Well This Is An Interesting Union Issue

The 6/15/14 edition of the Toronto Star published an article by Allan Woods that reports the Quebec members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) voted to separate from the parent union.

ADAPTISTATION-GUY-072Granted, the vote was nothing but close, a reported 53.3 percent majority, but the decision throws all sorts of wrenches into the governance works of the AFM thanks to a series of laws and regulations in Quebec that contradict, and may eventually supersede, policies and procedures stipulated in the union’s bylaws. For now, it’s all up in the air.

And what’s the ruckus all about? According to the article, much of the consternation is the byproduct of the AFM failing to provide French translations of contracts and related documentation.

It was so bad that Quebec’s language watchdog cautioned the majority-francophone guild with a warning for distributing English-language contracts to French-speaking members. The central union apparently hadn’t bothered with translation and the local leadership lacked the money for legal fees.

“We told the AFM at that point — it was nearly two years ago — and there was nothing published. They still haven’t done the translation and they’re perfectly aware of the problem,” said jazz guitarist Luc Fortin, president of the Guilde des musiciens et musiciennes du Québec.

However, according to a letter dated 1/31/2014 from Alan Willaert, AFM Vice-President from Canada, the issues appear to extend into the overall costs associated with conforming to some of Quebec’s unique regulations as related to professional artists.

Although it is tempting for those of us here in the US to look at the situation with a degree of detached curiosity, don’t think for a moment that we are immune to debilitating language barrier problems.

Within the next 30 years, as the Hispanic population continues to grow, the influx of Spanish speaking citizens will reach a potential tipping point and it doesn’t matter if you’re a musicians union or an arts marketer, the time will come where multi-lingual skills will become a requirement for doing business.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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