Propelled by Pension Fears, a Musicians’ Union Elects Change

By Michael Cooper

Dec. 5, 2018


The leadership team of the New York local of the musicians’ union — the union’s largest local in the nation — was voted out of office on Tuesday in a stunning upset, amid concerns over the underfunded musicians’ pension plan and broader changes facing music, the original gig economy.

It was the first contested election in nine years at Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, and it could cause national ripples. Adam Krauthamer was elected president with 67 percent of the vote, beating Tino Gagliardi, who has held the post for nine years and played a key behind-the-scenes role in the city’s musical life.

The insurgency began with musicians concerned about their pensions. The American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund, a multiemployer plan representing thousands of musicians around the country, has grown so underfunded that it may decide to reduce benefits in the future. The crisis has led to renewed activism by musicians.

Some have sued the plan’s trustees, claiming mismanagement, which the trustees have denied. Others, including Mr. Krauthamer, formed a group called Musicians for Pension Security.

“It made people stand up and take a look around and see what was going on,” Mr. Krauthamer, 37, said in an interview on Wednesday.

He said that many musicians were troubled by what they found — feeling that the trustees of the pension fund had been unresponsive to their concerns — and worried that the large New York local was losing members and growing out of touch with the needs of a new generation of musicians. Several of New York’s cutting-edge ensembles, including the International Contemporary Ensemble, have opted not to unionize in recent years.

“If we don’t find a way to bring new members into our union, and more work under contract, we are never going to be able to fund our pension,” he said before playing the French horn in a matinee of “Frozen” on Broadway.

Mr. Krauthamer’s ticket, 802 Musicians for Change, said in its platform that while protecting and improving existing contracts for Broadway shows and at the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet and elsewhere was important, the union needed to bring more musicians into the fold. It called for coming up with more flexible contract frameworks that could be “available to musicians that don’t typically fall into the traditional union mold.”

It was a hard-fought campaign. In a debate, Mr. Gagliardi emphasized his experience. “This is not class president, folks,” he said.

Mr. Krauthamer argued the union had grown out of touch. “The rest of us, as musicians, have adapted to our market,” he said. “We understand what’s going on. But our union is stuck in the past.”

A version of this article appears in print on Dec. 6, 2018, on Page C3 of the New York edition with the headline: Musicians’ Union Elects Change.

See the original article here:

EC: “Congrats to the rank and file on taking their Local back!”



  1. Getting a larger membership won’t fund what’s already underfunded.
    That money should already be there by the pension contributions so far.
    Where did the money go? Did someone take it or was it invested poorly?

    • NYMike says:

      A series of mistakes by actuaries responding to the Fed’s “overfunding” rules leading to upping the multiplier to 4.65 to current and RETROACIVE accounts plus the ’08 financial meltdown led to the AFM-EPF’s current troubles. Nobody took the money. 802’s president is but one of 16 trustees, unable to cure the fund’s problems as the new know-nothing presiddent will find out. He will not even be appointed to the board.

  2. larry lippold says:

    A good start. I thought Tino was going to come after me when I asked whether we need some people on the Pension board who knew something about investments at the TMA meeting a few months ago. Of course the Broadway musicians have a huge interest in the plan, as they are putting a huge percentage of their checks into the plan (I think it is 18%).

    Getting Tino’s predecessor and Vince Trombetta off the board wouldn’t hurt either.

    • NYMike says:

      A typical response by someone without knowledge of how the AFM-EPF and its board of trustees works. The board does not directly act in investing, hiring the same well-known actuaries and investment firms as do other funds. B’way musicians do not contribute out of their checks .Mgt. does the contributing based on an arbritator’s (Turkus) award from the ’60s giving musicians a percentage of ticket sales which has grown over the years as ticket prices have increased. Union-side trustees are appointed by the AFM president so no change there unless he wants it.

  3. ANON says:

    Dear Members:

    In further clarification to our notice dated May 2, 2019, referenced above, please be advised that our International Unfair List remains fully intact and absolutely enforceable against employers and their allied contractors and subcontractors whose unfair actions result in the existence of a primary labor dispute with the Federation and/or its Locals.

    You received the above-referenced notice in connection with our placement of a national contractor on the International Unfair List, who reacted to that by filing with the National Labor Relations Board a series of unfair labor practice charges against AFM and numerous Locals. All of the contractor’s charges were dismissed as lacking in merit, and all subsequent appeals were denied. The NLRB, however, did find that the wording of a portion of AFM bylaw Article 8, Section 3, was overly broad, and as such, hypothetically could extend inappropriately to neutral parties who have no stake in a primary labor dispute. At the same time, the NLRB expressly noted that there is no evidence that AFM ever actually applied the bylaw in an unlawful manner. Nevertheless, the NLRB required us to revise the wording of the bylaw as a precaution.

    Unfortunately, the confusing text of the email blast that was sent to members was determined by the NLRB. I apologize for any confusion it has caused.

    Thank you,

    Jennifer P. Garner, Esq.
    American Federation of Musicians
    of the United States and Canada
    1501 Broadway, 9th Floor
    New York, NY 10036

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