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The Many Faces of SCFD

April 12th, 2011 1 comment

By Pete Vriesenga

I posted an announcement and commentary on March 22nd entitled:  Please attend SCFD’s public meeting on March 24, 2011. My hope was to let our community of professional musicians know that our industry is again in jeopardy because of irresponsible decisions of the SCFD board and administrators. Thankfully, many members responded and filled all remaining chairs in the meeting room. Most were members of the Colorado Chamber Orchestra (CCO).

Many Faces

At stake was the fact that SCFD rejected CCO’s application to apply for funding in the upcoming grant cycle. Among reasons given were that CCO often performs in churches and has played benefit concerts (one for the homeless in Denver and another for AIDS infants in Africa). God forbid if CCO carried through with such good deeds in its past, and what a sad testament of just how silly SCFD policy [or lack thereof] has become.

There is also the fact that almost every other orchestra in town performs exclusively in churches. Homepage photos of the Arapahoe Philharmonic (at South Suburban Church) and Boulder Symphony (First Presbyterian Church) provide just two examples of SCFD’s latest double standard. Additionally, the Boulder Symphony’s rent agreement with First Presbyterian has musicians performing  Sunday worship services for free, including the the Glory of Christmas. According to BSO’s own press release, this is “a musical event of worship and praise celebrating the birth of Christ” that is in fact a “benefit for the Glory Community.”

SCFD officials also expressed concern that CCO’s outreach programs in Douglas County potentially benefit some students who reside in Douglas County, but live in specific areas that don’t pay into the SCFD District. At the conclusion of the March 24 meeting I reminded the SCFD board that this was yet another, serious double standard. I pointed to SCFD’s “FREE Holiday Performance Opportunity at the Park Meadows Mall” that was staged in 2003 and 2004. Prior to a the passing of a 2004 Election Referendum, Park Meadows Mall was similarly situated in a non-SCFD tax area. The difference between then and now is that SCFD was event coordinator and used public resources for their political goal of luring the Mall into the District in advance of the election.

Shame on the SCFD board, not only for stating the opposite view with CCO, but for allowing students to become victims of SCFD/Douglas County politics.

I could go on, and I will.

Please attend SCFD’s public meeting on March 24, 2011

March 22nd, 2011 No comments

Labor protests in Wisconsin and across the Midwest have shown once again that public protest is often our only tool to reverse bad policy & legislation. There’s no shortage of bad policy that is dragging our local industry down and the worst offender continues to be the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). As in Wisconsin, we have no option but to stand up collectively to SCFD’s anti-labor practices or suffer the consequences as work opportunities continue to erode. The occasion for our show of solidarity will be a public SCFD meeting on Thursday, March 24 at 1:00 PM. We need as many DMA members to show as we can possibly turn out.

I first began detailing SCFD’s negative industry impact in 1997 after volunteering to serve on a Tier III review committee. Lack of quality standards, education standards and accountability were enough for me to sound the alarm. More alarming than that was the fact that SCFD leaders really couldn’t care less.

SCFD was up for reauthorization in November of 2004. The Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA) was again lobbying on behalf of SCFD, and contacted the Denver Area Labor Federation for its endorsement. DALF originally endorsed SCFD in 1988 after union members were repeatedly told that SCFD would result in quality employment for artists and performers. Who would have expected that SCFD would aggressively defend a $40 million funding model ABSENT wage or quality standards of any kind.

The DMA, in cooperation with IATSE and SAG/AFTRA, advised DALF to hold off on the endorsement until SCFD would at least commit to quality and minimum wage standards as originally represented to the voters. These sentiments were expressed by DALF President Leslie Moody in her August 17, 2004 letter to CBCA. The letter also pointed out that DALF’s endorsement would be conditional on meeting with representatives of affected unions. Nothing ever came of that effort. Subsequently, a resolution “not to endorse” was passed at the 2004 Colorado AFL-CIO Convention.

SCFD’s resolve to fund nearly every applicant, regardless of quality, continued in the years since reauthorization. Approximately 350 organizations are now dependent on SCFD funding and must in turn “serve the community” when few have any interest or ability to do so. Over 30 community orchestras now reside in the seven county funding district and collectively pull prevailing wage downward more than any other factor. Many of these organizations continue to pirate professional engagements, and only for ignorant and selfish reasons.

If you’re wondering where this is headed, look only to the current example of the Colorado Chamber Orchestra (CCO). In its three years of operation, the CCO has shown an unprecedented 300% growth in budget, despite the economic downturn. In addition to scale wages, CCO makes pension contributions for their musicians under a collective bargaining agreement with DMA. CCO is one of the few organizations that is truly qualified to serve the public in the manner that the SCFD statute demands. Unbelievably, SCFD refuesed to allow CCO to even apply.

But the fact is, accomplishments in both quality and professionalism are meaningless in this game because SCFD never has and never will make artistic judgements. Consequently, the doors are closing on new applicants because SCFD has no ability to weed undeserving organizations out. All 350 lucky organizations who are now grandfathered into this system will continue to receive funding for the foreseeable future. All those looking to apply should accept the fact that the glory days of signing every 501©3 with a pulse are now over.

The time is NOW! Please attend:

SCFD BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Broomfield Council on the Arts & Humanities
640 Main St.
Broomfield, CO 80038
12:30 Board lunch, 1:00 p.m. public meeting

Im In! – for AFM International Executive Board

June 12th, 2010 No comments

Dear Friends and Delegates,

Pete Vriesenga

Pete Vriesenga

I write to you today asking for your vote and support for my candidacy for election to the AFM’s International Executive Board. Most of you know me as president of the Denver Local since 1995. Many also know me as an AFM officer who stands up and speaks up with researched opinions, openly and respectfully.

Historically, the IEB is a rather silent and elusive body. This does not make for healthy democracy. Always in the 11th hour prior to a Convention, the floodgates of pent-up sentiment suddenly break loose in the form of communications by the truckload. My apologies for adding to your pile, but I am committing to you now that I will listen, research, and then report while taking early positions on these critical matters.

Our bad habit of sweeping controversial matters under the rug extends well beyond the IEB. As a member of the former AFM Futures Committee (2003-05) I faced a wall of resistance against my modest proposal for a joint venture recording agreement. AFM orchestras with $100 million budgets were already adopting this model, but extending this same right to Indie musicians and small touring bands didn’t sit well with established interests. My remaining option was to present a Minority Report on the subject at a meeting of the full committee in Las Vegas. Absolute silence followed … not even one question was asked.

Persistence ultimately paid off. My resolution for Joint Venture recording was adopted unanimously at the 2007 Western Conference. Months later, with support of the Conference and multiple Locals, my Resolution #75 passed at the 2007 Convention. This historic passage for Joint Venture recording paved the way for AFM’s Freelance Services Division to now present you with an online distribution system for member recordings.

The AFM is strong and it’s here to stay, and we would be doing our union and membership a disservice to pay too much attention to those who believe otherwise. I don’t buy into the personal attacks or the doomsday view of our future that is so pervasive in AFM politics.

Yes, I do jump when a committee chair or member of one of our major bargaining units calls on me for assistance.  But, I also respond in the same manner when I receive a call from a member who hasn’t played a gig in months. As taught by the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, strong and vibrant unions extend equal respect to their most distinguished and most humble citizens. This directly contrasts much of the chatter and division that we hear about working musicians, small vs. large locals and who pays more dues. This is a core principle that I live by because it translates to strength and unity among all members who are called upon to stand together.

I would be honored to have your vote.

In Solidarity,

Pete Vriesenga
President, Denver Local 20-623

Campaign Brochure

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Special Election for Denver City Council, District 1

April 13th, 2010 No comments

A special election is being held in Denver’s District 1, to fill the unexpired term of City Council member Rick Garcia who accepted an appointment to HUD. There are a total of 10 candidates in the race, and Susan Shepherd received the Denver Area Labor Federation (DALF) endorsement. DMA member/IBEW Local 68 president Ed Knox  participated in the DALF Candidate interviews, and confirms hat Susan Shepherd presents herself as the strongest supporter of our issues.

Susan K. Shepherd has received the endorsement of the Denver Area Labor Federation. Ballots must be received by May 4, 2010. If you’re a resident of District 1, please get out and vote!

I am proud to stand up for ALL working families in Denver City Council District 1. I am pleased to be endorsed by the Denver Area Labor Federation and the Teamsters Local 17. Having campaigned for political leaders like Joanna Conti against divisive figures like Tom Tancredo and having championed progressive causes like raising Colorado’s minimum wage, I am ready to serve my community in a meaningful way as the representative of District 1 on Denver’s City Council.


Susan K. Shepherd
Candidate for Denver City Council District 1

Contact information:

Susan Shepherd
2126 Grove St.
Denver, CO 80211
Phone: 303-960-9783
Website: www.shepherdfornorthwestdenver.com
E-mail: skshepherd68@yahoo.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com Shepherd for Northwest Denver

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Lone Tree Symphony’s taking much, giving little

February 6th, 2010 No comments

Every summer, residents of Lone Tree, CO and neighboring communities enjoy a free concert by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. These concerts are presented in Sweetwater Park by the City of Lone Tree, but this coming summer the Lone Tree Symphony Orchestra (a volunteer community orchestra) will replace the CSO. A CSO file photo still adorns the Lone Tree Summer Concerts website, but now accompanies a July 24 listing for the LTSO.

Of course the City of Lone Tree should support their local orchestra, and by all accounts they heavily support the administration. Past Minutes of the City of Lone Tree Arts Commission show that the LTSO was in line to receive $35,000 in city support for 2010, and $45,000 the previous year. All metro-Denver residents should take a bow for YOUR hefty support through the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). According to SCFD’s 2008 annual report, $76,856 was paid to the Lone Tree Arts Commission that year. The report also shows that LTSO received another $7,000 that year in direct support from SCFD.

Commission Minutes also reveal that “Each member of the LTSO pays annual dues of forty dollars” to play in the orchestra. The Lone Tree Arts Commission should net additional savings by removing costs for professional musicians, but this assumes that LTSO volunteer musicians are willing to take on the additional workload. According to Commission Minutes, the LTSO will be “working toward increasing visibility and the number of performances, while working with schools, various groups and boards and the general community.”

What protections are there for an LTSO volunteer who is injured on the job? Do Lone Tree residents recognize and accept new liabilities that now fall on them? I seriously doubt that City officials ever discussed such matters among themselves, let alone with their constituents.

The coup de grâce of public support is a new $17 million home for the LTSO, which would be the envy of any professional ensemble. Funding for the Lone Tree Cultural Arts Center was narrowly approved by voters in 2008 and is scheduled to open in 2011.

With all of these public funds that are exchanging hands, one would assume that Lone Tree officials and orchestra administrators have at least taken the time to read the conditions of funding that are mandated in SCFD’s Tier III grant application. Apparently they haven’t, because #22 (Assurances) of the Tier III Application states: “The applicant pledges that they will comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act“ Beyond the obligation to Minimum Wage, the FLSA cites clear prohibitions against replacing professional employees with unpaid workers.

Looking for answers, I contacted LTSO board president John Nemcik. John immediately took offense after realizing that I was speaking on behalf of the Musicians’ Union. John said he grew up in Pennsylvania, and proceeded to blame Unions for the loss of jobs in the region. I responded by asking what jobs he’s creating [or taking away] in context of the upcoming LTSO Season? I’m still waiting for his answer.

I asked John if he had any plans, now or in the foreseeable future, to compensate his musicians? His response was an immediate and resounding NO. I asked if he was aware of SCFD’s Fair Labor Standards/Minimum Wage requirements that LTSO must follow in the example of the July 24 concert. Needless to say, John had no understanding of the requirement, nor did he voice any change of mind.

LTSO is just one example of labor abuse that occurs in our community on a daily basis, and we all share responsibility for allowing this to happen. We must continue to pressure SCFD to enforce their own FLSA provision, but I have yet to see that happen and frankly don’t expect to. These self-serving examples of ignorance and abuse will only worsen until musicians and performing artists everywhere take a very simple stand:

Click your heels three times and tell yourself that you will no longer accept your pre-classified status as a “volunteer.” If that happens the LTSO will become a professional orchestra by 5:00 PM on Monday. Then, take a moment to reflect on the hard-won labor rights & protections that many generations before us have fought for.

Sign your band or ensemble as supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act

May 14th, 2009 No comments

Amy Brenneman and Esai Morales are among 47 popular performing artists speaking out on behalf of the Employee Free Choice Act in a dynamic new video.  Please take a moment to state your support on behalf of your business, band or ensemble by filling out a declaration form and returning a copy to the Denver Musicians Association.

Mail support forms to:
Denver Musicians Association
1165 Delaware St.
Denver, CO 80204
or FAX to 303-573-1945

The performers sum it up this way: “The best way for working men and women to get ahead is by uniting with our co-workers and forming a union. The Employee Free Choice Act does exactly what it says: It gives workers a choice of how to unionize.

People associate actors with fame and glory. The truth is for a long time my union contract was the reason I could support my family. That’s why I support the Employee Free Choice Act, because each worker, regardless of their field, deserves the freedom to bargain for a contract, for a better life.”
–Actress Amy Brenneman

As the performers say, this is not a red state issue. This is not a blue state issue. It’s a workers’ issue.

It’s time for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s time the economy worked for everyone.

“I’ve belonged to three unions in my life, and every one gave me the freedom to bargain with my co-workers for decent hours, benefits and safe conditions. If all workers don’t have the freedom to form unions, I don’t see how we can fix our economy.”
–Actor and comedian Jerry Stiller

Source: The Stars Align for Employee Free Choice Act.

A special thanks to all the actors, editors, writers and crew members who made this video possible, including members of the following unions:

* Actors’ Equity Association
* American Federation of Musicians
* American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)
* Directors Guild of America (DGA)
* International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving
Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United
States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE)
* Screen Actors Guild (SAG)
* Writers Guild of America, East
* Writers Guild of America, West

Click here for a full list of performers and their bios.

Categories: Labor, Legislative Tags:

“Canned Cleopatra” opens to over 300 protesters

April 1st, 2009 No comments

ballet juke boxHundreds of musicians and their union brothers and sisters formed picket lines and distributed leaflets in front of Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, in protest of Texas Ballet Theater’s canned music policy. Demonstrators inflated a giant rat balloon to draw attention to musicians’ concerns. Demonstrations were held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 27, 28 and 29, 2009 prior to the start of the company’s Cleopatra performances.

The ballet company outsourced its orchestra pit during last weekend’s performances of “Canned Cleopatra,” replacing musicians with a recording it made in China. Company artistic staff traveled to Shanghai in June 2008 and paid the Chinese government $30,000.00 for a recording of the Rimsky Korsakov score of Cleopatra. The ballet company cheated its patrons with canned music this season and says it intends to replace musicians indefinitely, including shows planned next season at the new $400 million Dallas Center For the Performing Arts.

“Over three hundred musicians and members of other area unions stood outside Bass Hall last weekend,” said Ray Hair, president of the musicians’ union, and a trustee of the Tarrant County Central Labor Council. “We sent a strong message to the ballet company and the arts community. When you hurt professional musicians, there are consequences.”

A Dallas Morning News/Fort Worth Star-telegram review of Friday’s performance criticized the musical accompaniment as clumsy and hamstrung. “…the progression seemed hurried. Raw, rough-hewn, taped music barged forward, when a more caressing tempo was needed to mirror the emotions…”

canned-weddingLabor Council President T.C. Gillespie predicted dark days ahead for the ballet company. “The protest was a huge success. We had tremendous support from patrons who were saying they wouldn’t return to hear canned music. It’s obvious the company is on its knees from poor attendance and the high number of ticket giveaways. If they crawl over to the Winspear, we’ll take our show on the road and protest fake ballet there, too,” he said.”

Click here for additional information from the Dallas-Fort Worth Professional Musicians Association.

Ballet is not dead … it just smells funny

March 26th, 2009 No comments

ballet juke box

an interview with Tom Jensen

It defies all logic and reason how a performing arts organization could even think of presenting classical ballet on the stage of a $400 million facility in a major population center… without orchestra. Sure enough, this very silly show opens this Friday evening, March 27, amid protesting musicians and 50 area labor unions who are uniting to fight this fraud and injustice. The press release from Dallas AFM Local 72-147: Musicians to Protest “Canned Cleopatra” Shows should be a wake up call for all of us.

Are audiences letting go of standards established by Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, not to mention brilliant collaborations between George Balanchine, Igor Stravinsky and Paul Hindemith? Is it really true that a $100 ticket only buys half a show? Is public investment for a performing arts center more important than the 3 or 4% of budget that it takes to stage an orchestra?

Tom Jensen, conductor and contributing author for the “Conductor’s Corner” of the Hospitality Suite offers unique insight into these questions. Tom was music director and conductor of Colorado Ballet for seven years. He was also a featured conductor with both the Joffrey and Nashville ballet companies. Esprit De Cours among dancers and musicians was as good as I’ve ever seen. Tom would invariably bring a case of champagne to share with all of the performers on closing night. This was the polar opposite of what is now happening to Texas Ballet Theater as there was logic and longevity to what we were doing. There was also innovative marketing.

Vriesenga: Tom, how did you get into this strange business?

Jensen: As a musician, I always found ways to promote my art. And it got me into broadcasting.

While in San Antonio conducting the youth orchestra, I was a frequent guest on WOAI, a talk station. I was kind of a Sam Levenson type (do you remember Art Linkletter?) talking about kids and education and fun stuff about young people — I started my future stand up routine on that station. It really made the youth orchestra better known. Later I would start doing stand up comedy.

My early days as music director with the Colorado Ballet were fun and a bit “heady” as I was working with great musicians, talented dancers and was about to fall in love with my ballerina wife — it was 1983.

At the same time I was developing a radio broadcasting career.

But it was the creativity and latitude that the Ballet Company gave me that was really fun.

Vriesenga: When did you first begin to blend marketing with your role as music director?

Jensen: Around 1985, I got the idea to auction off the overture to the Nutcracker at a ballet fundraiser. Eyebrows were raised “how could you demean this family treat with a bit of show biz at the beginning?” the founders of the company asked me.

The final bid was for $3,500 — we were off to the races!

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

The next year it was decided early on that every overture would be sold. Opening night went for $10,000 and the company’s name was added to the marquee and a speech was given before the start of the ballet, with the CEO or other VIP conducting the overture… (the overture stands alone from the first act — to me, this was a natural fundraiser).

For the remainder of the run, the overture went for $5,000, or an equivalent of in-kind work for the Company. Weatherman Ed Greene conducted — and I got to do the weather in my white tie and tails on the evening news; Denver Bronco’s receiver Vance Johnson conducted — spiking the baton when he finished; and assorted CEOs got conducting lessons as well — I was crankin’ ’em out throughout the run. A lot of people had fun and a good time, we raised money while awareness of the Colorado Ballet increased with free publicity.

Vriesenga: In the mid-80s you picked up another radio gig, which brought a “unique” cross-marketing relationship to Colorado Ballet. How did that go over?

At the time I had a talk show on KOA Radio, and then got a wild idea for promoting the ballet’s triple bill on Valentine’s Day. My program was broadcast from an outdoor hot tub in front of a lingerie store — it was February and freezing, but the bit was cute: if you got in the hot tub with me, you would get a gift certificate for lingerie from the store, and we would call your girlfriend and ask her if she wanted comp tickets to go to the ballet. Better still, if there was a person you had never dated, but you wanted to ask her (him) out, the idea was that no one would turn down a romantic evening at the ballet — and that was the hook for radio listeners to tune in: would a person being called from a radio show “stiff” a person asking for a date? It was a blast and we generated a lot of free press for the production.

Vriesenga: You were doing commercials and voice-over work at the time. Any television?

Jensen: I got a stint doing movie reviews on KCNC Television. Well, I wanted to do more than movies, so I had a chance to do a taped stand up with dancers from Copellia, interviewing the doll — she didn’t talk too much. It was a fun departure from just doing movies. And it was different exposure for the Company — ballet talk during a regular movie segment, we were reaching a TV audience that may have not known about Colorado Ballet.

Vriesenga: I applaud your work to bring other performing organizations into your world of creative and cost-effective marketing. I’ll never forget my early morning experience in a Colorado Springs grocery store. Please share some of these stories.

Jensen: Promoting the arts in a unique way became a signature of mine. I had John Moriarty, music director of the Central City Opera, as a guest on my show. Instead of an interview on the story line of their current production (an idea that bored me…) I offered free tickets to anyone that could call in and sing a famous aria that would impress my guest. A guy called in and sang something from Puccini, and John was blown away — turned out the guy was calling from his cell phone in his farming “tractor cab” while plowing the back forty outside of Limon.

John was laughing hysterically and collapsed on the floor. The guy won the tickets and it was a great way of getting press for the Opera.

Mel Torme was a guest on my show – the “velvet fog,” at least I think that was his nickname. We were publicizing his concert and I decided to give away tickets to the best Mel Torme impersonation. A caller sang one of Mel’s tunes, and was so bad that it was cute — he got the tickets.

Your “grocery store” reference takes us back to the time when I conducted a 24-hour marathon concert/fundraiser for the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. The orchestra was trying to gain new footing after the demise of the Colorado Springs Symphony. It was a chamber orchestra performing for an entire day and through the night in the produce department of a King Soopers store (it takes guts to play next to a pile of tomatoes) — “Can I have a price check on a cellist?”

The idea was to bring the orchestra to the people and bond with the community – hence the grocery connection. That event was covered by CNN, NBC, Fox News and the AP Wire. We started a fundraising event that eventually raised a million dollars. And, I lost 10 pounds. By the way, thank you Pete, for volunteering on bass trombone for the 3:00 – 7:00 AM shift. Hopefully you weren’t violating any union bylaws?

It all comes down to this: The arts have to do engaging things to promote, and we have to do it in a way that will catch the interest and appeal to the general public who may not think of a production, whatever it is, as an activity in which to participate.

National Recording Disagreements

March 22nd, 2009 9 comments

After demonstrating its muscle and ability to shut down the recording industry, the AFM emerged the victor by November of 1944 with first-time agreements with Decca, Capitol, RCA and Columbia Records. The structure and framework for these National Recording Agreements still exist today, but that moment in 1944 may have been the last point in time for meaningful “agreement.”

At that time the AFM rightfully claimed to have an agreement with “the recording industry” because those four labels were in fact the only notable companies and employers in the business. Six decades later we now have a variety of national recording agreements; the most prominent being the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) that is signed by six recording labels: Warner Brothers, Atlantic Recording, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and EMI Music. But the difference from 1944 to now is the entry of thousands of new recording labels who are not signatory. The premise of the SRLA as a “National Agreement” no longer holds water, but it is in fact a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The SRLA is periodically ratified by a relatively-small group (1,000?) of musicians. Appropriately, AFM members honor and respect this bargaining relationship that exists between these six signatory labels and the members of the bargaining unit. Furthermore, musicians who accept substandard wages or benefits from these employers should be fined and/or expelled from the AFM. This is a fundamental principle of labor solidarity.

Unfortunately, resolving the existing conflict and disagreement over recording policy is not so simple. Musicians who make up the SRLA bargaining unit somehow draw the conclusion that the SRLA, though signed by only six companies, is also a universal minimum or “scale” that applies to the entire industry, irregardless of the employer. Their reasoning is that the recording industry differs from live performance because recorded product is an international commodity that readily moves to cheaper markets. Sadly, we live in a time where all industries, from heavy industry to candle-making, are seeking cheaper labor.

The  only solution is to build solidarity and support throughout the AFM while growing our membership, but we are doing exactly the opposite by promoting dubious, protectionist policies. Complex collective bargaining agreements are being thrust upon AFM members who have no say in the matter whatsoever. AFM members have been threatened with expulsion and fines (up to $50,000) for violation of bargaining structures that simply do not exist elsewhere in organized labor. It should come as no surprise that untold numbers of young musicians opt against joining the AFM for needless fear of reprimand.

Giant signatory recording companies have benefited most from this arrangement because the AFM is obligated to either turn away or beat down their competition. I wrote about this very subject in 2004 in a piece titled A Great Deal for Media Giants.  These companies have manipulated the AFM into defending and strengthening their monopolies, which would otherwise violate anti-trust laws if attempted on their own.

Once again, I refer to a textbook that was given to me as an attendee of a special AFM training course offered by the George Meany Center for Labor Studies (class of 1998). There is a wealth of enlightening material in this book that I shall refer to in the months to come, but for now I call your attention to the following Exhibit:

TYPES OF BARGAINING STRUCTURES IN THE UNITED STATES

Union(s) —————————————Employer(s), Worksite(s)

  1. One local union — Single employer, One worksite
  2. One local union — Multiple employers, multiple worksites
  3. Multiple local unions of same national union — Single employer, multiple worksites
  4. Multiple local unions of same national union — Multiple employers, multiple worksites, same industry
  5. Single local unions of multiple national unions — Single employer, one or more worksites

The structure of AFM National Agreements (multiple locals – all employers, all worksites) doesn’t exist elsewhere in Labor because it violates even the most fundamental tenets of union democracy.  The only way to create an agreement that covers all employers is to establish representation for all AFM members who work in that industry. The AFM attempts to correct this imbalance through Promulgated Agreements that are established by the sole authority of the AFM’s International Executive Board (IEB), but this system has its obvious pitfalls. The IEB is an elected body that is credited for implementing popular agreements, but must also take hits when they rankle the ire of any one segment of the membership.

The controversy du jour is a promulgagted videogame agreement. This has triggered an unjust attack at AMF president Tom Lee , ripe with sensationalist drama that has been pitched to the press on a weekly basis. If that’s not enough, this dispute has led to two class action lawsuits filed against the AFM.

Robert Levine, president of the Milwaukee Musicians’ Association and host author of the AFM Observer has written extensively on this matter. Among ongoing and colorful debate is a discussion thread titled Is suing the AFM wrong? Robert further expresses his views in a recent article titled New Democracy Battles in Musicians Union that was published in the Jan/Feb ’09 issue of the Union Democracy Review.

These “recording wars” are indeed a battle, but with all due respect to Robert Levine, they have little to do with union democracy. Among the unfortunate turns and twists of this story is the fact that recognized bargaining structures wouldn’t allow for any of this in first place.

Musicians to Protest “Canned Cleopatra” Shows

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Ballet Company Replacing Musicians with Recordings it Made in China
Company outsourced culture, is an artistic fraud and consumer rip-off, Musicians say

Brothers and Sisters:

In June, 2008, the artistic staff of a Fort Worth ballet company traveled to Shanghai, paid $30,000.00 to the government of China and killed the jobs of our members. Join with us March 27, 28 and 29 as we converge on Bass Hall in Downtown Fort Worth to protest one of the most deplorable acts ever staged in the history of classical ballet theater.

Download News Memo

Message from AFM President Tom Lee

Dear Local Officer,


I am writing to advise you of Local 72-147’s forthcoming demonstration on March 27, 28, and 29 in Fort Worth against the Texas Ballet Theater and invite your Local’s members to join the demonstrations.

In September of 2008, the Theater dumped the Fort Worth Symphony and Dallas Opera orchestras and has used canned music instead. Then in February 2009 the Theater announced that it would open its 2009/2010 season in the new $400 million Dallas Performing Arts Center to an empty pit.

On March 27, 28 and 29, the Theater will present Cleopatra, with the Rimsky-Korsakov score piped in with a recording made in China. This action simply must not be allowed to go unchecked. It is an insult to musicians and audiences in the Dallas Fort Worth community and if we do not show our opposition to it this could motivate other companies across North America to do the same.

I have provided three links below courtesy of Local 72-147. These links provide more information on this matter.

Message to Texas Ballet Theater Employees, Patrons and the Public

Memo to Membership

Local 72-147 Information Page

I look forward to your support on this matter.

Sincerely,
Thomas F. Lee
President