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May 22, 2009

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I think I understand what was in the decision and I believe I understand the issue. Neither the Dissolution Agreement nor #3 above was part of the lawsuit but the issues were addressed tangentially as I read it.

The larger issue I was trying to raise is that even if I were to concede the validity of your complaints -- which I can if I look at it from your viewpoint -- any action on the part of the RMA will necessarily take place within a political and legal environment. The political environment is relatively clear, i.e., the AFM leadership has made its viewpoint and intentions known, and you already know how the governing structure functions.

The legal environment is not as clear, even if one feels a moral imperative. In fact labor law has been written and promulgated independently of the AFM for all the years since agreements were reached or bylaws written. That will be the environment in which a persuasive legal argument will have to be made, and the enforceability of certain provisions will be tested.

The Dissolution Agreement of 1961 was not, as far as I can tell from the documents, part of the lawsuit at all.

The Parmeter lawsuit is all about the contradiction between the AFM using the same Bylaw language to on the one hand, tell musicians that our contracts were negotiated and therefore we have to pay AFM work dues, and on the other hand, say that those same contracts are not negotiated, so that we can't vote on them. Duplicity?

It's all about democracy denied.

It would appear the Dissolution Agreement is 48 years old. That doesn't mean it's not important, it just means there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then. And given that, to what extent is it enforceable, even assuming no differences in interpretation? It appears point #3 was dealt with in last week's decision. Maybe not dealt with to your satisfaction but adjudicated nonetheless.

The ratification provisions of the Dissolution Agreement, at least for national agreements, were long ago written into AFM bylaws. And it was not "adjudicated" in the dismissal of the lawsuit; in fact, the court made clear that it wasn't going to get into the question of whether or not the AFM violated its bylaws by how it handled promulgated agreements.

Oooh, Dave is an angry fellow. Go pound sand Dave.

"I'm not making that case just asking the question. Are the questions not valid?"

No Rick, your "questions" are not valid, as long as you are not a member of the AFM. I repeat, join up and put your money where your mouth is or leave the discussion to those who care enough about the future to stay in the AFM.

Do you really think the 60 days you were a member here was enough time to judge Nashville and Local 257? I invited you out to meet some of the best players in town and you refused. You never gave 257 a chance, yet you continue to blabber on about things you don't understand and are not even trying to be a part of.

Why not try Local 1000, since you can't find a city you think is free of Bolshevik operatives?

I wouldn't presume to prejudge any outcomes but these are the kinds of questions, it seems to me, that you (not you specifically) need to know the answers to, particularly if there is further litigation.

Sure, Rick, questions are always valid, but I think to make any judgments on the final outcome are presumably premature. We'll all find out eventually, that's for sure!

"...Rick's argument they also don't hold up, let alone be enforceable."

Antony, I'm not making that case just asking the question. Are the questions not valid?

Raphael Rishik: "The Judge's decision does not negate our rights as union members." This is not the final word in this case.
And the AFM Bylaws are a lot older than 48 years, so I guess by Rick's argument they also don't hold up, let alone be enforceable. There's been a lot of water under their own bridge over the years as well.

It would appear the Dissolution Agreement is 48 years old. That doesn't mean it's not important, it just means there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then. And given that, to what extent is it enforceable, even assuming no differences in interpretation? It appears point #3 was dealt with in last week's decision. Maybe not dealt with to your satisfaction but adjudicated nonetheless.

Excerpts for all to see again, from the Dissolution Agreement:

3) Ratification. The Federation reaffirms its policy to grant to all musicians employed in the fields within the Federation’s jurisdiction the right to ratify all contracts it negotiations.

4) Recording Musicians Advisory Committee. Not later than April 1, 1962 the Federation will cause to be elected in Los Angeles a committee democratically selected in Los Angeles at regular intervals by all members working in the recording field (phonograph records, motion picture films, TV film and tape, transcriptions, jingles and spots) in the Los Angeles area. Those serving as members of the committee must be actively working in the recording field during the time of such service. The committee shall include a representative of the arrangers (elected exclusively by arrangers) and a representative of copyists (elected exclusively by copyists). The committee shall have the right to communicate directly to the Federation its advice and opinions respecting all matters affecting the interests of recording musicians. It shall advise and consult with the Federation respecting the formulation of bargaining demands. Additionally, a representative or representatives shall serve in an advisory capacity at all Federation collective bargaining negotiations.


"musicians should..." "No vote - no work dues"

The word 'should' is by itself problematic. We don't now nor will we ever live in utopia.

The question would seem to be how direct of a democracy can one realistically expect or demand? The AFM has a governing structure in place that includes democratic principles, and which may or may not (clearly it doesn't) satisfy everyone. In that sense it may be like many other institutions. So if one is dissatisfied one can endeavor to change it through protest, litigation, whatever -- or by waiting it out and advocating for change over time. The RMA will just have to decide to what lengths it feels it has to go. If the RMA chooses a course of confrontation it will obviously get confrontation. If some musicians want to blame AFM leadership fine, blame them, although you cannot be surprised if AFM leadership pushes back. But as a practical matter it is unlikely any of this will result in some kind of 'direct democracy' anytime soon, and frankly it is not clear to me that a 'direct democracy' in the AFM is a good idea.

I oppose the RMA for reasons I won't go into here but I think litigation is costly, destructive and a bad idea. Militancy can be seductive but it can also have unintended consequences.

Theoretical discussions of democracy are fine, and enjoyable. However, the basis of the Parmeter lawsuit is real-life - musicians should have the right to vote on their contracts. The right to vote is a simple democratic issue. No vote - no work dues. This would have been a pretty simple issue for the AFM to solve. Just let us vote!

902 wrote: "democracy is the tyranny of the uniformed or misinformed majority"

You would probably have gotten agreement from both Aristotle and Plato, neither of whom trusted democracy. I think it is flawed also but it seems the reason it is celebrated in today's politics is because apparently there is on record no instance of one democracy attacking another democracy. So when it comes to world peace and koombaya democracy is the sh**.

From R. Blanc:

"Do you believe that the current structure which you see as a sort of tyranny of the majority is improvable through any method other than litigation or evolution?"

Years ago, a close friend (also a busy AFM musician) and I decided that democracy is the tyranny of the uniformed or misinformed majority. I'm told that the AFM's problems will eventually be solved by the attrition of the small locals, dying from their lack of anything to do with the profession and dwindling membership. However, I don't think I'll live long enough to see this.

"Join up or stay out of the discussion, please."

Thanks for your input Dave but I'll do what I want whether you approve or not.

Now to the issue: 802fiddler wrote: "There have been three AFM-appointed restructure committees over the past 20 years: Blue Ribbon, Unity and Futures, all dealing with giving full-time musicians a bigger voice in AFM and all dealing with streamlining and modernizing the Union. All major proposals coming out of those committees were defeated at various AFM conventions by the non-working and part-time voting majority. After three tries, it looks as though lawsuits may be the only way to save the AFM (if it's worth saving)."

802fiddler you certainly paint a picture which would make change of the basic 'democratic' structure of the AFM unlikely. Litigation doesn't seem very promising either. If the AFM "isn't worth saving" what is a viable alternative? Do you believe that the current structure which you see as a sort of tyranny of the majority is improvable through any method other than litigation or evolution?

Addendum:

Those few "window-dressing" proposals that did survive (read: oversight) have not been implemented.

Rick, when you refer to "We" who are you talking about? It can't be the AFM, if you are not a member. Some of "us" are looking for positive solutions and you bring nothing to the table but your own negative bias. Join up or stay out of the discussion, please.

From R. Blanc:

"We went through this question a little bit with 802fiddler."

First - is that the editorial we?
Second - There have been three AFM-appointed restructure committees over the past 20 years: Blue Ribbon, Unity and Futures, all dealing with giving full-time musicians a bigger voice in AFM and all dealing with streamlining and modernizing the Union. All major proposals coming out of those committees were defeated at various AFM conventions by the non-working and part-time voting majority. After three tries, it looks as though lawsuits may be the only way to save the AFM (if it's worth saving).

Bruce says: "Democracy is not happening in internal business of this Federation."

First of all democracy comes in many variations. You have very direct representation and you have very indirect representation. You have very broad democracy and you have democracy like in ancient Athens wherein about 16% of the population had voting rights. To make a statement as you made is not only meaningless due to its being overly general, it is also inaccurate. Internal AFM democracy may not be to your liking but it certainly exists.

We went through this question a little bit with 802fiddler. If the RMA wants to make a case about lack of democracy it will have to be much more specific. I have my bias obviously but I would be interested in seeing a comprehensive case articulated, including detailed and realistic solutions. I think it would be in the RMA's interests to do so also. It has to be more than "the AFM is violating its own Bylaws." Clearly as the court held, the AFM has latitude and discretion in interpreting its own Bylaws. Precedent and established practice are also important. Specifically where are the alleged violations?

Facts, not feelings please. Robert, if you want to jump start negotiations this might be a place to start.

Well said Rafeal. And there lies the root of the problem. Democracy is not happening in internal business of this Federation.More and more people are realizing that.

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