Friday, March 18, 2011

More on the Two Extremes

A reader writes:

Either we have rapproachment with recording musicians or we don't. Overlooked here is the added work dues on non-symphonic recording that these musicians voted overwhelmingly to impose on themselves as a way of helping fund the AFM.

Again, the so-called "80%" who voted for Lee until the last convention could be said to have brought those lawsuits on the AFM and are therefore responsible for legal fees as much as recording musicians.

This is not how the law works. The law allows the winner to recover attorney fees. If the AFM had lost the lawsuits, I would be completely in favor of the AFM paying the costs. This is simple fairness.

If recording musicians thought of Rishik and others who took the risk of lawsuits as knights in shining armor, they couldn't be more wrong. They presented themselves as fighting the good fight, and then accepted a bailout when it came time to pay.

The correct avenue for rapprochement was about to happen at Convention 2010. This is what the judges told them: resolve your differences through union democracy, not through the courts.

A bailout of the losers is extraordinary. It should offend any member of this union, including most recording musicians who did not take the risk of suing. It is a giveaway of hundreds of thousands of dollars to a small number of beneficiaries who lost after having many chances in court.

Whether the added work dues on non-symphonic recording end up being significant remains to be seen. I hope that they do. It doesn't change the issue of attorney fees.

The added work dues are projected to bring in $200,000 per year. According to the court proceedings, recording musicians voluntarily paid Local 47 about $79,000 under the prior Tom Lee regime. This was money that RMA told them not to pay, and which AFM never even properly billed. If $79,000 is a mere error, then $200,000 isn't that significant, given the union's dire financial condition. These figures suggest that the work dues look more like lip service than real sacrifice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Tale of Two Extremes

For years on this blog I have supported reconciliation between AFM and RMA. I denounced the treatment of recording musicians by the prior administration. I supported a change in governance which I hoped would bring about negotiation and compromise.

I am now convinced that when it comes to RMA, our union has swung from one extreme to the other, completely missing the middle ground, and continuing to ignore the majority of the membership. We have gone from a complete shutout of aggrieved recording musicians, to giving them hundreds of thousands of dollars with no strings attached.

What was the price of ending the feud with recording musicians? In his January 2011 letter, Ray Hair presented the bizarre image of himself accepting a check on behalf of AFM for $15,000 from Rafael Rishik and Andrew Malloy, two recording musicians who personified the struggle with Tom Lee's administration.


What is the money for? Ray Hair explains that it signals "the beginning of reconciliation, a renewal of trust and understanding, and a fresh opportunity to build unity." But those things are free.

What did Malloy and Rishik get for their $15,000? They got an agreement that AFM would not pursue reimbursement of its legal fees in the Rishik and Parmeter cases. AFM was victorious in both cases and thus was entitled to attorney fees, which are an undisclosed amount, but likely to exceed $500,000 (see update below).

Thus, Ray Hair's bargain was $15,000 for us, and $500,000 for them. That is not reconciliation. It is a giveaway. And it's made worse by the concealment of the bargain, and the failure to disclose the actual amount of attorney fees AFM surrendered.

Even with AFM "falling on hard times" according to Secretary-Treasurer Sam Folio, Ray Hair apparently made no attempt to pursue reimbursement of attorney fees, or even to split the difference.

Furthermore, as predicted, the Music Performance Trust Fund is nearly bust. As a member of Tom Lee's rubber stamp IEB, Ray Hair made no objection to the prohibition of MPTF proposals in Special Payments Fund negotiations since 2005. At Convention 2010, the same rubber stamp IEB sponsored the ridiculous, ineffectual and disingenuous Recommendation 12, claiming "unconditional support for the MPTF." It wouldn't take an expert negotiator to predict that this technique would fail miserably, as it has.

And thus far, while Ray Hair has found $500,000 or more to give away to formerly aggrieved recording musicians, he has shelled out only lip service to MPTF.

It seems that no matter who's in charge, 80 percent of the union gets no attention.

Update 3/21/2011: President Ray Hair at the New England Conference reports that attorney fees for the Rishik and Parmeter cases totaled $379,000.