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An important election you didn't know about

0 Robert Levine

Most orchestra musicians don’t pay much attention to union politics. That’s OK: most politics in the AFM is not worth paying much attention to. But there was an election the other day that’s worth noting.

The two largest locals in the AFM are Local 47 (Los Angeles) and Local 802 (New York). Both are dominated by working musicians, and both are interesting politically. What’s particularly interesting about New York, and what distinguishes its political life from that of virtually every other AFM local, is its two-party system.

The older of the two, the Members’ Party, gained control in 1983, and held it through the early part of this decade, largely due to the leadership of former 802 President Bill Moriarty, one of the finest local officers in the AFM’s history. After Bill’s retirement in 2003, things began to fall apart, leading to several years of control of 802 by a newer group calling itself the “Concerned Musicians.” Yesterday, the Members’ Party slate won virtually a clean sweep over the slate run by the Concerned Musicians party in elections for all 802 officer positions.

Does this matter to the average orchestra musician? It might. By virtue of being on of the two largest locals in the AFM, 802 wields a lot of power at conventions and officer elections. At the last AFM convention, Local 802 supported the incumbent AFM president, Tom Lee. As Local 47 supported Lee’s opponent, who was also president of Local 47, the two mega-locals essentially cancelled each other’s votes. That seems unlikely to happen this summer, which substantially raises the possibility of significant turnover on the AFM’s International Executive Board.

802 is not the only large local where power has changed hands recently. The Boston local voted out its incumbent president, and the Nashville local voted out both its incumbent president and its incumbent secretary-treasurer - both of whom also serve on the IEB. Local officers who are also IEB members getting booted out of local office is a rare event in the AFM.

AFM conventions are always interesting events. The one this summer, which is the first one to be held since the AFM moved from conventions every other year to every three years, is showing signs of being especially newsworthy.

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