[Dixielandjazz] Summer days on the DJML and the AFM

TCASHWIGG at aol.com TCASHWIGG at aol.com
Fri Jul 16 10:57:29 PDT 2004

Hi Dave: and all:

Interesting footnote to our previous discussions about the AF of M pension 
fund which you mentioned is strong and healthy with approx. 1.4 billion dollars.

When I gave up the Union in San Francisco, way back in about 1976 The Local 
#6 had a membership of approximately 6,000 active members, but also had a 96% 
unemployment rate annually.   Some local guys actually joined several unions 
locals so they could work in each jurisdiction which was their way of trying to 
beat the idiotic system inplace to keep any musician not livingin your 
jurisdiction from working there even if the only reason he could not was that his 
postal address fell in the city across the street from the borderline.

Therefore the majority of the money being contributed to the pension fund was 
for the Symphony players who were on annual salaries, and a few of the Hotel 
Bands which also quickly disappeared as the hotels dropped live music as in 
big bands, and combos and opted for a solo pianist in the lounge if that.  
Everyone else was forced into the casual business and most of them played with 
mixed union local members and avoided the pension contribution opting to keep more 
take home pay per scarce gig.

So I would assume that it is safe to say that those who stand to actually get 
a retirement benefit from the AFof M are pretty much in those two categories 
and or were actual Union employees of the AFof M who would have had a reason 
to keep their membership and pension fund active.

For most of the others it was like buying dental insurance when you have no 
teeth left.
Most members of Local #6 who are still active members today are simply paying 
the dues for the death benefit they think they will get when they die to bury 
them, however the last time I read about it, it was about $2,000.00 which 
does not buy much of a funeral, especially if you want a Second line Funeral. :)

Where the AFof M went wrong was in admitting every Tom Dick and Harry who had 
an instrument as a PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN primarily because he could come up 
with the  initiation fee and pay the dues.  They soon found out that they were 
now attempting to be the voice of and represent far more members than could 
ever possibly be working in the limited and dwindling live music market.  There 
was no differentiation between a wannabe and a Professional who had earned a 
reputation and was actually an employable professional player.  Treating all 
musicians as Equals at least verbally and on paper to avoid legal issues, was 
indeed the eventual downfall of many locals.

In California also they had the idiotic pay scale differences between locals 
for the same gig, with the boundaries sometimes being in establishments just 
across the street from each other.  Now on the Local # 6 side of the street 
scale for a four hour gig was about $48.00 for a sideman.  But across the Street 
in the Local #510 jurisdiction, it was only $25.00 a man.  It was also cheaper 
to join the 510 Local about 50% the cost of Local #6, and the same situations 
were in effect on all sides of Local #6 with another local forty miles south 
in San Jose, and another on across the bridge in Santa Rosa, and many more 
locals spread around the state.

   They were all competing with each other for the money from their own 
members, and if a member got caught playing across the street as a sideman in 
another local jurisdiction it caused fines and all kinds of other problems for the 
band leaders and contractors, and sidemen alike.  A contractor would often get 
fined for using a member of another local on his gig within his own 
jurisdiction, To avoid this stupid ruling they came up with a category for a band to 
register as a Traveling Band, but they then had to charge everyone they worked 
for an additional 10% no matter which local they played in.  Now it really got 
complicated when you tried to negotiate with a club or restaurant owner and 
tell him that since you had members of Local #6 in your band he would have to 
pay Local #6 scale +10% in his jurisdiction of #510 and the 510 members of the 
band loved it because they could make local 6 wages in their own jurisdiction 
+10 bonus.  However it backfired because the club owners soon figured it out 
and refused to hire anybody but the local guys at $25.00 a man.

Chaos and mass confusion disgusted most potential and former live music 
employers and drove them from the business at least on that level of the industry.  
It was just more trouble than it was worth to deal with musicians and or the 
Union.  They figured out they could get along without both of them.  Hello 
Disco, now DJs scratching the records we used to record and sell.

Please tell the AFof M to quickly get out there and organize the DJs and get 
em all unionized so we can see them start to disappear soon and then maybe 
this time the musicians can get it right and get live music back.

The comparison of the AFof M pension fund and the Social Security 
Administration problems are self evident.

Soc. Sec. Sounded like a good idea at the time, however with the advent of 
the Government employees retirement system, and all Government employees being 
exempted from Social security withholdings and contributions the Soc. Sec. 
Coffers quickly started dissipating since more people work for the Government 
(Fed, State, County, City, ) than are employed in the private sector, Soc. Sec. is 
doomed no matter how much the politicians keep shouting about saving it.  If 
they really wanted to save it they would simply merge it with the Govt. 
Retirement System and be done with it.

And sending a grievance claim to the AFof M in New York City got about the 
same results as sending one to the President of the United States and expecting 
to get back anything more than a form letter thanking you for writing.  Unless 
of course the grievance was filed against a union dues paying member of the 
AFof M or a booking agent who was actually finding employment for their 
members, in which case they were almost always found guilty as charged and fined 


Tom Wiggins

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