11/20/2009 08:16 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

No More Sounds of Silence on the Music Composition Front?

Everyone knows that composers and lyricists make scales ... now they
want to make scale as well. Union scale, that is (or, even better,
above scale). One of the few non-unionized sectors of Hollywood,
composers and lyricists - the people who write music (as opposed to
musicians, the people who perform it) - are now in talks with the
Teamsters for representation.

It's not as strange as it seems: the macho union of dock workers and Hollywood truck drivers (Teamsters Local 399
on the West coast and Local 817 in New York) also represents casting
directors, location managers, and various other tenderfoots. An earlier
bid to join the Writers Guild (WGA) apparently gained little traction.

All this according to recent pieces in Variety (here, here, and here) and a long piece today in the LA Times.
An early-stage meeting Monday, which had been announced by the Society
of Composers & Lyricists (a trade group, not a union) attracted
over 300 people, about a third of the 900 who would be covered by a
union agreement. About 200 of them signed union authorization cards,
but the Teamsters are hoping for two-thirds (i.e., 600 or so) in order
to move forward.

In other audible union news, AFTRA recently
approved its interactive (i.e., video game) voiceover contract, while
SAG voted down its similar pact, representing a rare defeat for SAG's
new administration. Despite concerns with some aspects of the contract,
that's unfortunate for SAG, because I'm told this sector is only about
25% unionized (AFTRA numbers + SAG's). That means that video game
companies can easily move over to AFTRA - or go nonunion. The hard
reality is that neither SAG nor AFTRA control the labor supply in this
area, leaving them little leverage in negotiations. Sort of like
bringing a PS2 to a PS3 meetup.

In still other news on the union front - sorry, I've been busy prepping for my UCLA gig,
not to mention working for a living - the California Court of Appeals
dismissed as moot an appeal by former SAG president Alan Rosenberg and
his fellow Membership First plaintiffs newly-reelected 1st VP
Anne-Marie-Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord of
their suit
against their own union. This cacophony lives on in the lower court,
however, still costing the union money, but there's some hope that that
court will adopt the appeals court's underlying reasoning and dismiss
the entire proceeding on the same basis. Let's hope.


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