January 31, 2014
To the Members of La Guilde des Musiciens et Musiciennes du Québec, Local 406, AFM:
We’ve been informed by the Guild that the December General Meeting of the Guild passed a motion to conduct a referendum of the membership on whether or not to remain in the AFM. Though not surprised, we are deeply disappointed. This motion appears to be the culmination of a deliberate crafting of events over the past couple of years designed specifically to obtain this result. This letter will put before you facts and information that may not have been given a full airing up until now.
The International Executive Board (IEB) and the Guild’s elected leadership have been discussing the Local 406’s unique advantages and challenges under the provincial Status of the Artist for more than twenty years. The Guild’s current leadership claims that income isn’t sufficient to cover both the Federation affiliation fees and to meet the various obligations prescribed under the provincial Status of the Artist Act.
Recognizing both the unique advantages and corresponding responsibilities that Local 406 has under Status, the IEB has acted to support Local 406 in many ways. Among those were grants of several thousand dollars to pay for French translation of union documents; a reclassification of electronic agreements negotiated under Status as local agreements – thereby allowing Local 406 to retain funds that would otherwise be payable to the Federation as recording work dues; and hiring an Associate Director of Symphonic Services in Canada, who was assigned to work exclusively from Local 406’s offices and help negotiate with the large number of orchestras within the province. In addition, my predecessor funded the legal fees for several ongoing Local 406 negotiations.
Still, the Guild leadership maintained that this was insufficient and that they required further subsidy from the IEB. Over the past two years, the Guild leadership has presented two different proposals to the IEB: One was for the AFM to return $180,000 per year to the Guild, and the other, in the form of a resolution to the AFM Convention, was to discontinue its status as a Local of the AFM and instead become a “non-local affiliate,” which would relieve the Guild of thousands of dollars annually in Federation per capita and work dues.
Frankly, the problem with both of these proposals as put forth is that the Federation requires those funds, from every local, for its operation. Everyone pays taxes to pay for their government; and every local pays per capita and work dues to support the Federation. To relieve the Guild of its financial responsibilities when every other local in this Federation still pays their appropriate share would be unfair, and could start a chain reaction that would cripple our union.
The Guild leadership says they need a staff of lawyers in order to discharge their obligations under Status. Staff lawyers are expensive. The Guild can’t afford them, and the Federation would be hard pressed to subsidize them. Looking for a mutual solution, last year the IEB offered to join with Local 406 in proposing to last year’s AFM Convention an extra $2 in Federation per capita. The additional $160-$180K it could have generated would have been specifically allocated to fund necessary staff through a proposed service agreement between the Guild and the Federation, allowing the AFM to provide the necessary assistance to the Guild as required under Status. Let me be clear about this: The IEB offered to put its full weight behind a proposal for every member of this Federation to help Local 406, to the tune of an extra $2 per year per member.
I believe that this strategy could have succeeded. The delegates to this last convention were in a mood to properly fund programmes that would successfully propel the AFM well into the future, and I think they would have happily approved an extra $2 to help out the local of their brothers and sisters in Quebec. Unfortunately, the delegates did not get that opportunity. The Guild leadership rejected the IEB’s offer, and instead proposed that the Convention permit the Guild to be affiliated with the AFM without being a local, and thereby avoid paying what other locals pay to be part of the Federation. As we had previously counselled the Guild leadership, the Convention delegates were not at all enthusiastic about that proposal. However, upon hearing the plight of Local 406, the Convention, rather than voting “yea or nay” on the resolution, placed the matter back in the hands of the IEB and instructed it to find a workable solution.
The IEB took up the matter at its next meeting, which was in November of 2013. Determining that the resolution to allow locals to become watered-down “affiliates” of the AFM was not in the best interests of the union or its members, the IEB instead proposed meeting again with the Guild leadership in late January, 2014, to again try to find a mutually-workable solution. Knowing that emotions could run high, the IEB even suggested that we use legal counsels for Local 406 and the AFM to mediate, answer legal, Status and labour code questions and ensure that when the meetings concluded, a workable agreement would have been reached. The Guild leadership rejected the offer to meet, and instead presided over the December meeting’s motion to hold a referendum to secede from the AFM, and become a separate entity. We have to believe that this was the agenda all along.
NOW PLEASE READ THIS – IT’S IMPORTANT!
Should the Guild disaffiliate from the AFM, its members would no longer be eligible for many of the services and benefits to which they are now entitled. These include, to name but a few:
- Access to CFM/AFM negotiated agreements (e.g. Sound Recording Labor Agreement, National Film Board, CBC outside Québec, Motion Picture and TV Film, Canadian Content Production Rules ((CCPR)) and Commercial Announcements) and subsequent reuse and New Use payments;
- Emergency travel assistance and Roadgig services when travelling outside Québec;
- CFM–endorsed instrument, liability and travel insurance;
- Strike fund for currently participating orchestras;
- Special Payments Fund (on sound recordings);
- Film Musicians’ Secondary Markets Fund;
- Continued participation in the Musicians’ Pension Fund of Canada could be in jeopardy;
- The ability to be included on contracts with AFM members;
- The ability to obtain P-2 visas through the AFM for work in the United States;
- GoPro Music, GoPro Lessons, GoPro Tunes and GoPro Hosting;
- Booking through AFM Entertainment;
- Lester Petrillo Fund, providing financial assistance to musicians with medical disabilities.
As a working musician, are these benefits things you can afford to lose?
Please realize and appreciate that as a member of the AFM, you currently have the best of both worlds. Local 406 negotiates on your behalf, in both official languages within Québec, while the AFM covers all other engagements in Canada and the US. Disaffiliation means you would be without representation or protection outside Québec, because you could not maintain membership in both.
Labour is under attack globally. To separate from and fragment the AFM will have negative repercussions for all musicians throughout Canada and the United States. We should be organizing and solidifying our position as the largest entertainment organization in the world, working to improve the standards we have fought for and maintained since 1896. Solidarity means together, not apart!
I ask you to consider carefully, because it is in the best interests of your career as a professional musician to remain with us. Please vote against disaffiliation, stay with the AFM, and let’s mobilize 17,000 Canadian members!
Sincerely and fraternally,
AFM Vice-President from Canada