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ODD COUPLE: Teamsters 399 Trying to Help Hollywood Composers Unionize To No Avail

The Association of Media Composers and Lyricists has spent the past two years working with Teamsters Local 399 trying to organize themselves to create a collective bargaining unit. Sadly, their efforts have been for naught. According to an article in Variety, The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have no plans on voluntarily recognizing any union of the composers who were trying to collectively bargain their health insurance and pension benefits.

Sources said studio execs and AMPTP officials continue to believe that composers and songwriters are “independent contractors” — echoing a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in the 1980s — and don’t feel there is any compelling reason to voluntarily go along with a unionization request.

The music makers were hoping that the AMPTP would see them in the same light that they saw casting directors, who signed their first deal with the AMPTP as a Teamsters unit in 2006 after a three-year Teamster organizing campaign. Composers hoped their stated goal of only seeking health and pension benefits would help their cause — by not asking for minimums or working conditions.

Though it may seem out of the ordinary to picture composers as union brothers and sisters, these men and women are fighting the good fight in an industry that is notorious for unfulfilled handshake deals and degrading pay for what can be very personal products. These men and woman have studied their profession at top levels, work long hours and deserve the right to collectively bargain. The article goes on to give more details of the events”

Two years of meetings produced a united effort by more than 500 composers and lyricists, along with statements of support by the WGA, SAG, AFTRA, and three major music groups including the Society of Composers & Lyricists, the Recording Musicians Assn. and the American Federation of Musicians. The AFM handles other music-making functions such as performing, orchestrating, conducting, and music preparation, but not the actual writing of music.

AMCL organizing committee chairman Bruce Broughton said that the group will now look into alternative means of getting health coverage, and return to the effort “when national conditions are more favorable to us.” In the meantime, he said, the Teamsters will continue to act in “an advisory capacity.”

The article can be read in its entirety HERE.


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