What's happening at the AFM

June 25, 2024

I wanted to give everyone an update about things happening at the Federation, one year into International President Tino Gagliardi’s administration. I attended two different conferences this June – first was the Locals’ Conference Council/Players’ Conference Council meeting, which took place in Detroit, MI. This meeting happens annually in non-Convention years, and delegates from each of the Players Conferences (ICSOM, ROPA, OCSM, RMA, and TMA) and from each of the regional AFM conferences get together face-to-face with the International Executive Board and AFM staff, to hear updates from the Federation and to give input to the Federation on our needs.  I attended these meetings as the delegate from the Professional Musicians of Texas conference, for which I am the Secretary-Treasurer (our President, Stewart Williams, is the Vice-President of PMOT).  Both President Williams and I also attended the AFM’s Southern Conference of Locals in Austin.  On a side note, our Local will be hosting this conference in Dallas in June 2025. 

The first thing to note is that the LCC/PCC did not meet in Las Vegas this time, as an alternate city is being sought for the next AFM Convention in 2026.  Detroit is one of the main candidate cities, and there are a few others.

International President Gagliardi has been re-staffing the Federation, hiring additional organizers, and also a famous consultant, Susan Sherman, to take a look at the AFM and help the IEB identify any deficiencies in structure, finance, etc. The AFM has also separated the Education department from the Organizing Department, and Dave Shelton, the former International Representative for the Eastern region, has been hired to head it. The AFM is also close to hiring a full-time researcher as well. Mention was also made at both conferences of the new Change the Culture committee, headed by the Secretary-Treasurer of AFM Local 10-208 Chicago, Karen Suarez Flint.  This committee met with the IEB ahead of the LCC/PCC meetings, and presented six recommendations, the implementation of which will be studied by a sub-committee of the IEB.  More will be forthcoming about this in the next issue of the International Musician. The AFM has also beefed up its officer trainings, especially about how to deal with harassment complaints, which are being offered all summer long ahead of all the various regional and player conferences, and will continue next year.

Though the AFM does have a new underwriter for the group instrument insurance policy, they are still in the process of finding a new underwriter for the liability insurance.

Artificial Intelligence was a big topic at both conferences. International Secretary-Treasurer Ken Shirk spoke about how AI is going to creep into our lives in ways that we are unaware of, and we need to be prepared. International President Gagliardi pointed out that session work for commercials is now almost non-existent, and said that when he attended the FIM conference, which is the world-wide musicians union organization that the AFM is a member of, all of the other countries reported having the same problems with it that we are experiencing.  Both officers noted that one important thing to keep in mind here is that the real threat is not that the studios will replace musicians with AI, but that the studios themselves will be replaced by AI.  The real enemy here is Big Tech, which has had a huge voice in Congressional hearings on the issues, whereas the entertainment unions have had very little thus far.

This led to discussion of the need to beef up the AFM’s legislative and political department. The LCC officially asked the AFM to create a Legislative and Political Department to help Legislative and Political Director Alfonso Pollard.  The need to beef up the AFM’s political action fund, TEMPO, was also discussed.  We need to be leading in the area of creating legislation about AI and other things affecting musicians, not riding on the coattails of other organizations.

A new International Vice-President from Canada has been appointed, Allistair Elliott, to replace Alan Willaert, who passed away earlier this year.

At the Southern Conference, President Williams chaired the Resolutions Committee, and I took part on the Finance Committee. Southern Conference President Aaron Lack (President of Austin Local 433) also invited officers from the Texas AFL-CIO to participate this year, and we heard from Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar, and organizer Lorraine Montemayor, who led a workshop on Race and the Economy. The Southern Conference also voted to add two new Directors to its Board, which has only consisted of the three officers in the past.  There was also a panel discussion led by the President of Local 65-699 Houston Alex Navarro about Local Building which focused on mobilization and diversification.

Look out for articles this summer in the International Musician which will have more information on what has been going on in each department of the AFM, and the plans for the future.