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June 11, 2010


Finno complains about the "ratifiers" proposal being resisted and ignored. These "ratifiers" who came to the AFM negotiations caucus were jingle house producers(including one non-member who hastily joined to be able to be part of the discussion) and presented their proposal, which created much lively discussion. Frankly, I saw it as a healthy debate. But no one was prevented or discouraged from talking (other than perhaps rank and file musicians who might have been wary about speaking out in front of a potential employer.) Indeed the president encouraged discussion and it was free flowing. In negotiation caucuses it is quite common for different ideas to be “resisted” by folks who believe they don’t make sense. That’s what happened. There was honest and frank debate of the new proposal and the proposal just never became viable. In fact there were many outside of Local 802 that questioned the proposal, including AFM counsel. One of the major arguments from the proponents of this proposal was that it would simplify the contract and that management would be more willing to bring work under union contract. On the first day of negotiations, counsel for management opened with remarks that included how happy management was with the current agreement because it was “simple” compared to the other contracts by which they are bound. The proposal was well considered and vetted. The fact is it just did not fly.

Negotiations were not “hijacked”, as the ratifiers' letter claims. That is simply absurd. Tom Lee, by his office, is in charge of negotiations. Local 802 officers and RMA members don’t have the authority to hijack national negotiations. They never have and they never will. Tom Lee has all the power and he has never shied away from using it. The fact is the proposal was ill-developed. AFM counsel was among those who suggested the proposal needed a lot more work and vetting.

Finno complains that the RMA and the larger locals want to change the balance of power. But it wasn't these parties that came up with a resolution to change the way decisions are made at the Federation conventions (It came from one delegate of a medium sized local.) The resolution, if passed, would indeed shift the balance of powers toward the larger locals. The reasoning being that the more members you have the more voting power you should have. There are arguments for both sides. But what is disingenuous about the letter is this proposal was not brought to the convention by anyone in Local 802 or the RMA. The letter claims that it was. The letter amounts to a purposeful ,or at the very least, neglectful untruth (in some circles known as a lie.) The leap of logic from this proposal to “All local will suffer if smaller locals are squeezed out of existence” is truly mind-boggling. The resolution, whether one agrees with it or not, has nothing to do with the existence of small locals. It has to do with their representational power at conventions.

The letter also exhibits a clear misunderstanding of how the AFM works. Many small locals have disappeared over the past few years, in large part due to President Lee’s neglect. But the survival, as the letter suggests, of the pension and health funds has absolutely nothing to do with the existence of small locals. If a local becomes unviable, it merges with, or its territory becomes part of a larger local. Any musicians represented by collective bargaining are still represented. They are merely represented by a local that is more capable of representing those musicians.

By the way, this continual debate about the small locals is a bit beside the point. The problem with the AFM is not whether or not the small locals will continue to exist. It is whether the union will continue to exist. If a small local is doing nothing to organize or represent musicians, why should we be defending that small local? If a larger structure can better serve and organize musicians, why would we not want a larger structure? The AFM's mission is not to serve the locals, it is to serve the musicians. If a small local is organizing and representing well, we should congratulate and emulate that small local. If not, we need to do what is necessary to benefit the musicians. That's what we're here for. That we allow locals of less than 50 members to keep their charters is really unbelievable.

As far as I know; employers do not get to ratify contracts. EMPLOYEES do. That would be those of us who play on the occasional Tidy Bowl jingle....... for scale. Not the Jingle House owners who often get a $20,000.00 (or more) creative fee and then have the power to decide whether or not to use live musicians on the recording. Tom Lee and the AFM administration did everything they could to hurt us. It is shameful.

'The Committee of Ratifiers'- is essentially a committee of employers with a different name. I have written this before but I believe it needs to be said again:

At the Super Bowl, players from one team are not invited into the huddle of the opposition. And let’s face it, even president Bush would have known better than to have invited the enemy to sit in on strategy meetings with General Petraeus and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Wouldn't that be considered some form of treason?

There is no excuse for Tom Lee having done this to the musicians that he is paid to represent. It is an unforgivable act. And the fact that neither he nor anyone on the IEB (some of whom were there) has ever addressed it, speaks volumes. The letter from 'The Committee of Ratifiers', (signed by some of the very employers that attended the negotiation), is just a feeble attempt at justifying an incredibly anti-union, anti-musician action. WE ARE PAYING FOR THIS.

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