The 2010 AFM Convention
At this year’s AFM Convention, Recommendation No. 2, a resolution submitted by the International Executive Board (IEB), seeks to reduce the number of rank-and-file musician AFM-EPF trustees from three to two. The IEB is proposing to overturn the 2005 AFM Convention’s commitment to three rank-and-file musician trustees just five years after ICSOM vigorously and successfully sought to increase that number to three.
In this same Recommendation No. 2, the IEB is also proposing to remove the AFM bylaw provision adopted in 2007 that defines rank-and-file musician trustees as individuals who “are neither Federation officers nor hold major elected or appointed union office in an AFM Local (i.e, President, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Assistant).” In other words, this IEB-sponsored resolution would allow the AFM President to appoint union officers to pension board positions currently reserved for rank-and-file musicians. Dictionary.com defines rank-and-file as “members of a group or organization apart from its leaders or officers.” The 2007 Convention delegates already clarified the meaning and declared that rank-and-file musicians are union members and not union officers. Now, just three years later, the IEB seeks to repeal the definition adopted by the 2007 Convention. If approved, Recommendation No. 2 would virtually do away with the idea of rank-and-file pension trustees, allowing the AFM President to appoint an entire slate of union trustees, none of whom would qualify as rank-and-file under the current bylaws.
The AFM-EPF board of trustees is responsible for making decisions for the AFM-EPF. These changes to who might represent working musicians on that board are being proposed just as our pension benefits have been reduced to an all-time low (the infamous $1 multiplier) and contributions from symphony musicians are high. Many symphonic musicians have the AFM-EPF as their primary pension vehicle. AFM-EPF contributions are also made when working under AFM national electronic media agreements. Together, contributions on behalf of ICSOM and ROPA musicians are now approximately 40 percent of the AFM-EPF’s total annual contributions.
As a result of the recession and the stock market declines dating back to October 2008, many multi-employer pension plans suffered investment losses, and some found themselves in the critical (red) zone. The AFM-EPF recently disclosed its rehabilitation plan, effective June 1, 2010. The AFM-EPF’s own actuary estimates that it will emerge from critical status by March 31, 2047. 2047? I did a double take when I read that for the first time. I’ll be pushing 86 years of age in 2047. I hope I am fortunate enough to live that long, but, at 86, I would expect to be long retired from the Kansas City Symphony. In light of the AFM-EPF’s current predicament, however, perhaps I will still be working.
However, not all multi-employer pension plans are in the same boat as the AFM-EPF. The Segal Company’s May 2010 Survey of Calendar-Year Plans’ 2010 Zone Status found: “[T]here has been a significant increase in the number of green zone multi-employer pension plans. For 2010, 54 percent of calendar-year plans are now in the green zone. This represents a significant improvement of 15 percentage points from 2009, when only 39 percent of calendar-year plans were in the green zone.” It would be helpful for the AFM-EPF to explain in greater detail what caused it to be in the red zone when 62 percent of the entertainment multi-employer plans referenced in the Segal survey are not.
IEB-sponsored Recommendation No. 24 is also bewildering, particularly coming from elected union leadership. In it, our IEB proposes that the AFM President, Vice President from Canada, and Secretary-Treasurer should each “receive a contingent expense account of $10,000 per annum, for the spending of which he/she shall not be required to make an accounting” (in addition to salary and travel expenses).
The AFM bylaws already provide for reimbursement of AFM business travel expenses. The newly edited IEB Policy Book, online in the members’ area at www.afm.org, provides further clarification from the IEB regarding reimbursements for the International President and Secretary-Treasurer when either resides outside of the New York metropolitan area.
The question begs to be asked: Why would any International Executive Board member need an additional $10,000 for expenses when Article 3 of the AFM bylaws covers “all hotel and other traveling expenses when traveling on AFM business”? Remember, the IEB’s own policy book already provides additional reimbursement procedures.
Many orchestras are in financial distress, and musicians continue to endure painful cuts in wages, benefits, and, now, the AFM-EPF multiplier. Yet, the International Executive Board proposes to overturn resolutions adopted at recent AFM Conventions while raising an additional $90,000 for three of their own with no reporting requirement to those they are elected to serve and who pay their salaries.
In light of the regressive resolutions proposed and actions taken by the International Executive Board, the ICSOM Governing Board issued a Call to Action on May 14. AFM members across North America are encouraged to directly contact their local officers and delegates who will represent them at the 98th AFM Convention. Let them know how you feel about these IEB proposals and actions. Let them know that you expect greater transparency and not less. Let them know that a union should serve its members first and not its officers. Let them know that you expect to be more involved in decisions regarding the AFM-EPF and not less. Let them know how passionate you are about our great union and your worries about its future. Let them know that actions taken by the officers and delegates at the 2010 AFM Convention should empower the membership and not disenfranchise or be divisive.
The mission of the Sphinx Organization is to encourage, develop and recognize classical musical talent in the black and the Latino communities and among all youths. ICSOM’s continued support provides scholarship awards to the senior semifinalists of the annual competition. Orchestras are becoming increasingly diverse due, in no small measure, to the extraordinary work of the Sphinx Organization.
The 2010 Sphinx Competition Finals Concert was held at Orchestra Hall in Detroit, Michigan. First place was awarded to Gareth Johnson, a 24-year-old violinist from Wellington, Florida. His performance of the third movement of Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3 won him the top honors and a cash prize of $10,000. Second and third place honors went to Paul Laraia and John Sanderson, respectively. Laraia is a 20-year-old violist from Boston, Massachusetts, and Sanderson is a 19-year-old violinist from Bloomington, Indiana.
Additional information regarding the Sphinx Organization may be found at www.sphinxmusic.org.