Composers back union

SCL supports Teamsters in effort

The Society of Composers and Lyricists, which counts among its 1,200 members many of the composers and songwriters who write for films and TV, has thrown its support behind the Teamsters’ efforts to organize composers and lyricists into a full-fledged union.

SCL president Dan Foliart confirmed that his board recently voted to endorse the Assn. of Media Composers and Lyricists (AMCL), which is hoping to become part of Teamsters Local 399.

The SCL endorsement is expected to be formally announced at the next organizing meeting of the AMCL at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, at the Writers Guild Theater.

SCL joins WGA, SAG, AFTRA, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the Recording Musicians Assn. (RMA) among organizations backing the effort. Composers are among the few remaining creatives in film and TV who are not represented by a collective-bargaining unit.

The Teamsters, which successfully organized casting directors in 2006, seeks to unionize composers for the sole purpose of gaining health and pension benefits. Said Teamsters business agent Steve Dayan: “Having organizations that support what composers do, and certainly the SCL does that, lends gravitas and credence to the effort.”

Although initial meetings late last year dealt with working conditions and wages, Dayan said, “we realized, by April, that that wasn’t what the majority of people could agree to, so we changed our focus to benefits-only.”

Organizing committee chairman Bruce Broughton said that a newly formed subcommittee, chaired by Michael Picton (“Flash Gordon”), will seek to bring aboard younger working composers in film and TV.

Rumors that the Teamsters were backing away from organizing the music writers and wordsmiths were quashed by both the Teamsters and the AFM.

“We have spoken to the AFM and let them know that we are totally committed to the composers,” Dayan said.Added AFM prexy Ray Hair: “A segment of the composers have indicated that they would like to be represented by us, but while the Teamsters campaign is in progress, we are not going to interfere or get involved.”

AFM contracts with the AMPTP cover orchestration, conducting, performing and music preparation, but not the act of creating music or lyrics. The Composers & Lyricists Guild of America did that, from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s, but a protracted battle with the networks and studios over music-ownership rights killed the CLGA in 1982.

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