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August 2009

Sharon Hill Students Thank AFTRA for Participating in Read Across America


n March 6, 2009 Local members climbed aboard a bus and took a trip to the Philadelphia suburbs to read to the students at Sharon Hill School as part of the Read Across America program sponsored by The National Education Association. Nineteen members (plus their bus driver) read from books like The Cat In The Hat to around 400 Sharon Hill Students. (For more information on the event check the April 2009 issue of SESSIONS.) The students were so thrilled with the event that they wanted to thank Philadelphia AFTRA so teacher Colleen DiMaggio drew the cat and all of the students at Sharon Hill School signed it. It was sent to the Local office and displayed at our Annual Meeting in May.

Dan Hunt, his fiance Patti Paller, the teacher from Sharon Hill who had the idea of AFTRA reading to the students and AFTRA President Roberta Reardon.




d Fis

alin y Ros

SESSIONS Official Publication

of the Philadelphia American Federation of Television & Radio Artists 215.732.0507

Cast & Crew

Shelley Figures—Editor Contributing Editors Nat Wright, Stephen Leshinski Layout—Chuck Varesko


Stephen Leshinski Executive Director Shelley Figures Associate Executive Director Lynn Koenigsberg—Freelance Contracts/Signatory Administrator Michele Dooley—Benefits & Membership Administrator

AFTRA Local Board of Directors

Catherine Brown—President

Dan Hunt—1st Vice President

Dick Sheeran—2nd Vice President Cyndy Drue —Secretary Ed Fischer—Treasurer

Rob Charry, Paul Kurtz, Sylvia Kauders, Tom McNutt, Susan Moses, M.J.

Myers, Bill Shusta, Christy Springfield, Chuck Varesko

National Board Members: Susan Moses, Bill Shusta •••••••••••



hat is AFTRA? Thinking about the answer to this question reminds me of the story about the elephant being described by those who can feel it, but can’t see it.  Some may say “AFTRA is my health plan” or “it’s my pension plan” or “that’s my primary/ secondary union” or “my job is covered by an AFTRA station/freelance contract.” First and foremost, AFTRA is You!  AFTRA members determine the union’s goals, with the assistance of our dedicated staff.  Since our Philadelphia Convention in 2007, the member leaders of AFTRA have been pulling together ideas to come up with the best way to answer the question “What is AFTRA?”  Each of us should be able to give the same answer about AFTRA’s mission to other members, pre-members and anyone else who raises

the question. Your Philadelphia delegation is preparing to attend the 62nd AFTRA National Convention in Chicago, August 6-8.  The biennial convention is AFTRA’s highest governing body, charting the course of the union.  There will be a lot of emphasis on the mission statement and a focus on internal organizing.  Why?  Because that’s how we make our union stronger to help us face the changes and challenges we’re seeing in all of the industries covered by AFTRA contracts.  You can read more about it in the AFTRA Magazine, Summer 2009 issue. Remember, YOU are the Union!



he Local has created a Freelance Organizing Committee to create strategies and tactics to develop more union jobs for Philadelphia freelancers. Chuck Varesko chairs the committee which includes Cyndy Drue and MJ Myers. As part of the organizing effort the Local has created a data base of information on 300 local companies/organizations. The data base is being reviewed by the Committee and staff to decide on the best primary targets for an outreach plan. So far thirteen companies/organizations that produce commercials have been contacted. Staff has met with representatives of some of the thirteen companies and also sought support from AFL-CIO and some city officials when appropriate. Committee Chair Varesko said, “Our goal

is to identify and target those companies and organizations that are already dealing with a union and approaching that union to support our efforts to turn the voice or acting work union with an AFTRA contract.” A large group of pharmaceutical companies is being targeted for an industrial campaign and TV and radio commercials currently on the air are being tracked and advertisers are being contacted. An AFTRA Local intern has completed telephone surveys with close to 100 freelance members. The surveys provided information about the Philadelphia market and how we can help members find more AFTRA work. If you are interested in participating on the Freelance Organizing Committee contact the office at 215.732.0507

AFTRA PHILADELPHIA 230 South Broad St., Suite 500 Philadelphia, PA 19102-4121 215.732.0507 Read SESSIONS online at: http://www.aftraphiladelphia. com/sessions The Online Talent Guide is at: National AFTRA is at:


How’s YOUR Web Visibility?

Are you a “Digital Person” or are you trapped in the 20th century? No matter how hip you are to the Internet you can have your face and your contact information on a casting website for free. The Philadelphia AFTRA Online Talent Guide is open to Local members (and Local SAG) for free. If you’re computer illiterate call the AFTRA office at 215.732.0507 and ask them to send you an enrollment form. Send it back with your headshot and resume and we’’ll add you to the Talent Guide. If you’re a computer user visit to sign up online. Promote yourself!

The crowd ate, chatted & mingled. Chuck Varesko pointed out which mic Dan Hunt should use.

National Director News & Broadcast Deborah Osofsky.

Rod Carson, Catherine Brown, Roberta Reardon and Dan Hunt.

Rod Carson with the Hall of Fame Award and Local VP Dan Hunt.

Comic Joe Conklin in his MC role. Paul Kurtz, Christy Springfield and Chuck Varesko in the “What’s My Hat” skit.


All photos are viewable online at: http://www. meeting09 Executive Director Stephen Leshinski. Bill Shusta and Dick Sheeran presented the Friend of AFTRA Award to Mary Cavallaro.

Mary Cavallaro accepting the Friend of AFTRA Award. Amanda Hunt, Dan Hunt (a bit choked up since his kids being there was a surprise) and Danny Hunt.

Photos by Rosalind Fischel

Broadcast Beat — News from our shop stewards WIP

By Rob Charry


lot of proud parents at WIP these days. Congrats to sports update anchor and part-time talk show host Sue Shilling and husband Howard on the birth of their daughter Jessica this spring. In November, midday host Anthony Gargano and his wife Tam are expecting their first child and as we go to press morning show co-host Rhea Hughes and husband Joseph Cohn are expecting their first child any day now. Midday host Glen Macnow celebrating the graduation of son Alex from Tufts medical school—he is doing his residency at Columbia Presbyterian in New York. Shop steward Rob Charry a very proud father, with his daughter Jenna heading to Chestnut Hill College this fall as an environmental science major, after graduating from W.B. Saul High School in June. Condolences to Anthony Gargano on the recent passing of his beloved mother, Florence. Anthony’s moving eulogy included a story of his mom calling out Hall of Famer Lou Brock for bigtiming her young son’s request for an autograph when he was a superstar with the Cardinals, teaching young Anthony that no one is better than you and vice-versa. New to the shop, doing sports updates on the weekend and fill in during the week is Ed Benkin, who also pulls downs shifts at KYW-AM. WIP resident comedian Joe Conklin and overnight host/comedian Big Daddy Graham continue to bring down whatever houses they play, alone or together. Joe also did a stellar job emceeing this year’s annual AFTRA membership meeting. Helping Joe with publicity for his upcoming gigs is former AFTRA staffer and PR whiz Rose Cunningham.


By Catherine Brown Say Goodbye—We’ve said so long to our longtime friends Mike Strug and John Blunt, who are now enjoying retirement.  Mike spent 19 years at WCAU.  John put in 25 years at the CBS-turned-NBC O&O. More fond farewells are due for the AFTRA Writer/Producers who are leaving the newsroom after the Content Center transition.   Say Hello—Just-in, we’ve welcomed Claudia Rivero, Lilliana Vazquez and Rosemary Connors to the on-air AFTRA roster.  Keep Talking—The AFTRA contract expired in April. Talks began in February and are still in progress. Off-air AFTRA members came to an agreement on the new core jobs in the NBC10 Content Center. Content Producers and Platform Managers are covered under the AFTRA contract. Duties expand from writing and producing for broadcast to more responsibility for web content and additional information delivery platforms, plus video editing and using cameras. There are many more proposals to work through affecting the working conditions, wages and benefits of AFTRA Reporters and Anchors, as well as Content Center AFTRAns. (Official Content Center launch is scheduled for August 1st.) Pat on the Back—Congratulations to Lydia Reeves and Vai Sikahema who received  national recognition for their winning

submission to the Adoption Exchange Association’s 2009 Wednesday’s Child Awards. Passages—Remembering the recent passings of Ed McMahon and Joe Earley whose career paths both included stints at WCAU.

METRO TRAFFIC By Randy Chepigan (L) & Sam Clover (R)


he new Philadelphia Westwood One / Metro Traffic shop has been busy implementing its new contract, ratified in April 2009. Sam Clover and Randy Chepigan were selected as Co-Shop Stewards. Ongoing dialogue with management has been good, and in early June, we had a productive first contractually-mandated formal Labor/ Management meeting, discussing ways that staffing, methods, tools and product could be improved.  We’ve already welcomed three new members to our shop, with a few more promised within the coming weeks.


By Andie Summers


fter months of uncertainty I think things have leveled off at WXTU. Strike that — I hope they have. First Quarter 2009 was tough. AFTRA members accepted a five-percent pay cut for the good of the company. Then, in April, ten year XTU veteran Scott Evans was let go and Program Director Bob McKay took an early retirement. AFTRA members then accepted an additional pay cut bringing our total to 20-something — I stopped counting. Evans and McKay’s positions were not replaced with fresh bodies — just warm ones. Responsibilities among the staffers shifted — Kris Stevens moved from afternoons to join me, Andie Summers, in mornings. Razz on the Radio moved up from nights to afternoons and commands the title of MD. XTU part-timer Jeff Ryan has been doing a great job at night. (We’re keeping our fingers crossed for you, Jeff!) And Christy Springfield has been holding down the fort during middays as Leigh Richards recovers from shoulder surgery. Conceivably the most remarkable change though is that we now share a PD with our hip-hop, sister station Wired 96.5. Leo Baldwin has no country experience, but he knows PPM and has been a constructive addition to the team.   The state of the station since the changes has been positive. Numbers are up and morale is good. Perhaps, sometimes, you just need to shake the tree.

AFTRA At Work For You

shop were not taken into consideration. As is customary, I was let go at the end of my shift on the last day of my work week; heaven forbid my employer fail to get a full day’s work out of me. Of course, those are the chances we take. It’s an iffy industry and I recognize and am grateful for some of the good things that came from my employment; the best being that I was able to stay t the end of my air shift on Friday December 5, 2008, in one city for much longer than do most broadcasters – I’ll have the program director and another executive at the station to think about the others and get back to you. But I know that what where I had worked since June of 1982 asked me into one I did receive came not because of any sense of fairness on my of the offices and gave me my walking papers, literally. A statement employer’s part; it came because of the hard work of my union. outlining my severance and other payments was all I walked away I’m not the only broadcasting employee to experience or see with after almost 27 years at the same shop, with 26 of those years others experience some of the “creative” management techniques having been spent working the overnight shift. Whether my talent which infect our industry. We all know of employers who knowingly deserved bigger and better exposure violate a union agreement until is up to debate; well, maybe not that the last possible legal moment, much debate. Regardless, I was a then try to negotiate a settlement reliable employee who managed for much less than the agreement to hold on to a full time job at a called for, the agreement they had major market shop for almost three signed in so-called “good faith.” I decades. In that respect I belong am not saying that all of the people to a rather small club. But more I worked for at my shop lacked important, I was like most of us integrity in their business dealings. in the business; a regular working I worked for some very fine person without the benefit of being people – but not always. And the a big name to insulate me from people on the short end, no matter the caprices of the broadcasting how big or small “the name” business. What I did have was my are not “them”; they are “us.” union. More than once I benefitted For most of us, the union is our from AFTRA’s protection and only protection. Try telling an the commitment of the women industry outsider how mentally and and men at our local office. physically wearying our jobs can In the decades I spent at my shop DJ Rick Allen with Carlos Santana backstage in happier times. be despite the relative shortness of I saw more than a few people who were hired with great ceremony four, five or even six hour air shifts; you’ll be a long time waiting for and who were promised very big things…if they produced. I saw the violins to start playing. But you know the truth of it. You know many of them whose work or ratings did not live up to expectations, the truth of the red light blinking in the air studio and of knowing dismissed unceremoniously. And I saw some of them and many that on the other end is a PD who will ask you why you misspoke others dismissed for reasons ranging from capricious to downright or – in the old days – tripped a spot cart too soon or accidentally cruel. More than a few of those people who eventually found stopped a song in mid-play. You know of biting your tongue when themselves on the short end of the stick came into the shop with you really want to answer, ”I did it because I wanted to appear to dismissive attitudes, even contempt towards unions in general and be an idiot in front of thousands of listeners; because I love getting AFTRA in particular. Those were the ones who, finding themselves calls from listeners asking ‘Did you know you took that tune off in positions they hadn’t expected to be — like so many before them while it was still playing?’ You want to say “I did it because I really and so many to come — turned to AFTRA to take advantage of the enjoy having you break my concentration and make me follow up protection our union offers. In fact, probably thinking, “It’ll never a mistake that I feel bad enough about already with a half dozen happen to me” many of those same people had kept silent as over more by asking me a ridiculous unanswerable question.” Instead the years our employers steadily chipped away at the hard won you hold your tongue, finish your shift and, if you can manage benefits our union had gained for us. But when they needed help to get out without hearing the dreaded “Do you have a minute?” they didn’t have to seek out the union; AFTRA was right there for as you pass the PD’s office door, you go home alleviating your them — as they were for me — without having to be asked. Why? frustration by yelling at the poor senior citizen driving too slow on Because AFTRA realizes that what affects one of us affects all of us. the expressway who’s really just trying to get home alive. When When I was let go/laid off/made redundant (read; “fired”) I you get to your home you end up snapping at the pet/kid/spouse got a settlement that was not one penny more than I was entitled who has likely spent the entire course of the relationship providing to by my AFTRA contract. Was my settlement a fair one? My support, comfort and whatever understanding possible; dealing answer depends on my mood. But it is my sincere belief that with your insecurities, ambitions and the long/inconvenient/ neither I nor any other rank and file member at my shop in a changing hours of your work days. But we do know how lucky similar situation would otherwise have gotten much more than the we are to be where we are (or were) and how hard we had to work traditional two weeks severance pay that the union has worked to get there, much less stay there. After all, how many on-air jobs so hard to make into a thing of the past. When the bell finally are there in a major city — two, three, four hundred? How many tolled for me – as it will for the majority of the people in our air shifts are there at an individual station? At my shop there were industry – whatever positive contributions, if any, I made to my Continued on page 6

Rick Allen’s Story


“Bleeder” Web Series Shot With AFTRA Talent


new Web series from Liberty Bell Films, Bleeder, created by Wade Ballance and Mark Kochanowicz, was shot on the Red One camera by Jim McKinney and features original music composed by Grammy nominated artist Frank Macchia. Bleeder is Philadelphia’s first Web series shot under AFTRA’s electronic media agreement. The story is about Alex Daub (portrayed by Kochanowicz), a desperate man who has lost his home, lost his money, and is about to lose his life. A disease eats away at him from the inside and he is incapable of stopping it. But a chance encounter will change his future and may give him a second chance to live the life he once knew. With the help of an unlikely group of allies, Alex must struggle to regain everything he’s lost, all the while protecting an unbelievable secret. And, as you can see from the graphic above, there may be vampires involved. Are there? You’ll have to fire up your Web browser and take a look. You can see Bleeder online at For more information about the electronic media agreement contact the AFTRA office.

AFTRA at Work — Rick Allen... From page 5

six – sometimes just barely. At one point our morning, late night and overnight shows (for a year I was board operator for one of the dullest syndicated shows ever broadcast) were syndicated which left a grand total of three air shifts filled by local talent and management filled those with a rotating cast of part-timers who were worked to the absolute limit of the terms of the union agreement. Exploitation takes the path of least resistance. Whether unscrupulous Simon Legrees or just savvy business people, management will try to get all it can from its employees while giving back as little as possible. There is no one to hold back the tide but the union. There isn’t a fellow union member among us who doesn’t know someone who can confirm that from having learned the truth of it the hard way; something to think about the next time contract time – or the time to pay your union dues – comes around. Rick Allen is a former disc jockey at WRIF in Detroit and WYSP in Philadelphia. He is a musician and music writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine, Blurt Magazine, and

In Memorium


Mel Alpern el Alpern, an AFTRA member for 58 years who served on the Philadelphia Local Board for 36 years has passed away. A. Melvin Alpern, 85, of Radnor died of heart failure July 20 in Frisco, Texas. He and his wife Ramona had taken up temporary residence there when he became ill while visiting family in October 2008. Mel held a seat on the AFTRA National Board and filled the post of National Vice President. He first entered Local office in Philadelphia in 1974 when he was elected Local Vice President. He then served the Local as Treasurer for most of his Board tenure. Mel was a much sought-after talent for radio and TV commercials and as a narrator specializing in medical and technical non-broadcast work. He appeared in two movies at the beginning and end of his career. He and Ramona were extras in the early ‘50s in Chief Crazy Horse, starring Victor Mature. In the 2005 film In Her Shoes Mel had a speaking part as the rabbi officiating at a wedding. Donations in Mel’s memory may be made to: Brian’s House Inc., Hillcrest Program, 1300 S. Concord Rd. , West Chester, PA 19382.


To lessen our impact on the ecosystem (and save some cash) we are moving Sessions to an all electronic format. The process will take place over the next few issues and we need your assistance. We realize not everyone is wired to the Net and some of you will need to get printed copies. If you would like to go paperless send an email to If you want to continue getting Sessions in the mail call the office, 215.732.0507 and let us know.



oe Earley, one of Philly AFTRA’s earliest bedrock benefactors passed away on Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at the age of 80. Memorial contributions may be made in his memory to American Cancer Society, 700 Horizon Circle, Ste. 201, Chalfont, PA 18914. Joe was a nationally respected actor and freelancer, who obtained his first AFTRA card Joe Earley in character from the national union just before the founding as Ben Franklin. of our Local. When freshly out of LaSalle College, Joe was already busily at work doing production and on-camera bit parts for the historic Ernie Kovacs Show, based at KYW-TV’s predecessor WPTZ. He was credited with 120 appearances on the Kovacs vehicle, taking part in most of Ernie’s technically innovative sight gags, many of which Joe created—all live! Joe appeared in three early NBC soaps originating in our town, one of which teamed him with Philly native and later Odd Couple star Jack Klugman. Later in his career, Joe thoroughly researched and portrayed historical characters from Benjamin Franklin to Babe Ruth.

Notes From The Director


By Stephen Leshinski

ommunity. Recently AFTRA members and staff attended the very sad funeral of long-time Philadelphia AFTRA board member and National Vice-President Mel Alpern. The passing of Mel, after the news of the passing of Joe Early only a few weeks previous, reminded all of us how important community is when there comes a time to grieve and remember the lives and careers of AFTRA members. Another example of the power of Community was our Spring Membership Meeting which was a celebration of community in the packed room, great food, and exciting reports of AFTRA in Philadelphia and also nationally. Mary Cavallaro received our Friend of AFTRA award, Board Member Dan Hunt received the Bill Bransom award for service, and Rod Carson was inducted into the AFTRA Hall of Fame. Rod mentioned in his speech how he only got involved with AFTRA after reaching out to his friend, Dan Hunt, to get more information about how to organize his union; even before AFTRA, Rod and Dan were in and of community and it led to a successful union organizing drive and better benefits and working conditions for the Metro/Shadow announcers and producers this year and for years to come. Much of our day to day work as a Union is in making sure contracts are followed, investigating grievances, recruiting new members and new productions, all of the nuts and bolts of servicing and organizing to ensure AFTRA members support themselves financially and have a voice in their workplace whether it’s a broadcast shop or a freelance production here or anywhere across the country. But beyond the nuts and bolts are the day to day experiences of

our members in an industry that’s not for everyone: the striving for the perfect recording, the extra effort to get the best story on air, the creativity and energy that goes into sitting behind the microphone and putting oneself thru the airwaves to reach the listeners in a way that’s personal and unique. Whether it’s the five o’clock news anchor or the Sunday morning rock dj or the traffic report producer, being in the broadcast industry makes you part of a special community. And within that broader community is the shared experience of AFTRA members who have sat on negotiating committees, served as shop stewards, bargained contracts, handed out leaflefts, signed petitions, or otherwise strived to make improvements for themselves and others in their industry through the power of collective bargaining and unionization. These struggles and conflicts sometimes lead to remarkable victories and sometimes they do not, but through the effort and the striving a shared experience occurs for AFTRA members where we celebrate, or mourn, as a community. So let’s keep in mind, especially during these tumultuous times, that although it can seem an isolating and daunting at times to do what AFTRA members do, behind it all is a community that you are a part of and will be a part of every day you are a member of AFTRA.

Why Support Performance Rights? By Bill Shusta


ll of us like to listen to music on the radio from time to time and when a song is played on commercial radio there are fees involved but not for everyone. That has AFTRA supporting an important piece of legislation in Washington and it’s something recording artists have been seeking since 1976, a Performance Rights Act. When a recording is played on the radio in the United States, the artist, musicians, background singers and owners of the recording are not compensated. Songwriters and publishers are. When Breakaway is played, songwriter Avril Lavigne is compensated. The performer, Kelly Clarkson, is not. Only five countries in the world do not provide such compensation to recording artists: China, Iran, Rwanda, North Korea and the United States. The National Association of Broadcasters continues to vehemently oppose a Performance Rights Act.

Here’s the kicker. Other countries hold such revenues for five years before dispersing them into other budgets. Since Abba doesn’t receive compensation from the U.S., Sweden doesn’t pay American artists.  Forty to fifty percent of the music played in other countries originates in this country. We’re talking millions of dollars. Satellite radio, Internet radio and cable radio broadcast music and do pay the performers. These are fees, usually annual payments made by the parties, and shared appropriately. You can help assure passage of this legislation by visiting the AFTRA national website for the link which will allow you to contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to support this effort.

For more information onThe Performer’s Rights Act visit:

Music First —

L-R: B.B. King, Barry Manilow, Better Midler, Don Henley, Joe Jackson, Rhianna, Tom Waites, Stevie Nicks, Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, Brian Wilson, Dr. Dre.

In This Issue Sharon Hill Students Thank AFTRA


Freelance Organizing Underway


Annual Meeting Photos


Broadcast Beat — News from our shop stewards


Rick Allen’s Story


Bleeder Web Series Uses AFTRA Talent


In Memorium


Notes From The Director


Why Support Performance Rights?


SESSIONS is also online at Read Nat Wright’s History of The Philadelphia Local at


Monday, September 7 The Tri-State labor day parade starts gathering at the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 19 Union Hall, Columbus Blvd. & Washington Ave. at 8 a.m. The program starts at 9:00 a.m. and at 10:00 a.m. the Parade to Penn’s Landing Great Plaza kicks off. From 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. there will be a Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO family celebration at the Plaza with food, refreshments, kids activities, make and take crafts, and music featuring the Urban Guerilla Orchestra (UGO). Please call Lynn Koenigsberg at 215.732.0507 to reserve your space to march in the 22nd Annual TriState Labor Day Parade & Family Celebration! Co-Sponsored by Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO and The Tri State Labor Day Parade Committee

AFTRA Philadelphia Sessions Newsletter August 2009  

AFTRA Philadelphia Sessions Newsletter August 2009

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