Union & Partners Provide Help in Times of Hardship
by Aaron Pino
One of the most under-publicized things a union does is to help people in need. Examples from the recent past include the plumbers union donating their time to install pipes and filters for people with poisoned water in Flint, Michigan; and here in Texas, many unions donated food, labor, and financial assistance to Hurricane Harvey victims, including the AFM. As President Williams has written, musicians can be the most vulnerable people in the world when health crises occur – even a short illness can result in critical lost income beyond the cost of health care. I wanted to bring to your attention to four different resources where you can get help for yourself or a fellow member in need of financial assistance due to illness, injury, or disability.
First, our local has its own fund in our Musicians Federal Credit Union called the Bill Collins Benefit Fund, which was established by Bill Collins III in honor of his father, Bill Collins Jr. Its purpose is to help members who are temporarily unable to work as a musician, or are in need of financial assistance, for medical reasons. The benefit can be up to $500. Many of our members have received assistance from the Fund over the years. If you know of a member who is struggling, please give us a call at the office. This fund relies totally on contributions, so I would urge you all to please consider making a donation to help us help our colleagues. Send your check in any amount to the office payable to the Bill Collins Benefit Fund. You can also include an extra amount the next time you pay your dues, and we will transfer it to the Fund. If you want to make a specific donation for a member in need, we would be pleased to honor that as well.
Second, there is a fund at the AFM called the Lester Petrillo Memorial Fund. Established by former International President James Petrillo in honor of his son, the fund provides financial aid to qualified applicants on an emergency basis. The trustees have complete discretion in determining the eligibility and the amount of the benefit, but you must be either physically or mentally disabled (as that term is defined by the trustees) and a member of the AFM in good standing. If you want to apply for assistance, call the office, and President Williams can get you an application, which will require supportive medical documentation. We will forward the completed application to the AFM. Again, many of our members have received assistance from this fund in the past.
Third, I would like to inform everyone of another organization that exists to help musicians in need. This is the Musicians Foundation, which has provided assistance to artists for over 100 years. They have been supported throughout the years by artists such as Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Casals, Yo-Yo Ma, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Two current members of their advisory council are Joshua Bell and Wynton Marsalis. What this organization does is help applicants who qualify pay bills. All grants are checks made out to the biller (doctors, hospitals, landlords, management companies, utility providers, etc.), so bills can be paid quickly and with dignity. They have a two-part application process which is open to all professional musicians (performers, educators, and composers) who qualify, and grants can be up to $3000. More information can be found at www.musiciansfoundation.org. The Foundation very recently reached out to us, as they want to increase awareness among musicians here in Texas.
Fourth, there is an organization called MusiCares, founded by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Its primary purpose is “to focus the attention and resources of the music industry on human service issues which directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.” Their programs include not only emergency financial assistance, but also addiction recovery, outreach and leadership activities, and senior housing. This organization provided aid to some of our members during the Fort Worth Symphony strike in 2016. More information can be found at www.grammy.com/musicares.