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LA violinist accuses musicians union of victimising her

March 17, 2018 by norman lebrecht

15 comments.


Luanne Homzy, a gifted musician who was concertmaster at Colburn as a student, says she has been bullied by AFM Local 47 in a case of mistaken identity. The fight has cost Luanne $15,000.

Here’s her post:

 

In August of 2016, I found out through back channels that I was being accused by AFM Local 47 for taking part in a non union recording session at which I was not present, yet one month later, I was formally charged by the AFM. Erick Cruz (whose back you will see in this video – not able to look at me) made the fraudulent claim that it was me in the photos he took of a musician walking on a street with a violin case.

During the time between the leaking of the list of accused musicians and officially charging me, Mr. Cruz was given information that I was in a different county at the time, yet he and his “colleagues” still went ahead with charging me. As soon as I received the official charge in September 2016, my attorney, who I had made aware of the situation when the information had been leaked to me in August 2016, replied with my phone location records and signed receipts from the day and time of the alleged session. However, as you will see in this video from late October 2016, Gordon Grayson (who was recently fired from the Local) still hadn’t removed my charge, more than 2 months after I had found out I was being falsely accused.

I have since spent over $15,000 defending myself against the slanderous claims made about me and distributed with intent by the Local, not to mention the harassment, intimidation, false promises, and threats that would follow. I was presented with an unlawful NDA by the local in exchange for a public apology and reimbursement of approximately 40% of my legal fees (which at the time totalled to about 10K), yet if I were to breach the agreement, I would owe the Local $10,000, and another $20,000 if I breached it a second time. I refused to sign such an agreement, so, tonight, I break my silence and I ask for your solidarity as I take a stand for what is right.

Keeping silent will only allow them to keep getting away with their behavior and abuse of power, and I do not wish upon anyone the mental, financial, and emotional misery they have intentionally inflicted upon me. The Union cannot continue to abuse its members when they should be looking out for them. Shame on you Local 47.

I am not alone, and there are numerous accounts of this kind of union thuggery. I’m collecting stories like mine for an upcoming news feature, so please feel free to reach out to me if you are (or someone you know is) interested in sharing their story — my wish is that this will bring awareness and ultimately put a stop to this kind of harassment.

(This is footage from my car’s dash cam, from October 2016 when I was accosted by union officials in the parking lot of Local 47, after going in for help with filling out music prep forms.)


Comments (15)

  1. Lane Arndt says:

    There is no more fatuous and flaccid organization on the planet Earth than the so called musician’s Union. If you’re in an orchestra or work for TV/movies they’ll probably have your back but if you’re a wiring stiff slogging it out for $150 a night they will certainly take your dues but they will give you [email protected]$k all in return!
    Boycott the Union!

    1. Michael Comins says:

      Typical “right to work (for less)” response. Yeah, boycott the union, go out on your own and see what loving fair-minded producers are willing to pay you. SMH!

  2. Alan Hyde says:

    Union members in the US have a federal right to be free of certain retaliatory or unfair discipline. Attorney’s fees can be awarded if successful.

  3. violafan says:

    AFM Local 47 is BAT SHIT CRAZY.

    They intimidate and harass so many musicians around the LA area.

    I support Luanne

  4. David Hilton says:

    I was entirely supportive of this musician’s plight, until I watched the dashcam footage that she provides. There the union representative sounds entirely reasonable, is very apologetic, and seems determined to make amends. Is there something mire to this? I do not understand how she can say she was ‘accosted’ by the union rep here.

    1. SVM says:

      The representative was undoubtedly polite within the footage (although we do not know what he may have said or done before the filming started), however it is absurd to suggest that his stance were “entirely reasonable”. From the comments he made, it can be inferred that:

      1. the union feels that Homzy should not have engaged legal counsel for a so-called “internal”, “investigative” process, despite this conversation occurring a month after Homzy was, in her words, “formally charged by the AFM”;

      2. the union seems to think it acceptable practice to give each player alleged to have been at the non-union session a list of all the players alleged to have been there.

      In the UK, the practice described in §2 above would have been a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. Assuming that comparable data-protection provisions apply in the USA, the breach alone would be justification enough to engage legal counsel, even if the union were in the right about §1 above (which is by no means certain from the conflicting evidence available here).

      Now, whilst data-protection legislation in the UK and the USA have much in common, trade-union legislation between the two countries differs considerably. It would be useful to know the USA position (in the UK, a trade union cannot discipline a member for undertaking work on “non-union” terms, so this sort of situation would never have been able to arise in the first place).

    2. Pianofortissimo says:

      Talk always softly, especially i public situations.

  5. Liz says:

    I wonder if there is more to the story. While it sounds like the musician may have been treated unfairly the narrative is extremely one sided.

    1. The View from America says:

      … which is why adhering to a policy of “no comment” on news such as this rarely achieves its intended effect.

  6. YoYo Mama says:

    If you have ever been a member of the AFM, none of this is any surprise. Everyone has a right to work wherever they can, including union members, who do it all the time. They even provide a provision allowing non-members to do a union gig, if you know about it, by deducting a membership fee for the day. She must be a good musician if they want to make such an example of her. The fact is, for most classical musicians who freelance, the union provides NO benefits whatsoever, and is, in fact, a detriment, charging dues whether you are working or not. What they get away with is outrageous, and ruins whatever good there is in the Labor cause. I hope she gets them in court and gets damages as well as expenses. Of course, she’ll probably never work again… Pay up and shut up… Eat it or beat it. And, the reason the union can get away with this is that the members tolerate it. Local 802 had a complete turnaround after the members elected an all-new slate of candidates. Of course, that doesn’t mean all the lousy and corrupt employees got replaced…. The mob is still in there…

  7. Down with 47 says:

    What people need to understand is that in order to make a living as a musician especially in Los Angeles, one needs to do both union and non-union work. Those who benefit from only doing union work are the 1% who also receive a boatload of money on the back end. If anything, Ms. Homzy had to pay money in order to clear her name because she was not present at this non-union session. The union will fine you thousands of dollars if you are “caught” doing a non-union session.

    1. Elliott Bassman says:

      I’m a union member and was brought up on charges for an non-union session I did and was fined $250 but it was held in abeyance if I did not work off contract again. I’ve never heard of anyone being fined 1000’s of dollars. The reality is not all of my work is union and I need to work to pay my bills.

  8. (Name Witheld) says:

    I know the RMALA folks tried to threaten her career if she went public or demanded compensation. The RMALA busts sessions like this to harass certain contractors who do not hire them. This has been going on for ages.

  9. Bruce says:

    I belong to the union and from a selfish viewpoint I’m glad I do. But I find Ms. Homzy’s version totally believable.

    The union has always been a double-edged sword: fearless protector of fair wages and fair working conditions, of which I am a grateful beneficiary; but also a muscler-in on musicians & musical organizations that are minding their own business. (Quite mafia-like, from the victim’s point of view: “it was OK while you were small, but now you’re generating too much income for us to ignore. We want a piece of it, or we’ll use the strength of our organization to put you out of business.”)

  10. Larry white says:

    It seems a very sad situation here. Why doesn’t L Homzy obtain a record from the outfit who the Union claims she was working for. If she was remunerated, her name would be on the list!
    I sympathise with this young lady and agree she should not be having to do This, but it appears someone in the Union ‘family’ is out to get her for whatever reason.
    This is very Sad, IMHO.


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