Saying that its contracts have been “put at serious risk” by “work done in the shadows,” Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians is preparing to launch a campaign “to ensure that musicians can earn a livable wage working in Los Angeles.”

AFM Local 47

In a recent communique with its members, the local’s executive board said more and more musicians “are being asked to record music for major, well-funded projects without union contracts. If union contracts are made irrelevant by work done in the shadows, the floor for pay will drop for both union and non-union musicians.” Read the full message below.

In many cases, union musicians are forced to choose between working nonunion or not working at all. “These employment practices are especially divisive and pernicious,” the executive board said, “because they exert enormous pressure on individual union members.”

The local’s current contract with the major studios doesn’t expire until next April, but it’s already gearing up for a tough round of bargaining. One of the challenges it’s facing is the trend toward using foreign orchestras to score films and TV shows that were shot right here in Los Angeles. Another problem is that the AFM’s multibillion-dollar pension plan is in “critical” condition.

“The actuary certified that for the plan years beginning April 1, 2016, and 2015, respectively, the plan is in ‘critical’ status under the Pension Protection Act of 2006,” according to the AFM Pension Plan’s latest financial report. As such, the Plan’s board of trustees was required by law to adopt a rehabilitation plan designed to improve its financial health and to allow it to emerge from critical status.

“We all know what it is like to wonder where your next call is going to come from or how you are going to pay your bills,” the executive board said. “No single musician can stop the forces that undermine our profession, but as a union we have always been able to push back. We believe that it is now necessary to take action together.”

Here is the board’s full message to Local 47 members:

To all members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 47:
Our contracts are the heart of our union. Whatever we achieve through collective action and collective bargaining is secured because management signs agreements. Our contracts allow us to make sure employers do what they are obligated to do. They raise the expectations of all musicians for pay, benefits, and professional treatment.

Recently, those contracts have been put at serious risk. Members of Local 47 are being asked to record music for major, well-funded projects without union contracts. If union contracts are made irrelevant by work done in the shadows, the floor for pay will drop for both union and non-union musicians. These employment practices are especially divisive and pernicious because they exert enormous pressure on individual union members.

We all know what it is like to wonder where your next call is going to come from or how you are going to pay your bills. No single musician can stop the forces that undermine our profession, but as a union we have always been able to push back.

We believe that it is now necessary to take action together. We call upon the Federation and other AFM Locals to unite with our membership in defense of our union and our contracts. In the coming months we will be launching a campaign to uphold our contracts, to recapture work being done in the shadows and to ensure that musicians can earn a livable wage working in Los Angeles.

Our goals are:
1. To ensure fair pay, benefits, and professional treatment for musicians.
2. To protect our union’s ability to bargain, administer and uphold our contracts.
3. To bring more work under union agreements.

We, the Executive Board of AFM Local 47, are committed to building a stronger, more successful future together.

– AFM Local 47 Executive Board