LA Musicians Get Political

While it isn’t unusual for national unions to endorse presidential candidates (the American Federation of Musicians endorsed Hilary Clinton in 2016), it isn’t common to see AFM Locals to endorse a candidate.

The 2/12/2020 edition of Variety published an article by Chris Willman that reports AFM Local 47, which represents Los Angeles area musicians including those from the LA Philharmonic, endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.

In making the announcement, the union…acknowledged that the endorsement was “an unprecedented move for a union historically removed from taking official stances in presidential elections.” Yet it said that support for endorsing Sanders was unanimous among the two boards charged with approving the move, as the motion by the local’s political action committee was taken up and approved by the entire elected executive board.

The Variety article points out how unusual this is and five years ago I would have likely had more to say on the matter. But now we live in the age of gaslighting so pretty much everything is off the table when it comes to politics.

Unionized musicians aren’t alone in taking political stands. Remember when the San Francisco Symphony cancelled a two-day set of concerts in Chapel Hill, NC “in response to that state’s House Bill 2 (HB2), a law which overturned protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals earlier this year?” It happened in 2016.

Seattle Symphony organized a concert in support of immigrants as a response the to the Trump administration’s Muslim ban from 2017.

Consequently, don’t be surprised if Local 47 isn’t the last AFM Local to wade into endorsement waters.

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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