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May 25, 2009

Comments

"Gee, what an apt description of the AFM administration......"

True to an extent, I agree. That is an inherent danger with all unions. But the RMA has doubled-down in my opinion. It is less moderate, more radical.

From R. Blanc:

Any organization that effectively and deliberately denies individual liberty and opportunity and instead, in a self-serving arrogant fashion, attempts to impose a Soviet style top-down control of an industry and market is a problem according to my principles.

Gee, what an apt description of the AFM administration......

802, ok I'll explain the reference. "An act of desperation" was Tina's excuse for RMA demonstrating union "disunity." Had you read her contribution you would have probably recognized my sarcasm. Further, the absence of a demonstration of "love" or "warm and fuzzy" hardly in and of itself constitutes hate -- obviously.

But I don't apologize for strong antipathy toward the RMA. Any organization that effectively and deliberately denies individual liberty and opportunity and instead, in a self-serving arrogant fashion, attempts to impose a Soviet style top-down control of an industry and market is a problem according to my principles.

From R. Blanc:

802, who's taking cheap shots now? And you use the word "hate."

Since in your own words, it's an act of desperation not to support a local containing an RMA chapter (including leaving) it certainly isn't love. Further, your wanting "to be instrumental in ensuring future [RMA] defeats as necessary" isn't too warmly collegial either. Gee, have I somehow mischaracterized you? Cheap shots, or paraphrasing your own words?

802, who's taking cheap shots now? And you use the word "hate." There's plenty of that coming my direction. But that's ok because I'm the bad guy right? Now that the RMA has suffered one defeat I want to be instrumental in ensuring future defeats as necessary. And I suppose fighting a mob is good debating practice anyhow.

From R. Blanc:

I think it is important to represent another set of priorities....

Let's see, in no particular order - Hate the RMA, leave the AFM and take erudite? potshots from the outside. Quite a set of priorities.

well brucy I guess the simple answer is you have your opinions and I have mine. I think it is important to represent another set of priorities so that not everyone becomes an arrogant drone like you. As to your other questions I pass. I'm sorry you don't like my opinions but that's just too bad.

"The RMA is a corrupt organization, something its cheerleaders and sycophants fail to grasp."

Now ricky, that's insulting. What do you know? How many RMA members do you know personally. It's easy for you to hang out in the anonymity of your computer room and spout off your diatribe, but Tina is right. You are not an AFM member , you quit , but the RMA members stayed in.
As you said....
I'm not currently a member. Call it an act of "desperation." That's what happens to me when I'm in a local controlled by RMA; I have an irresistible urge to not support the local.
Are you now talking about Nashville ? RMA controlled????? Pomeroy won by a landslide. He has accomplished more in sixth months than the previous administration did in as many years. He reached out to you , inviting you to gigs and meetings and you never had the courtesy to show up.
You Mr. Blanc are an angry and bitter man. You do nothing but insult people that don't agree with you.
You are not an AFM member. You are not part of the solution. why are you still here?

Tina, you are right about one thing; I'm not currently a member. Call it an act of "desperation." That's what happens to me when I'm in a local controlled by RMA; I have an irresistible urge to not support the local.

But I've got news for you -- you couldn't be more wrong about my not knowing what is going on with the union. I've been a member most of my life, have an AFM pension and have attended scads of meetings. I have earned the right to participate in any discussion, at least as far as I'm concerned. And I would put my understanding of these labor/political/economy related issues up against yours any day. But I'm not going to argue with you. I will simply repeat what I said earlier: you and I are not going to agree on much but we can agree that preservation of the Musician's union might be a good idea. And that was the point of your original post was it not?

"I didn’t say your $52 was going to be spent on lobbying, it’s not." I didn't say you said that -- you missed my point because you didn't read it carefully. I said if this were the UAW or CWA. My point being, and correct me if I'm wrong, sometimes you think union violation of member's rights is ok whereas sometimes you decide an 'alleged' violation is not ok. Double standard or ideological hypocrisy? I will repeat myself again: this is more or less how unions work -- no one is happy all the time.

Right back at you, Rick:

“You spoke of "...our union solidarity." Do you mean the kind of solidarity that files federal lawsuits against the mothership?”

I see it as an act of desperation. If you don’t have a “meaningful voice in decisions that affect” you as stated in our Mission Statement it causes people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t. Union solidarity to me is to make all attempts to resolve our internal differences internally so we can show a united front to those who wish to exploit us (which should be external forces). I don’t believe all has been done and in my opinion other more important issues have been pushed to the side. My wish would be that AFM leadership would figure out a way to resolve these internal issues weighing out what is in the best interests of all of our members which may not include leadership’s “winning”. I don’t think they were elected to spend all their time and members money on fighting with musicians. We all have to pick our battles and figure out what is in the best interests of the majority in the long run. We’ve had years of this particular war and it is not in the interests of the majority of musicians made up of members like those in my Local. We’ve all seen instances of winning a battle and losing the war or cutting your nose off to spite your face.

“You mentioned the RMA has not quit the AFM. But by re-energizing the Guild they have repeatedly threatened to, perhaps dishonestly. Does that forward the cause?”

See my response above.

“Maybe someone like me who attempts to inject reason and perspective into the process is making a contribution toward union strength and its future in a different and needed way -- or is there only one way to march in lockstep solidarity these days?”

All members voices should be heard and respected in our Union, but you are not a member. If you want to have an active voice in the AFM – join. I also don’t think you have the background to “inject reason and perspective” because you don’t demonstrate that you have been an active participant in the Union. An active participant is someone who is a member, attends Local meetings, and educates themselves about the Union. You’re on the outside looking in.

“You mentioned my missing $52 in dues money, $52 that, if this were the UAW or the CWA, you wouldn't be able to send to Democratic coffers against my wishes.”

I didn’t say your $52 was going to be spent on lobbying, it’s not. Our political action fund is made up of personal donations – not member dues. I said it would go into the AFM to work on our issues. Clarifying – it goes into paying for AFM staff to provide information and support to Local Officers and members. How do you think the AFM exists? How does the AFM pay for office space and the International Musician? The AFM makes its income from per capita (The $52.50 portion of regular members dues forwarded from their Locals), initiation fees, and a portion of work dues primarily coming from our Symphony and Recording Musicians. If more people – like you – were paying dues the AFM would have more of a budget to increase staff and do more research to help musicians. Not knowing these things further demonstrates that you really don’t know what you’re talking about and you might rethink all of your opinions if you did.

"I don't question the goodness of your intentions but assuming your impetus is truth and not an ideological agenda then you appear to be quite naive. We are talking about an environment characterized by power politics, not necessarily noble abstractions. Some people feel the need for endless agitation, rationalized in any number of ways. Some believe there is wisdom in restraint. Power politics. Whose will prevails? This is why we have institutional structure -- however imperfectly it handles the ephemeral."

What I’m saying is that part of our institutional structure is the Mission Statement. If we all follow the instructions (including and especially leadership) we’ll have a better chance of avoiding internal fights. We have a lot of external fights we need to be working on and that should be the priority. “Power politics” are stupid and a great way to damage our institution. I'm simply a pragmatist and suggest we resolve the internal problems and focus on the external. If you were a member I might consider sending you a list of the external fights that I see Locals fighting everyday to benefit their members and preserve the music profession.

Best wishes,

Tina

A few additional thoughts for Tina:

You spoke of "...our union solidarity." Do you mean the kind of solidarity that files federal lawsuits against the mothership?

You mentioned the RMA has not quit the AFM. But by re-energizing the Guild they have repeatedly threatened to, perhaps
dishonestly. Does that forward the cause?

Maybe someone like me who attempts to inject reason and perspective into the process is making a contribution toward union strength and its future in a different and needed way -- or is there only one way to march in lockstep solidarity these days?

You mentioned my missing $52 in dues money, $52 that, if this were the UAW or the CWA, you wouldn't be able to send to Democratic coffers against my wishes.

I don't question the goodness of your intentions but assuming your impetus is truth and not an ideological agenda then you appear to be quite naive. We are talking about an environment characterized by power politics, not necessarily noble abstractions. Some people feel the need for endless agitation, rationalized in any number of ways. Some believe there is wisdom in restraint. Power politics. Whose will prevails? This is why we have institutional structure -- however imperfectly it handles the ephemeral.

Tina,

I can reiterate what I've said before but I don't want to spend too much time going over and over the same material.

Suffice it to say that while your analysis and mine remain in stark contrast I believe we can both agree that a healthy Musician's union is a good thing and worth preserving. Obviously it is impossible in any situation to make everyone happy all the time and people will continue to hold and express deep differences of opinion. Your take on the RMA and AFM treatment of the RMA is your take; my take is my take.

The preservation and longevity of the AFM may to some extent depend upon individuals, RMA included, being willing hold a minority position for awhile. The RMA partisans like to blame Tom Lee but it takes two to fight, and Tom Lee has the authority of AFM leadership at the moment -- like it or not. From the position of AFM leadership they are representing RMA as well as the rest of the membership -- whether you agree this is the case or not that is their position.

Rick,

From www.opensecrets.org

2008 – Top 20 Lobbyist spending
US Chamber of Commerce$91,615,000Exxon Mobil$29,000,000AARP$27,900,000PG&E Corp$27,250,000Northrop Grumman$20,743,252American Medical Assn$20,555,000Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America$20,220,000American Hospital Assn$19,652,914General Electric$19,423,000Verizon Communications$18,020,000National Assn of Realtors$17,340,000Boeing Co$16,610,000Lockheed Martin$15,841,506Koch Industries$15,450,000AT&T Inc$15,076,675National Cable & Telecommunications Assn$14,420,000Southern Co$14,080,000Blue Cross/Blue Shield$13,951,699Altria Group$13,840,000General Motors$13,781,000

2008- Top 20 PAC spending

Operating Engineers Union $1,945,000 88% 12% National Community Pharmacists Assn $952,000 65% 35% Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $828,650 98% 2% AT&T Inc $624,775 48% 52% American Crystal Sugar $519,000 74% 26% National Beer Wholesalers Assn $508,000 60% 40% Carpenters & Joiners Union $500,000 80% 21% Honeywell International $465,000 67% 33% American Bankers Assn $441,500 51% 49% American Assn for Justice $439,000 96% 4% Boeing Co $345,000 63% 37% Raytheon Co $334,000 62% 38% Air Line Pilots Assn $329,500 88% 12% United Food & Commercial Workers Union $315,550 100% 0% Teamsters Union $315,500 99% 1% Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union $307,500 98% 2% Lockheed Martin $306,500 65% 35% AFLAC Inc $291,500 63% 37% Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp $287,241 55% 45% International Assn of Fire Fighters $279,000 89% 10%

So the UAW (using your figures) would fit as #5 on the 1st list – the only difference being your numbers are an accumulation of 8 years and the lists above show spending in only one year.

I agree that corruption can taint any organization/company, but you have to consider that Unions have elections that are watched by the Department of Labor. Corporations have no such oversight. The point I was making in my original post is that we have lost any semblance of balance and it’s time to work on achieving a balance with more regulation of Corporations and our society – including musicians- will benefit.

One of the things you will notice in the Union PAC spending listed above is the percentages showing donations to each of the top two political parties. The percentages show there are voices other than the majority being represented. The AFM has a duty and responsibility to represent all members, including the minorities which in our case would be groups such as RMA. The way to represent them would be to follow the AFM Mission Statement which says:

We are the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, professional musicians united through our Locals so that:

• We can live and work in dignity;
• Our work will be fulfilling and compensated fairly;
• We will have a meaningful voice in decisions that affect us;
• We will have the opportunity to develop our talents and skills;
• Our collective voice and power will be realized in a democratic and progressive union;
• We can oppose the forces of exploitation through our union solidarity.

To achieve these objectives, we must commit to:

• Treating each other with respect and dignity without regard to ethnicity, creed, sex, age, disability, citizenship, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or national origin; (perhaps we need to add some language including genre and types of work - TM)
• Honoring the standards and expectations we collectively set for ourselves in pursuit of that vision, supporting and following the Bylaws that we adopt for ourselves;
• Actively participating in the democratic institutions of our union.

With that unity and resolve, we must engage in direct action that demonstrates our power and determination to:

• Organize unorganized musicians, extending to them the gains of unionism while securing control over our industry sectors and labor markets;
• Bargain contracts and otherwise exercise collective power to improve wages and working conditions, expand the role of musicians in work place decision-making, and build a stronger union;
• Build political power to ensure that musicians' voices are heard at every level of government to create economic opportunity and foster social justice;
• Provide meaningful paths for member involvement and participation in strong, democratic unions;
• Develop highly trained and motivated leaders at every level of the union who reflect the membership in all its diversity;
• Build coalitions and act in solidarity with other organizations who share our concern for social and economic justice.

Most of the issues we face, in my opinion, could be resolved through organizing, education, and simply following our mission statement.

The RMA members are paying their membership dues, work dues and more. Their work is on contracts, have you filed contracts and paid work dues on your jobs? You admittedly are not a member which results in $52.50 per year less for the AFM to spend on our issues. Think of what we could do if all musicians were union members. Maybe we could all be compensated like the “rich” recording musicians.

You claim the RMA is corrupt; my take on it is that the RMA has Bylaws and Elections which need to be respected. You also say “The RMA seems to believe that if it doesn’t get what it demands any amount of destruction is justifiable” which seems more to reflect your behavior of quitting the AFM. What would need to change in order for you to rejoin and would that reason be similar to what the RMA is asking for? The difference being that RMA hasn't quit the AFM.

My guess is that if the AFM demonstrated clearly we were on the path defined by our Mission Statement the RMA members would have less of an issue investing in the Union.

Now let's move on to a more productive discussion such as how we go about organizing and educating so we don't lose anymore ground during this economic mess!

Best wishes,

Tina

From R. Blanc:

The RMA is a corrupt organization, something its cheerleaders and sycophants fail to grasp.

A bold statement with no evidence to back it up. Say'in so doesn't make it so.

Between 2000 and 2008, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union gave $23,675,562 to the Democratic Party and its candidates, including Obama. In the same period it gave $193,540 to Republicans. It is an open question to what extent the UAW membership agreed to this level of political spending.

In return the UAW is getting significant percentages of both GM and Chrysler as part of the nationalization of those companies, and preferential treatment in Bankruptcy Court.

That would be the worst deal since Russia sold Alaska to the US for a few seal skins. No one wanted this outcome. It only happened because GM was badly managed for decades, and succeeded in turning off millions of potential consumers to the idea of even owning an American car, much less buying one.

The UAW would much rather had had the cash in their VEBAs than GM stock that may never rise above its current value of nothing.

Unions support Democrats for the same reasons that businesses support Republicans. Is that corruption too? If so, let's fix it all around.

Tina,

Between 2000 and 2008, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union gave $23,675,562 to the Democratic Party and its candidates, including Obama. In the same period it gave $193,540 to Republicans. It is an open question to what extent the UAW membership agreed to this level of political spending.

In return the UAW is getting significant percentages of both GM and Chrysler as part of the nationalization of those companies, and preferential treatment in Bankruptcy Court.

Corruption is not the exclusive provenance of the political or corporate classes; it potentially taints every institution. This is nothing new: Augustine wrote about it 1600 years ago in "City of God." The RMA is a corrupt organization, something its cheerleaders and sycophants fail to grasp.

So I would disagree with most everything you wrote but there may be common ground nevertheless.

Unions, as institutions (imperfect as they are) are important to the stability of a society, a marketplace, a polity, and therefore to workers. The stabilizing effects of these imperfect institutions mitigate against booms and busts, economic dislocations, unstable markets etc. Unions can have a beneficial role along with other institutions. They can also be destructive and abusive, so they are monitored -- appropriately.

Having said that the Musician's union is, in my opinion, important to musicians and the music business and should be preserved, despite its flaws. This is one of the reasons I strongly oppose RMA destruction aimed toward the union, its leadership and the marketplace. The RMA seems to believe that if it doesn't get what it demands any amount of destruction is justifiable -- a reckless and irresponsible position.

Okay, let’s talk about Unions. I was given advice a couple of years ago that when talking about issues I need to “keep it simple.” I’m working on it, but definitely not there yet.

I’m of the opinion that if Unions were stronger, had more density within the population of the U.S. we would not be in the economic mess that we’re in. If corporate America had anywhere near the oversight Unions do, it would have been virtually impossible for the CEO’s and Wall Street to gamble with our future and that of our children and grandchildren. More of the work force would have negotiated health insurance into their contracts so the costs would have been spread more evenly throughout the population. And more of the population would have had the ability to stand up to the prescription drug industry and the health insurance industry as they slammed their prices down the throats of US workers.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could access the financial information of corporate America in the same way they can examine the finances of Unions? Let them fill out something like the LM1 or 2 and have it posted on the internet for all to see, especially any of the banks or corporations being bailed out by tax payer dollars. Let’s impose some standards on how they do business in the same way that Unions are ruled by Labor laws.

How about imposing special taxes on businesses with overseas bank accounts or who have moved their factories out of the US. Let’s create incentives for corporations to have their headquarters in the US and give tax breaks structured on how many US employees they have. Or if they’re manufacturing overseas, hit them with an import tariff unless they are paying fair wages and providing benefits that are equivalent to US wages and benefits.

What I’m saying is basically, let’s even out the playing field. We need to change our laws to make it doable for workers to unionize. We also need to educate US workers that Unions are not the evil doers that corporations have been making them out to be. I keep hearing about how productive US workers are, but wages and benefits are not keeping up. It’s not only that US workers are overspending, they’re under-earning!

It’s long past time for Corporate America to show their support and take some responsibilities. We’ve been watching the CEO salaries get so blown out of proportion leading to disparities last seen at the turn of the 20th century when the Carnegies, Rockefellers, and Morgans made their wealth on the backs of the working people. Unions missed the opportunity over the last 8 years when it would have made the most sense to rise up and fight for working families. The excuse is that Labor Laws and the political environment made organizing difficult to impossible. Corporate American has been blackmailing this country for a long time. “Unionize the workforce and we’ll move it overseas.” They did it anyway.

What does this have to do with Music? If workers were earning decent wages and working a reasonable number of hours, they would have the leisure time to go out and support music in their communities or hire bands for their personal events (weddings, family reunions, etc.). They may have a few bucks and the energy to attend concerts and purchase CDs or MP3s. If musicians organized and stood together we might be able to build enough power that we wouldn’t be fighting over scraps. Let’s create incentives to bring the work here (wherever that is within the AFM) and have it pay properly. There’s enough money in the movie industry to pay for what the contracts call for. It’s not simply up to the AFM to uphold our contracts. It’s up to musicians and not just the identified Recording Musicians.

We need a vision for what we want our future to be. I believe the AFM gives us the structure to realize that vision. I’m asking that our discussions be taken to a new level that would allow us to develop a collective vision and create strategies to get us there. Oh, and one other thing, to develop a committed group of musicians who will participate in the work that it will take to make anything happen!

The implication is that there were no other variables between 2002 and the end of 2006.

Tony,

You're right, it's amazing that the AFM keeps pretending that their videogame adventure is a big success. We had (from 2002) a legitimate AFM videogame scoring agreement in place. A stable of employers was building steadily, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of real employment flowed to AFM musicians.

Then, in 2005, the AFM closed up shop. They lost the staff assigned to VG, and never hired replacements. The EMSD was in disarray (and remains so). They shuttered the windows and pulled up the sidewalks.

Fast forward to the end of 2006. The only agenda the AFM had was to play politics, and cannibalize their own agreement - all because the players had created and supported it. They set up two competing agreements, for the same locations, one cheaper and crappier than the other. Sure, there was a bump, because they were cannibalizing employment onto a cheaper contract. But push has come to shove.

It's a mess, and a failure. A mess and failure of the AFM's own making.

Claptrap, indeed!

"Employment is actually half of what it was in 2007, and declining."

Does this reference all recording or just videogame recording? If it refers to videogame recording how has the videogame agreement decreased the volume of recording nationwide?

What is most astounding is the blatant untruth (to use a kind word) in the IM and over and over again by its unofficial mouthpiece, 'sockpuppet88', that videogame scoring was on a roll, and that those involved in it were thrilled by, to paraphrase, "all the new work opportunities being captured". What a pile of self-serving claptrap.

"Perhaps if policy were set by actual musicians we could do better?"

It is not at all clear to me that would be the case, and I think to say that creates a false dichotomy. It implies two things categorically: 1) that those making policy are not musicians, and 2) that 'musicians' would be monolithic in their thinking or decision-making. It's a stretch.

It seems to me that who the union allows to join is less important at the moment that how the AFM goes about setting policy in real life. The IEB has been setting videogames policy by responding only to employers and political insiders. The results?

Predictably, a disaster.

Employment is actually half of what it was in 2007, and declining. Annual AFM videogames wages - from everywhere, all together - are less than a couple of weeks of film scoring. Yet the International Musician trumpets this huge success. It is the tawdriest of empty photo-op silliness.

Perhaps if policy were set by actual musicians we could do better?

"Allowing employers to be not only members but union officers and officials has been justified by the statement: "the music business is different from other businesses.""

If you say that argument has been used to justify allowing employers to be not only members but union officers and officials I believe you -- and I don't understand the logic there. I don't see how the one justifies the other. And I also don't understand how that discredits the answer I gave you. I'm not trying to justify the above, I merely gave my take on why I think the music business is different from other businesses.

Allowing employers to be not only members but union officers and officials has been justified by the statement: "the music business is different from other businesses." This is exactly the justification expressed by Rick.

My question, which has yet to be answered is: how does the music business differ from other businesses, so that it may allow employers to be members of the musician's union?

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