AFM Civil War Rages – Recording Musicians Proposal Defeated at Local 47 Meeting

By • April 24, 2007

A grassroots movement by AFM Local 47 members and an anonymous member committee has defeated highly organized efforts by Los Angeles recording musicians to dramatically raise the member meeting quorum for Local 47 meetings.

In the latest round of what resembles a civil war within the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) union, recording musicians failed to raise the Local 47 membership meeting quorum requirement from 50 members to 125 members at a packed meeting at Local 47 in Los Angeles on Monday evening.

The defeat of the proposal backed by recording musicians was seen as a major victory for a grassroots group of Local 47 members including the Freelance Musicians Association and the anonymous but highly vocal “Committee for a Responsible 47” which has published scathing reports to thousands of email readers of alleged mismanagement of Local 47 and what the Committee sees as the undue and improper influence of recording musicians in the operation of the Local.

For several weeks The Committee for a Responsible 47 rallied Local 47 members to attend the Monday meeting, stating, “We must make yet again another extraordinary effort to safeguard the progress that has been made for the membership in the past year. There has not been such a blatant and vindictive attack on the non-elite membership of this Local since the board engineered the firings of Barbara Markay and Errol Henry.” Markay and Henry were longtime Local 47 employees with 15 years and 9 years of service respectively, who primarily provided services for live and freelance musicians.

Another recent publication by the Committee declared, “How ironic it is that those who carried out the business practices that drove work out of the city to begin with are now working to shut out all voices but their own,” apparently referring to the rapidly increasing number of production companies and studios who have chosen to record outside Los Angeles in Seattle and other locations that provide buyout recording contracts. Los Angeles recording musicians have historically been opposed to buyout recording contracts.

The recent moves are apparently part of a larger struggle within the AFM between Los Angeles recording musicians and the current AFM national administration headed by its President Tom Lee. In December, Los Angeles recording musicians formed their own guild, The Professional Musicians Guild that is actively recruiting members from within the AFM’s ranks.

According to an article in Variety magazine, the Professional Musicians Guild now claims 200 members and may attempt to take over collective bargaining for film and television recording work from the AFM. The PMG most recently circulated proposed wage scales for video game scoring contracts.

The PMG has told prospective members who have been recruited at recording sessions and are asked to pay the $100 dues as part of the signup process, that the adoption by the AFM’s International Executive Board of a contract for video game scoring that undercuts the current AFM contract was a prime reason for the formation of the PMG. The PMG’s website was registered in December and lists RMA Vice President Marc Sazer as the administrative contact for the organization and he serves as the new guild’s Secretary Treasurer. PMG documents list its President as musician Andrew Malloy.

Although AFM Local 47 President Hal Espinosa said at Monday’s meeting that he “doesn’t support” the PMG, AFM sources have told Film Music Magazine that Espinosa has indicated that he in fact does support the PMG and wouldn’t fire anyone within the Local 47 administration or it’s committees if they become PMG members unless he “was forced to.” AFM sources also indicate that Espinosa is planning to run against incumbent AFM President Tom Lee for Presidency of the AFM. While Espinosa has historically enjoyed the support of Los Angeles recording musicians in the election process, it is unclear how much support he has among non-recording musicians that make up the bulk of AFM members. Espinosa told Variety magazine that he believes formation of the PMG could have been avoided “if the musicians here felt that they had support from their leadership,” apparently referring to the national administration of the AFM.

The battle between Los Angeles recording musicians and the AFM administration is also being shaped by the recent formation of New Era Scoring, an organization that is planning to offer buyout recording contracts in Los Angeles utilizing AFM musicians who have chosen “Financial Core” status which allows them to work both union jobs and nonunion jobs without fear of AFM penalties. NES says their goal is to recapture recording work for Los Angeles musicians that has been lost due to what NES says is the “diminishing amount of union work” in Los Angeles.

Film Music magazine will provide continuing coverage of AFM matters especially as they relate to film, television and video game score recording.

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