Videogames – and the right to ratify your contract

Voters_125We all know this is a mess and it is not getting any better. 2008 was a banner year for videogame companies, but not for us. The companies earned historic all-time profits, but AFM Video Game employment has nosedived. Sadly, AFM wages for 2008 were half the wages in 2007. And 2009 is just getting worse.

We have tried to help:  RMA has worked long and hard to help the AFM find success in this area, and we stand ready to continue our efforts to help. We have contributed extensive research, attended endless meetings at our own expense, given untold hours working on contract language, outreach and education. More than a year ago, current Nashville Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy, then chair of the RMA Video Game Committeee, brought a consolidated Video Game proposal to the AFM’s Executive Board (IEB). It was the product of hundreds of hours of work and consultation with players all across the AFM. It was completely ignored. One IEB member said it just “fell into the abyss”.

Castaway_optWalking away from the labor movement:  On October 1, 2009, SAG and AFTRA announced tentative agreements with the videogame industry for their latest contract. RMA requested numerous times that the AFM send observers to their negotiations, both to build bridges with our fellow unions, and to present ourselves to employers as part of a larger entertainment industry labor movement. Unfortunately, our voice went unheeded by the AFM.

No Contract is an island:  Federation Officers refuse to accept the obvious; that videogames and other media are converging, and that undermining music protections in this area harms AFM jingles, records, film and television. The AFM is trading away success for failure. They are giving up professional standards and threatening future employment everywhere else.

Dis-organizing:  In a radical departure from past practice, the AFM has decided that it alone has the answers to organizing recording employment. The IEB has decided that it knows better then those who have spent their lives working in media industries. The proof is clear and present: your employment has suffered as a result. The AFM has refused to listen to the rank and file – and we are paying the price for their behavior.

The right to ratify. Denied.

And despite repeated requests, the AFM refuses to allow players to ratify their own contract. They refuse to let the AFM members who do this work have a simple vote.

A petition calling for the right to ratify was submitted to the IEB with over 230 signatures.

Musicians have addressed the IEB openly and straightforwardly, both in print and in person. If the Videogames contract they imposed upon us is so effective, why not let the people who actually work under it vote?  Instead, rather than let the affected musicians decide how they want to proceed, the Electronic Media Services Division continues cutting secret deals with non-signatory employers. They cut those deals with no input or oversight from the rank-and-file.   Your right to vote has been denied, and the results are clear. Wages are down. Health care and pension are down. Your work is down.

“I’m the decider”:  The AFM President has announced that he has now taken over complete personal control of the Electronic Media Services Division of the AFM. Even though an Electronic Media Oversight Committee is mandated by our AFM Bylaws, he and his IEB are refusing to let them meet and function.

Workplace democracy affects you. It affects all of us.

So when you hear your RMA leadership expressing deep concern that there is no process; no oversight as required by AFM Policy and Bylaws; no democratic rights – it’s not personal. It’s business.

Good process benefits everyone; bad process harms us all.
It affects you, and it affects all of us.