Composer/Teamster Meetings Draws 250, Strong Support From WGA

Film Music Magazine • April 21, 2010

Monday night, 250 composers gathered at the WGA theater in Beverly Hills for the latest composers/Teamsters meeting.

Click here to listen to audio from this event.

Support was strong, as Teamster Local 399 President Anthony Cousimano, Secretary/Treasurer Leo T. Reed read statements. Organizing Director Steve Dayan read a statement of support from Teamster boss James Hoffa and a giant Teamsters truck was parked right outside the WGA theater as a sign of support from fellow 399 members, the drivers. WGA Executive Director David Young told to the crowd that “The WGA will help out every way we can.” In addition to the WGA support, SAG sent actor James Cromwell to read a statement of support.

Of great interest and the raison d’etre for the meeting, was the WGA’s support. John Wells and the WGA Executive Board approved at their March 2, 2010 meeting the request from Teamster/Composers Organizer Steve Dayan that specifically addresses the abuse of music written on spec (Click here to download a copy of the letter). The approved letter will be addressed to Showrunners and states, “The Guild believes once writing at any level is seen as ”free” it compromises writing on all levels.”

What was explained and is now clear is that the WGA letter has nothing to do with Teamsters’ negotiations with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

The WGA negotiation is wholy separate. The WGA negotiations and support are union to union, as were negotiations with SAG for their support.

Any possible negotiations with the AMPTP (the producers) are promised to be consistent with the original committee’s mantra: “benefits only.”

Members of the AMCL Organizing Committee and Steve Dayan negotiated directly with Wells and David Young over the course of four months to come up with the letter which was approved by the WGA board on March 2, 2010. It is unknown how long the negotiations took with SAG.

The WGA and SAG endorsements open up the possibility of the AMCL negotiating with other unions, guilds and groups within the industry to achieve meaningful reforms for composer workplace conditions. Among the possibilities are music supervisors, music editors, ASCAP/BMI/SESAC and others.

Responses at the meeting last night indicated that the union will not be covering video game scoring or library composing at the outset, however those types of projects were talked about as next steps in the future.


By Joel Ciulla on April 21st, 2010 at 7:29 am

Thanks for the update.

Whats next?

By Chris Westlake on April 21st, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Re: Joel

Next step is for working composers to sign the cards that allow 399 to represent them in talks with the AMPTP ( This gives them the ability to know when they have enough momentum to initiate negotiations.

This is a no-brainer, especially considering we would still be allowed to work non-union gigs, which is a big deal for many composers.

By EastWestMusic on April 21st, 2010 at 3:37 pm

No doubt. And the ability to make deals with WGA separately is genius. Bravo!

By toxic avenger on April 22nd, 2010 at 12:27 am

“Workplace conditions?” Many times composers work out of their own homes. Are those workplaces to come under the jurisdiction of this proposed union? And what if the home work plsce dosn’t meet union standards?

James Hoffa? Is he the teamster boss? Didn’t he die?

Ar there any composers speaking at these meetings openly in opposition to this new union or are they being suppressed? Has anyone addressed the fact that if a producer dosn’t agree to union terms they can just go elsewhere for a scorte, or just license independent tracks from ini libraries?

By toxic avenger on April 22nd, 2010 at 12:30 am

Isn’t it a bit aggressive for The Teamsters to park their truck outside a meeting place?

Are some of you guys trying to intimdate others into going along with this proposed union?

By plastic fantastic on April 28th, 2010 at 8:38 am

toxic avenger,

The current organizing committee has made it clear that negotiations with the AMPTP regarding composers and lyricists will address benefits only. ‘Workplace conditions’ does NOT exist on their agenda. The WGA letter addressing workplace conditions that was mischievously leaked to this publication was a draft and was written months before the committee was reformed and redirected. It will be substantially rethought and rewritten before it is officially released. The release of the draft was a failed attempt to derail the current agenda of the committee.

James P. Hoffa is the son of Jimmy Hoffa.

Apparently you have not attended any of the meetings. They have been completely open – anybody can speak and all are encouraged to, regardless of point of view. You should speak up at the next meeting and voice your concerns.

If this union comes to fruition any production that signs a Teamsters contract (which covers the vast majority of studio pictures and TV shows and a very large percentage of indie films) will be obligated to hire a union composer. If they are NOT signatories to a Teamsters contract any Teamsters composer may still work on that project non-union. There is NO incentive for a production to go non-union when hiring a composer, or, for that matter, to utilize a library.

As for the truck parked out front and the presence of the Teamsters in the hall it was an inspiring demonstration of support from the drivers and casting directors for composers and lyricists. They will be the ones who will strike, if necessary, to help composers and lyricists attain what they deserve in the industry.

By Mark Northam on April 28th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Hi “Plastic” –

Can you clarify (and perhaps identify yourself?) – the information we have is that the letter we and other publications printed was dated February was officially endorsed by the WGA Executive Board during their meeting during first week of March, only 8 weeks ago. Also, that the letter does not concern AMPTP benefits-only negotiations, but is a separate negotiation track the AMCL worked on with the WGA for 4 months late last year and early this year.

Is it your view that the AMCL is now disavowing this letter, AFTER it was negotiated and officially approved by the WGA Executive Board last month?

The letter simply says that the WGA supports the composer’s positions of NO FREE MUSIC for spec/bake-offs. I’m having trouble seeing who would find that type of support objectionable.

By plastic fantastic on April 29th, 2010 at 7:53 am

Mr. Northam,

Perhaps you should simply call Bruce Broughton. He is the spokesman of the steering committee – yes? – and thus the proper person to speak most authoritatively on these issues.

By Mark Northam on April 29th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I was unsure of exactly how the structure of the organizing committee is set up, but have been talking to various folks associated with the AMCL over the last 2 days and will call Bruce today to try and get these issues cleared up, especially the status of the deal between the AMCL and the WGA struck on March 2.

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