Friday, October 12, 2007

Are the Sounds Really Being Heard?

October 3, 2006: President Lee's office states that the IEB will meet to examine the problems associated with recruitment of new members and retention of current members.

August 31, 2007: President Lee's office reveals the AFM's new Membership Department.

September 4, 2007: I email Director Paul Sharpe of the Membership Department requesting materials and information. To date no reply.

More than a year has passed since President Lee's office "discovered" this issue, and we still have no positive recruitment and retention programs from the AFM.

President Lee's office has hired a public relations firm, Carmen Group, Inc., to work on recruitment and retention. Thus far, it has done little other than produce a press release titled "AFM Captures Greater Share of Videogame Market."

In order for a PR firm to create a comprehensive plan for recruitment and retention, there must be a product to promote. This leads to the ultimate question: What do we have to offer the interested musician to entice him or her to stay as a dues-paying member, or to join our union? What is our product?

Without the usual wishful thinking by all of us that has been heard for years—honestly—do we all as officers and members really understand the issues that we are faced with? As the President's office has noted, membership has decreased from a 350,000 in 1978, to its current level. Assuming its current level is around 90,000 members, the AFM at this rate of decline has only about ten years before the membership reaches zero.

Recently, a letter from John C. Hall, Jr., trustee for the Music Performance Fund (MPF), suggests two options for the future: "(1) Accept the inevitable and close down in a couple of years or (2) Restructure our operation and invest our energies and resources to create an even better MPF."

Along with Trustee Hall, I unequivocally endorse the second option, and not just for the MPF, but for the entire AFM.

The magic of the Internet and the speed of travel has made the world closer. The AFM in its remoteness to us all must become closer. Inquiry should begin into the concept of one union that directly represents each musician individually throughout the United States and Canada. A member would carry one card, not fenced in by a fictional jurisdiction, to have universal and free access to all music markets.

For starters, this new AFM could intelligently offer a substantial life insurance policy, plus potentially fulfill Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio's dream of comprehensive health care for all our members.

Our current, crumbling structure was designed to protect the National first (and we have seen how jealously the National guards its financial interests). The Locals are artificially awarded a jurisdiction to collect and pay per capita and work dues to secure the National first, and secondly be a watchdog over members as the enforcer of rules and regulations shaped for primary benefits to go to the National.

As we watch our union disintegrate, we cannot wait a year here, a year there, for ineffective and poorly administered half-measures.

Conceptually, the AFM needs a complete overhaul. No more artificial jurisdictions. One card, one treasury, one union. Compared with what we have now, that would be an easy product to sell.


WWDoubler said...

An intriguing idea, Ed, but from a purely practical point of view how would a Union without Locals be governed? Would all 90,000 (or 60,000 or 40,000 as the case may be) of us convene on Las Vegas (or some other city where gambling is allowed) every two or three years (as the case may be) to decide who will lead us? Will this unitized Union be as responsive to the needs of our community's small Symphony Orchestra as our Local currently is? Isn't the need really for the small, totally ineffective Locals to merge with each other, or with larger Locals so that we're not as fractured as we are now, yet we still retain some local autonomy and control? Though I have to admit, I'd like not to have to be a member of three Locals, as I currently am....

pauly said...

"For starters, this new AFM could intelligently offer a substantial life insurance policy, plus potentially fulfill Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio's dream of comprehensive health care for all our members."

This is what the brave new AFM would do? What kind of revolutionary thinking is that? Life insurance? And as far as "Sam Folio's dream", it is a pipe dream if you know anything about the state of insurance in America and who doesn't? The only solution to musicians health care is Single Payer like in HR 676.

Restructure, yes. Consolidate the locals into larger locals. Invest in organizing. We don't have the money? Then let's find a larger union to merge with and use the resources to organize. Hundreds of thousands of musicians are waiting to be organized, not sold life insurance polices.