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.

2 comments:

KenS said...

It's probably bad manners for AFM staff to jump in to this discussion, but I'm going to jump in anyway.

The underlying question is "When is it time to end conflict?"

The law informs us that the time to do so is after your defeated enemy has made you whole. The law, however, does not offer the wise guidance when the defeated entity is one of your own.

After World War I, the Allies forced the defeated Germany to make reparations. That burden destroyed the German economy and created the fertile ground upon which Adolf Hitler grew his political movement.

After World War II, the Allies invested in a rebuilding of the defeated enemies, guiding their redevelopment towards a model more suited to world harmony. Nothing is perfect, but our relationships with Germany and Japan are far more constructive after the second war than after the first.

Which model would we be better advised to emulate? One model extracts; the other invests.

As to the pendulum swinging back and forth, the laws of physics tell us that a pendulum will swing to the opposite end of its arc but that it will eventually end up at the center.

Ed Shamgochian said...

Thanks for your comment KenS.

The Marshall Plan example is remote. Paying someone's legal fees is not a beneficial investment; it's simply a bailout. Instead of legal fees, let's say certain individuals had conducted a mailing campaign and billed AFM for the postage, let's say $5,000. Should AFM cancel that debt?

Let's be honest and admit that there is no guiding moral principle to this. The individuals cannot pay, it's a lot of money, and they're getting bailed out. It's that simple.

When it comes to bailing out the MPTF, with an already established revenue stream (visa processing fees), the AFM cries poverty. When it comes to paying legal fees chargeable to a handful of individuals who now hold significant influence, the union is profligate as ever.