Austin Federation of Musicians


Time to Get Organized

  January 7, 2019  

My colleague, Aaron Lack, and I hopped on a plane to Washington D.C. at the beginning of December. We were headed to AFM Leadership Training. The American Federation of Musicians was hosting a 3-day training with leaders from the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute at the Tommy Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring, MD. We knew that this would be intense training, but we also knew that it would be beneficial to our office, our membership and the Austin, TX community.

The words of the week were Organizing, Transactional and Transformational. These words were daunting the first day, but they were empowering by the end of the training. Organizing is arranging into a structured whole. Transactional is when leaders are aware of the link between the effort and the reward. Transactions are activities leaders must do to get them checked off a list. Transformational activities cause changes in individuals and systems. When leaders inspire emotions in their members, it motivates the membership to act beyond the framework of transactional necessities. Every Local must complete transactional duties to keep the office running, but providing the transformational experiences within its membership sets the groundwork for effective organizing.

The tempo of the training kept a brisk pace due to the variety of learning activities provided. Local leaders were broken out into new groups or partners for each training exercise. This allowed us to work with other AFM leaders that we might not have the opportunity to work with throughout the year. Group and partner work enabled networking and the exchange of experiences between all of us. Role playing skits gave each of us a laugh, but provided a safe practice space before heading home. The “Organizing Conversation” handout that I have deemed “my new best friend” really brought the sense of the word into focus. Everything that we had been learning during training started to click.  One the last day we watched the video 1,000 People in the Street- 5th Ave. Musicians Strike (Local 76-493 in Seattle, WA). This provided a real-life example of how transformational activities support organizing, and how organizing can change a mindset and in turn create results. All of these training activities really helped me as I first felt a little overwhelmed by the loaded word Organizing. By the end I got excited to hear my once feared words because I understood the meanings, and I was armed with the tools that would guide me through any campaign.

By the end of the training I had three main takeaways: 1) Organizing is the key to any local’s success for its members and community; 2) We as the local leaders must first help internally organize if we want to make changes to our community and beyond for the future; 3) Don’t 3rd Party The Union- we are all the Union, an organized group of musicians and music industry professionals that stand together united for the greater good of the industry and the craft. Vince Santoro, Local 257 (Nashville, TN) Secretary/Treasurer had the best quote: “Right to Work is just a label for a mindset.” This quote has been circling my brain since he said it. Any mindset can be adjusted, with a little guidance and education. It’s about our members and communities taking charge of what they believe in and no label being able to stop the charge. Let that sink in a minute, repeat it to yourself, believe in it.

 If you have not had the chance to attend an AFM & AFL-CIO Leadership Program I highly suggest you attend the next training session. Not only did I have a wealth of information and ideas to bring back to my Local, I feel more confident in my ability to assist our members in any campaigns they would like to start. I also feel ready to take on any CBA negotiations that may arise in our jurisdiction. I would like to say thank you to Michael Manley, AFM Organizing and Education Director, Todd Jelen, AFM Symphonic Services Negotiator/Organizer/Educator, Bruce Fife, AFM Vice President and Local 99 (Portland, OR) President, as well as TJ Marsallo and Patrick Scott, Organizers for the AFL-CIO for their hard work putting this training together. There was a lot of information to put into only 3-days of training, but you all pulled it off. To my fellow attendees, it was great seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones. It’s time to get ORGANIZED!