MPS Responds to Peter de Boor's Article in Senza Sordino

We read with astonishment Peter de Boor’s “Dropping the Mute” in the June 2018 issue of Senza Sordino where he says MPS is asking for “enormous contribution increases” to help stabilize the AFM-EPF.

MPS is asking for 6% contribution increases over the next five years and 2.9% thereafter. This is a modest request, considering that, according to recent Congressional testimony, employer contributions are increasing at the rate of 6.9% per year, and have been over the past five years.

Let’s go through this a little more closely. Of the 6% we ask for, 2.5% growth in employer contributions are automatic because employer contributions are percentages of wages. If wages go up 2.5% per year, this raises employer contributions 2.5% per year automatically. So what MPS is asking for is a five-year annual additional 3.5% over and above the normal 2.5% increase: 3.5 + 2.5 = 6%. This additional annual 3.5% is to catch up from a decade of meager contribution increases. Again, the rate of employer contribution increases at AFM is less than half the national average and has been for some time now.

Five years catch up of 3.5% increases yields an 18.28% increase overall. At an orchestra where the employer contributions are 11% of wages, an 18.28% increase would raise its employer contribution to 13.01%.  

The 2.9% increases thereafter are meant to track the current rate of wage inflation. That means that wages should increase by 2.9%, which means so will employer contributions, without any increase in the employer contribution percentages.

This is a modest proposal.

We need to remember that there are only three possible sources of money to fix the AFM pension issues: employer money, government money, and worker money. It’s a zero-sum game. We are hoping for government money – that’s the Butch Lewis Act. If it passes, wonderful, problem solved. But if it doesn’t, it becomes a question of whether the musicians should be taking 25-30% reductions, with employers taking no pain whatsoever; or, employers take a little pain (very little) and musicians get much lighter cuts and a three- year reprieve. This is against a backdrop of employer contributions at AFM being less than half of the national average. In other words, employers have been getting away with under-contributions for the better part of a decade. 

Peter de Boor is an ICSOM board member. ICSOM has been hostile to MPS from the outset. So we need to ask why ICSOM would criticize a group of union activists who have organized into a non-profit organization to serve the concerns and interests of fellow union members by challenging the AFM’s leadership.  That was ICSOM's origin story.  From its inception, ICSOM was widely criticized within the AFM for being a "rogue" group of members whose work they believed was detrimental to the interests of the AFM as a whole. 

Perhaps the explanation lies in the fact that two AFM-EPF pension trustees were nominated by the ICSOM governing board. At this point, the only people who believe that the current crisis at the AFM-EPF was not caused by the mismanagement of the trustees are the trustees themselves, their paid spokespeople, certain local union officials and the ICSOM board.  

You can read Mr. de Boor's complete article here.