Beginning a New Season of Music – Under the COVID-19 Pandemic.

It has been quite the summer for everyone, but especially so for musicians. With all the of the ups and downs, shutdowns and restarts, controversies over mask wearing, and a summer spike in infection – right here in North Texas – things have remained constant for musicians. As our work requires the gathering of our audiences (and for us too!) the reality is that we will not be able to return to work like normal as long as the Pandemic continues. After the shock of the shutdown last spring and finding an immediate response to it, this summer began the work for us forging a path FORWARD.

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The Music Will Play On

Dear Local 72-147 Members,

I address you now as we all address one of the greatest crises in our union’s history, and in fact, in our nation’s history. We musicians are affected by COVID-19 in an especially personal way. As we were among the very first to feel the economic burn that gathering restrictions and social distancing reeked upon our complete industry, we have sustained a blow at our very core. Beyond the very real economic affects of the shutdown and the dangers to public health, we are further made to stop doing that which brings us life. As we now are kept from coming together to make music in groups, and share that collaboration with our audiences, we wonder when our work, our livelihoods, our mission will be allowed to return. And yet I am seeing our music survive and sing through the void, and our union stepping up to the challenge.

Legislative Advocacy at the time of Crisis

From the moment that the shutdown of the entertainment industry became a previously unimaginable reality, the AFM came together through an immediate campaign to have legislation introduced, which would provide relief for working people in the entertainment industry – every bit as crucial to the economy as the cruise ship, airline and travel industries. After the Families First Coronaviris Response Act was signed into law expanding paid leave and unemployment benefits, mandating paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, most gig workers in the entertainment industry were still not provided for. After a renewed campaign from the AFM Legislative Department and a letter writing campaign by our members across the nation, unemployment relief was extended to independent contractors for the first time through the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27. Also included in this legislation is added support of the arts through increased funding of the National Endowment of the Arts, and through the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program’s forgivable loans. Here in DFW, our three largest employers of musicians were greatly helped to maintain payroll and benefits to our musician

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Negotiating in the Midst of a Worldwide Pandemic

As spring 2020 approached, Local 72-147 was preparing for one of the busiest negotiating seasons in many years, with the musicians of the Dallas and Fort Worth Symphonies, the Dallas Opera Orchestra, East Texas Symphony and Dallas Summer Musicals all preparing to negotiate successor agreements with their managements. With the outbreak of COVID-19 creating a shutdown of public gatherings and stay-at-home orders for individuals across DFW, these musicians found themselves with current performance seasons shuttered. Previously unimaginable, force majeure provisions were invoked by some employers, and others through application for SBA PPP loans made available through the CARES Act, passed on March

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Participation in Committees, Membership Meetings & Events

I hope everyone has had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year, and wish you all the best as we gear up for another great holiday season this December.

This time of year we always look back on the year, its ups and downs, and plan forward for the next year. At our last Membership meeting on November 11, we had a discussion about making more of these meetings, increasing attendance, and our sense of community in our local. After a discussion of how member participation is how we really make our union stronger, one member who had just joined this year commented: “Ask not what your union can do for you, but what you can do for your union…”

We carried this discussion on to our next Executive Board meeting, and from this arose plans to build new standing committees with the purpose of bringing our union more together and getting more done. We are beginning with a Member Engagement Committee to help schedule and plan our Membership Meetings and Orientations, and develop them into really special events. Our first of these is scheduled for the morning of February 22. We are looking for folks to help come up with ways to program the events so they bring special opportunities to our members, along with access to union business, discussion and fellowship. Please contact me or Frederick Nichelson, who has volunteered to chair this committee as we get it going. Let us know soon, as February 22 will be here sooner than we all think!

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