It is my honor to serve as the independent Retiree Representative for the retirees and beneficiaries of the American Federation of Musicians and Employers Pension Fund. The Fund is made up of AFM union trustees and employers for Broadway shows, symphony orchestras, opera, and chamber groups, recording labels, and other work under AFM contracts. The appointment of a Retiree Representative is required for large funds by the 2014 Multi-Employer Pension Relief Act (MPRA). MPRA allows critically underfunded pensions to apply to the US Treasury Department for reduction of benefits to secure solvency of the Fund for years to come. When I was approached by the Fund, I conditioned my acceptance of the Retiree Representative role on the selection of an experienced industry-wide panel of pensioner musicians. Our job is to inform the retirees concerning the status of the Fund, and the efforts to retain its solvency, and to look out for the concerns of pensioners regarding reductions under the statutory procedure.

Our Panel made recommendations to the US Treasury Department when the AFM-EPFund submitted its first MPRA application in 2020, but the US Treasury Department rejected that application, based on technical concerns about the statistical reference sources preferred by the US Treasury Department, specific factors considered by the AFM-EPFund in its projection of solvency, and, importantly, the unforeseen severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our industry. The AFM-EPFund quickly submitted a second application at the end of 2020, making the adjustments required by the US Treasury Department and new projections of the Fund’s ability to pay benefits for the next thirty years under this revised plan with benefit reductions.

The proposed reductions under this solvency plan are severe for many of our colleagues who earned their living through AFM contracts and bargaining agreements which adopted pension contributions as a focal benefit for career musicians. Our Panel was involved in the second MPRA application process and made significant recommendations concerning the fairness of the reduction plan design. But the overriding concern is that these reductions must be avoided if a legislative remedy can be achieved.

In the last several days, a proposed solution has been presented to Congress as part of the pandemic relief package. I encourage every member of our local union, and all AFM members in our Federation, to write to their US Representatives and Senators in support of The Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021. The legislation in its current form is designed to alleviate the drastic situation faced by Multi-Employer Pension Plans which suffered enormous financial losses and were not rescued during the financial crisis of 2008/2009.

Here are some useful links for you to use:

Click Here for a proposed letter to serve as a template for your efforts.
Click Here to identify your US Congressional Representative.
Click Here for the US Senate Home Page. Use the pull-down menu in the upper-left corner to open the “Find Your Senators” page, where you select your state to be shown the contact information for your senators.

Many of the musicians in our music scene, including recording artists, musicians who have worked jobbing engagements under special AFM agreements, theater pit orchestra members, and our celebrated Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera Orchestra, as well as the Children’s Theater and many local venues, are dependent on this pension resource as a significant part of their financial future. I encourage you to advance this important legislation immediately, as the legislative process is ongoing to scrutinize all elements of the pandemic relief package in the next few days.

Respectfully Submitted,
Brad Eggen
AFM Retiree Representative