AGMAzine Spotlight: “The Strength of Our Union”

Published September 27, 2022   |  By Musical Artists  |  Post in All Areas

AGMA’s National Organizing Director Griff Braun contributed an essay examining the current strength of AGMA and how the Union can become even stronger in the summer 2022 issue of AGMAzine. Today, we share his piece as part of the Union’s AGMAzine Spotlight Series.

By Griff Braun, National Organizing Director

As AGMA’s National Organizing Director, my primary focus is on making our union stronger.  But what does it mean for a union to be strong?  In my view, a strong union is one that has the capacity for direct member action – whose members understand that their power is collective and are always ready to stand with each other.  A strong union is also one whose presence in its industries is large enough to affect broad, positive change.  

With this in mind, one of the ways we make AGMA stronger is through member engagement and education. Our amazing team of Business Representatives continues to engage new AGMA members through our New Member Orientations, and host Delegate Training for new Delegates.  In addition to our New and Prospective Member information page on the AGMA website – a fantastic resource for all AGMA members – we have recently created and posted a brand-new Delegate Resource Page, which members can find once they access the MyAGMA portal. 

Another way we make AGMA stronger is by letting the world know about the great work our union is doing, which we accomplish in a number of ways, including publishing stories, participating on panels, sharing on social media, and engaging in interviews with the press. We broaden our reach by collaborating and partnering regularly on initiatives with our affiliate unions, either directly or through the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) and COBUG (Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds).

Perhaps the most important way we make our union stronger is by growing – by helping artists unionize their workplaces.  I use those words intentionally.  The recent success of the Amazon workers on Staten Island reinforces the fact that union organizing is most successful when it is driven by the workers.  We – AGMA staff and current members – are here to encourage, support, advise, and guide artists in their journey toward winning their union, but success is ultimately determined by the level of buy-in and solidarity of the workers themselves. 

With that in mind, I am thrilled to report that singers, dancers, and stage staff across the country are interested in coming together, forming a union, and joining AGMA!  With the win for dancers at Ballet Idaho, the voluntary recognition of Stage Managers at Des Moines Metro Opera, and Artists across the country reaching out to AGMA to learn more about union organizing, momentum is building in our industries. We are currently supporting the artists of several important opera, dance, and concert companies in bringing their colleagues together, discussing their working lives, presenting a vision of collective power, and building durable support for unionizing.  We are also working with a fantastic and growing group of concert choral singers who have formed an organizing committee and are working with AGMA staff to map the industry, identify potential organizing targets, and connect with and support the singers in those workplaces in organizing. 

In May 2022, AGMA hosted two free and public webinars, "Organizing the Opera World" and “Organizing the Dance World." These webinars were designed for those who have yet to form a union, so please feel free to share them with your non-union friends!

The webinars focused on union organizing – what it is, how it’s done, who the decision makers are, and why the opera and dance worlds would be better, safer, and stronger if all artists in the United States unionized and became AGMA artists. Special thanks to Board members Helena Brown, Brian August, Eric Ferring, Daniel Pratt, and Corey Bourbonniere for their participation. A note of thanks also to Sarah Daley-Perdomo, one of AGMA's fantastic delegates at Alvin Ailey, for her participation.

AGMA is on the rise. With recent organizing victories by workers at Amazon, Starbucks, REI, and others, and job actions across the country over the past couple of years, the labor movement is reawakening. With each new organizing conversation, card signing, and election win; each gathering of members in committees, shops, and caucuses; and each successful, member-driven contract negotiation, AGMA asserts its growing strength in the movement. Onward!