AMCL Composer Group Abandons Unionization Efforts “For Now”; CGA To Continue Composer Unionization Drive

Film Music Magazine • August 4, 2011

What started out with a bang ended with a whimper last week as the group working with the Teamsters to unionize film and TV composers gave up their 2-year effort for recognition as a union by Hollywood producers and studios “for now.” In a statement, the Association of Media Composers and Lyricists (AMCL) said that the Teamsters advised them that “the traditional method of bargaining with the AMPTP will not be successful.”

While the initial meetings produced great excitement in the community and hundreds of signed Teamsters unionizing cards as the group discussed reforming working conditions for composers and establishing benefits and wage policies, the AMCL walked away from a deal negotiated and approved by the Board of the Writers Guild of America where the WGA would have encouraged its members to speak out against composers being asked to work for free. Later, the AMCL scaled back its efforts and focused only on health insurance and pension benefits, saying they thought the producers should give these to composers because it was the “fair” thing to do.

While the AMCL attributed its decision to a host of external factors including the economy, the government and other conditions, according to Variety magazine, a source close to the producers said, “As independent contractors, they can’t organize under federal labor law. We don’t believe anything has changed.” The AMCL never publicly addressed the issue of how they were planning to surmount a 1980s era National Labor Relations Board ruling that composers were ineligible to unionize, other than to say that they hoped that the AMPTP would voluntarily recognize a composers’ union. The statement by the AMCL said it would continue to exist and “restructure and rethink” its plans.

The abandonment of current unionizing efforts by the AMCL leaves the Composers Guild of America as the only group currently working towards unionization for film and TV composers.

In a statement to Film Music Magazine, composer and CGA Vice President James Guymon said, “Any organization that tries to help composers deserves and has our respect. Although the AMPTP’s view of composers as independent contractors is not an unexpected obstacle, the CGA would like to have seen the AMCL’s contrasting approach succeed in securing health benefits for composers. Far from the end of this story, the CGA will continue to work for composers’ interests, and will look forward to when the AMCL regroups and fights on. The CGA sees this as a war that can still be won.”

Comments

By Gordon on August 5th, 2011 at 11:31 am

“As independent contractors, they can’t organize under federal labor law.”

How is EVERY OTHER crew member of a film production eligible, then? Is every other crew member “employed” by the film production? If so, then why isn’t the composer? If not, then… well… doesn’t that make THEM an independent contractor? This argument makes absolutely no sense to me! ARG!

By Gordon on August 5th, 2011 at 11:33 am

And if every other crew member IS employed by the film production and in a union, then I’m guessing maybe they are unable to employ the composer because he/she is NOT in a union. Rock and a hard place? Chicken or the egg? I gotta stop. My head is about to explode.

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