After a period of uncertainty in the nation’s capital, the new Biden administration along with a new 117th Congress have now been sworn in. This signals a new direction for the country and a new hope for passage of organized labor’s agenda. With the House in the hands of labor-friendly Members, and the evenly-divided Senate operating under a labor-friendly Vice President who serves as a legislative tie-breaker, unions across the board now expect to move forward with their congressional priorities, and that includes the American Federation of Musicians. Following is an outline of AFM legislative priorities in the coming year that require us all to weigh in and have our voices heard. The AFM Player Conferences in cooperation with AFM President’s Ray Hair’s office and the IEB look forward to your help getting our issues across the congressional goal line. As workers, we are in an advantageous position at this moment in time, and your union will be asking you to help contact your legislators both in your respective congressional districts and in Washington DC. Over the past six months, organized labor has created and presented transition documents for the new transition team that offered detailed solutions in tune with labor’s legislative priorities. Now that a new government is in place, we look forward to having you participate in your union’s legislative activities, so please be prepared to engage multiple times.
Pension Legislation (Helping to guarantee retirement security)
Right out of the gate, congressional chairs of both the House Ways and Means and the Education and Workforce Committees have introduced new pension legislation containing language crafted and supported by labor affiliates over the years. An unprecedented internal union coalition has come together among our ICSOM, ROPA, Recording, Theater, and freelance player conferences to systematically build internal union advocacy designed to more effectively influence our elected officials to vote in support of pending pension legislation. As the congress moves through the budget reconciliation process, this coalition has reached out to more AFM player conference members than ever to encourage your participation in the pension legislative process. In addition to a recent advocacy blast email on pension legislation from President Hair, many of you will hear from player conference leaders and Local officers asking for your help.
The PRO Act
Organizing workers is the life’s blood of any labor union. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act has been reintroduced in the new 117th Congress. The PRO Act expands various labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace. The bill passed the House during the 116th Congress and was sent to the Senate Republican leader’s desk but it saw no action. The bill is expected to be given favorable debate in both the House and the Senate with a good chance of passing both chambers and being signed by the White House. It’s important that we keep our eye on the prize. Additional labor friendly legislation that will benefit our workers and our union will be prominently introduced in this Congress. Please stay tuned to hear from your union about legislative and political campaigns that will help us be successful.
The AM-FM (Ask Musicians For Music) Act (Performance rights legislation—more money in your pocket and greater protection for your creative content)
This piece of important copyright legislation will come up again during the 117th Congress. As you may know, passage of this legislation would establish a new income stream for those whose creative content is currently performed on AM and FM radio without compensation from broadcasters. This has been an ongoing fight over the years that has moved the AFM on several occasions to craft and introduce favorable legislation. Likewise, the National Association of Broadcasters has, each congress, introduced their non-binding Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA) resolution designed to encourage legislators in Washington to avoid giving musicians the rights and remuneration we deserve for our creative content while making billions in advertising dollars each year. In cooperation with the Music First Coalition, we imagine a light at the end of this tunnel under a pro-worker, pro-intellectual property Biden administration that will push the AM-FM Act across the finish line. Please stay prepared.
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Federal funding for the arts)
These institutions remain at the top of the AFM legislative office’s agenda as many of our members and the organizations they work for depend on federal subsidies to support their activities. We work each year with Americans for the Arts, the League of American Orchestras and myriad other national organizations to not only pass the appropriation but to increase funding levels. Constantly threatened by ultra conservative administrations to be zeroed out of the budget, we are thankful for an effective bipartisan congressional arts caucus that over the years keep these agencies alive.
Note: the author is the Legislative-Political Director for the American Federation of Musicians.