Building Federation Alliances

By Folio, Sam | International Musician, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Building Federation Alliances


Folio, Sam, International Musician


The American Federation of Musicians of the US and Canada is a labor union. In reading the AFM website we find that our birth was in the labor movement.

In the mid-1800s musicians in the US began exploring ways to improve their professional lives. They formed mutual aid societies to provide members with loans or financial assistance during illness or extended unemployment and to provide death benefits. A number of these organizations became early unions serving various constituencies, but problems arose between them due to competition.

In 1896, delegates from these organizations gathered at the invitation of American Federation of Labor (AFL) President Samuel Gompers to organize and charter a musicians' trade union. A majority of the delegates voted to form the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), representing 3,000 musicians nationally. They resolved: "That any musician who receives pay for his musical services, shall be considered a professional musician." In its first 10 years, the AFM expanded to serve both the US and Canada, organized 424 locals, and represented 45,000 musicians throughout North America.

The AFM grew to more than 300,000, and due to a variety of changes in the labor and music business leveled off to around 90,000. The AFM will now enter a period of growth dirough the leadership of the AFM members, local officers, staff, our new membership department, and the International Executive Board.

I see our growth, in part by closer participation in the AFL-CIO at the local and international levels. It is incumbent on us to recognize that the mission of the AFL-CIO is consistent with the beliefs of the AFM.

The mission of the AFL-CIO is "to improve the lives of working families-to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation. To accomplish this mission we will build and change the American labor movement." The AFM must recognize the changing digital music business. It is changing with the business, in part by our newly negotiated agreements and by our GoPro websites (gopromusic.com, goprolessons.com, and goproauction.com).

The AFL-CIO mission states the objective of building "a broad movement of American workers by organizing workers into unions. We will recruit and train the next generation of organizers, mass the resources needed to organize and create the strategies to win organizing campaigns and union contracts. We will create a broad understanding of the need to organize among our members, our leadership, and among unorganized workers. We will lead the labor movement in these efforts." This is also a charge to the AFM.

The AFL-CIO states that it will "build a strong political voice for workers in our nation. We will fight for an agenda for working families at all levels of government. We will empower state federations. We will build a broad progressive coalition that speaks out for social and economic justice. We will create a political force within the labor movement that will empower workers and speak forcefully on the public issues that affect our lives." AFM's activities in Congress are well document in the International Musician.

The AFL-CIO will "change our labor movement by creating a new voice for workers in our communities. We will make the voices of working families heard across our nation and in our neighborhoods. …

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