated towards "political" purposes) who are part of an orchestra and refusing only them the ability to use the rehearsal hall, paid for by their annual dues as well as the rest of the membership? Not exactly blacklisting, but you can be sure those musicians' careers were affected by these aggressive tactics employed by the officers at Local 47. And to what end? Bad press, angry musicians, and now making Local 47 (and 2 other locals) the target of a federal lawsuit. Yeah, that's progress. That's really helping to make things better for musicians.

Let's not confuse scab non-union players (who pay no dues to the AFM) to fi-core musicians who pay all dues normal members of the AFM pay except for that part of the dues allocated for political purposes. And on AFM gigs that fi-core players play on, they pay 100% of the work dues that full AFM members pay. Read the Beck decision if you doubt this.

Maybe if the recording musicians weren't so busy attacking the AFM financially and legally at every turn, Lee & Co. might have an opportunity to really talk and negotiate without fear of anything he said being twisted and used against him in ongoing court cases by the recording musicians. But once the recording musicians chose to make this a legal and financial battle in court with lawyers instead of negotiating directly, it changed everything. Any basic read of Lee's history would have shown that he does not negotiate well "under the gun", and the more the recording musicians threaten, bluster and sue, the more Lee will dig in.

I fear the apparent scorched-earth policy of publicly attacking and damaging the AFM in court and financially will leave no winners and all losers, but as I said in another comment, perhaps an end game of a financially ruined and weak AFM is exactly what the recording musicians and their Professional Musicians Guild are working towards. It certainly would explain a lot of what has gone on during the last 12 months, but to the producers in February it presents a severely divided and chaotic AFM - not exactly a strong bargaining position.

For the record other Hollywood Guilds do indeed frown upon fi-core non-members (please take note they are not members nor are they brothers & sisters they are scabs), Patric Verrone President of WGA publicly posted a list of WGA members who went fi-core during the WGA strike, inviting scorn among other things after the strike ended. SAG will heavily fine or banish actors who go fi-core, refusing them future membership, unless serious restrictions are met. Local 47 did not and would not blacklist anyone who decided to go fi-core, I know of a few who have gone fi-core and have re-joined, and are now gracing the pages of the Overture. Lawsuits are a drain, they are draining the locals and they are draining the AFM. They need to stop. A good leader would find a way to unite his or her people, like the movie saids, "what we have here is a failure to communicate". With respect to President Lee, he needs to take the personality out of it and deal with the issues, sure he hates Hal Espinosa and Phil Ayling, among a few, but these are the people he must deal with, like it or not. I digress but look at the middle east. The Palestinian people elected a new government, Hamas. OK not a great choice, but this is the government the world must deal with....unless your the US, we don't like Hamas so we question their authority or completely shut down diplomatic relations, where does that get us? Don't answer. The true victims are the palestinians, they suffer, and in our case AFM members suffer...Lets stop the bull**** and get back to the business of representing musicians, remember that?

While I do not condemn harsh retaliatory actions on behalf of a union against it past members, it is important that the truth be told, even in the blogosphere...... As for 47 using non-union labor, poor judgement, which should be apologized for...

Happy New Year people, lets hope that our AFM withstands these growing pains, I am hopeful that we will... :)

As demonstrated by the comment by "Mollie" previously, the end result (blanket condemnation of the AFM) of recording musicians' endless public trashing of the AFM, not to mention the public legal attacks on the AFM may not be exactly what they expect.

Then again, perhaps it is. Could it be that the federal lawsuits, public attacks and growing financial warchest for even more attacks (Fareplay) against the AFM is designed to produce a weakened and crippled AFM, so the new Professional Musicians Guild (PMG) can rise from the ashes to "rescue" the full-time recording musicians, leaving everyone else to deal with the financial carcass of the once-great AFM? How many current union officials might find themselves with golden parachutes into paid positions in the PMG if that guild takes over a significant share of the AFM's marketplace?

Could this help explain why Local 47 and 2 other AFM locals practically invited a federal lawsuit recently filed by the well-funded National Right to Work Legal Defense organization by allegedly taking aggressive, organized action against fi-core players (who still paid dues to the AFM) and allegedly engaging in other career attacks on these folks who only want to feed their families? Why didn't these locals follow the example of other Hollywood unions who do not attack members who go fi-core and/or do nonunion work in order to get enough work to survive in these tough economic times?

What's to gain from these overtly hostile moves other than a huge legal headache and the accompanying financial drain and bad press for the AFM and its locals? And then for Local 47 to hire a blatantly non-union construction firm to renovate the same area (the rehearsal hall/studio) that they allegedly wouldn't let fi-core AFM members (who pay 80% of the annual dues of regular members) rehearse in along with their full-member union brothers?

It would be silly to think that all these anti-AFM actions were simply a coincidence - indeed, they're a reaction to Tom Lee and his leadership and agenda for the Federation. But who is coordinating and planning these attacks? What is the end game? And what effect will all of this dangerous, open warfare have on the negotiations with the motion picture producers beginning in February?

All questions we deserve open and honest answers to.

You rock! Please keep speaking out about the AFM. THE AFM SUCKS! Thanks, I'm posting the link to your blog on my facebook and telling all of my friends about it!

It's amazing to me , that the Committee, which has a membership of four or five people, has the ear of the Federation. They have been given access to the AFM email list and with the blessing of Lee and co , sent their blather far and wide. Because they are a polar contrast to the reasonable expectations of the majority of recording musicians, they are used as the attack dogs of the Federation. In fact , Chuck fernandez was tommy's special guest at the last convention. Tom still hasn't called the new leaders (rma operatives) of the LA and Nashville Unions.
At Dave Pomeroys celebration last night the room was full of RMA Operatives, or were they successful recording musicians who also happen to be AFM members. I am so confused.

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