The 2004–05 season has, so far, been filled with the usual tasks, writing a conference report for the International Musician (which was expanded in the previous Senza Sordino), applying changes to the bylaws following the conference and mailing out updated versions, forwarding those changes and all resolutions passed at the 2004 conference to the editor for inclusion in the first Senza issue, completing the 2004 conference minutes (which were mailed out a few weeks ago), and attending the mid-winter governing board meeting. I have also been involved in legislative committee activities as we deal with congressional and AFM convention issues. And, of course, I am also very involved in the media discussions.
We’ve had a busy beginning of the season with some of our largest orchestras negotiating from day to day. Many have been quick to send me their bulletin information, but I still await information from some orchestras who have settled.
Our mid-winter meeting in Atlanta in January was very productive, and we received some good input from conference evaluation sheets as well as additional emails from attendees. Ideas are always welcome.
Putting on another hat, as a member of the ICSOM Legislative Committee, I like to point out that this committee has two major tasks ahead of it this year. Leslie Shank from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Nancy Stutsman from the Kennedy Center Orchestra chair this committee that must address possible changes to the AFM bylaws at the 2005 AFM Convention in July as well as deal with issues in Washington. This committee is one of ICSOM’s most important committees, and I urge you to offer whatever assistance you can if your orchestra is contacted.
One concern I have is that, while I am personally saddened by the November election results, I also know we must find ways to work with our all of our senators and representatives and with the White House to forward issues that are of great importance to us. Sadly, many Republicans have not been willing to listen to our issues in the past because unions generally (but not always) support Democratic candidates. Regardless of which candidates the AFM or any union has supported in the past, we cannot and must not be marginalized by that attitude and must find ways to build coalitions with others.
I don’t say this lightly. There is one issue that has been of great concern to me in my multiple roles as Secretary of ICSOM, as a member of the ICSOM Legislative Committee, as an officer of my local, and as a participant in the AFM-EPF: the extension of the amortization schedule of multi-employer pension funds. Last April, on the heels of tax day, the House approved this very extension for single-employer pension funds. Unfortunately, the House and the President, who threatened to veto the bill if multi-employer funds were included, stated they would never allow provisions for multi-employer funds. There was a short battle in the Senate but the threat of a veto and harm to all pension funds caused them to vote in favor of the single-employer extension.
What kind of thinking is that? Especially since multi-employer pension funds benefit employers as well, since they don’t have to worry as much (though the managers are concerned) about adequate funding levels. The costs to maintain a pension fund with so many different employers contributing to the fund is much lower too.
With the exception of a handful of ICSOM orchestras, most of our orchestras have either been participants in the AFM-EPF for years or have frozen their previous pension funds and moved to the AFM-EPF. This is of vital concern to all our members.
As a 45-year-old with at least 20 years to go before I can collect pension at the highest level, I am concerned about Social Security (and the potential lack thereof). We must all take this seriously.
I have already spoken to a few of our AFM trustees who are also very concerned about receiving this extension. Their concerns were stated in the most recent Pension Notes. I have also spoken to AFM Legislative Director Hal Ponder about when we might begin to work on this issue. He believes we can start educating Congress as early as January.
We need your participation when we begin our letter writing campaigns to Congress. We also need to build a coalition with our managers, possibly through ASOL, as well as our board members. Many of these people have great influence (and even personal connections to our state representatives), and with their help we may be successful in changing the attitude we saw in Washington DC last April.
We’ll find out soon enough how willing the Republicans are to work with Democrats and the millions who did not vote for them. Regardless, we need to head this off at the pass to protect our future and those of our colleague now and in the future.