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Health Care Settlement for Aging Recording Artists

Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave), and others, including the estates of early Motown star Mary Wells, Jackie Wilson and Curtis Mayfield, won a $8.4 million class-action settlement after a protracted legal fight against the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds and (who else?) the major record labels:

    Soul singer Sam Moore is still on the road, trying to make money to pay his medical bills.

    But that is about to change for Moore and other artists who contend that their pension funds cheated them of health and retirement benefits.

    ….The settlement comes at a time when the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, the union representing the singers and musicians who sign with major labels, is close to reaching a groundbreaking accord with the industry that would safeguard benefits for future recording acts.

    Sources for AFTRA and the Recording Industry Assn. of America, the trade group representing the industry’s five largest companies, say a three-year pact is likely to be announced next week that will provide full health-care coverage for all artists on major label rosters. The proposal also would require labels to increase contributions to artist pensions by about 10%, sources say.

    ….That new agreement will be too late, however, for Moore and others like the late Wells, who had to check into the charity ward of County-USC Medical Center 12 years ago when she was destitute and stricken with throat cancer. She died in 1992.

    Wells’ estate joined Moore and others in a 1993 suit accusing the pension arm of AFTRA of failing to protect fading artists who were left impoverished long after their talents had helped reap money for the music industry.

    The suit alleged that record firms in the 1950s and ’60s did not accurately report royalty earnings to AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds and failed to make required contributions to pension accounts. The suit also alleged that AFTRA fund trustees neglected to police record-label contributions to artists’ accounts and failed to sue violators.

    ….Under the new arrangement, the 15 named plaintiffs will be paid $25,000, but unlike previous offers, they retain the right to file claims and challenge benefit determinations in court.

    In addition, the settlement forces the AFTRA fund to streamline its claims process and establish a fund to cover the cost of successful benefit claims in the future. The fund also must hire an ombudsman and launch an outreach campaign to help musicians file claims. [LA Times]

Let’s see: does this settlement on top of this, this, this, this, and especially this, constitute a pattern yet? The news just doesn’t seem to be getting any better for the labels.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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