The following memo was sent to AGMA members on 10/28/2020:
We are excited to bring you an important announcement about the future of AGMA. Next month, on November 16, AGMA will begin a referendum vote to revise our union Constitution. We wanted to let you know how we got here and to encourage you to vote in the referendum.
AGMA’s Constitution is our foundational governing document. It’s the most important document in the union and serves as our “rules for the road.” Our Constitution hasn’t been meaningfully updated in some time, which has lead to some problems along the way. Since 2019, AGMA’s Constitutional Working Group which is part of the Administration and Policy Committee has met regularly and in the spirit of cooperation to exchange ideas and bring forward meaningful revisions to the AGMA Constitution that will have a lasting positive effect on AGMA.
This fall, the Constitutional Working Group met with the AGMA Executive Council and the Administration and Policy Committee to debate and hone a proposed revision to the Constitution. This diverse group, led by 23 members of the Board and advised by a team of AGMA Senior Staff, staff attorneys, and Union Constitutional specialists, to ensure legal compliance, reached consensus on almost all points and recommended a proposed revision to the Board of Governors. Today, the Board of Governors approved this revision and recommended that they be sent to the membership.
As you may already be aware, AGMA received a set of proposed amendments by petition this summer, signed by roughly 50-70 AGMA members, representing less than 1% of AGMA’s membership (we will call these the “Petition Amendments” going forward).
At the time AGMA received the Petition Amendments, the Constitutional Working Group was nearing the end of their work on revising the Constitution and had already submitted them for legal review. Not wanting to run two different referenda in the same year because of cost and likelihood of confusion, the Board referred the Petition Amendments to the Executive Council and the Administration and Policy Committee to determine the best way to consider both sets of changes. The Joint Committee recommended, and the Board approved, sending both sets of changes out on the same ballot for your consideration.
On November 16, every AGMA member in good standing will receive a ballot—by mail or email—to vote in a referendum on changes to the Constitution. On this ballot, you will have a choice to vote for the “Board of Governors Revision”, the “Petition Amendments,” or for neither set of changes. If either the Board Revisions or the Petition Amendments receive a majority of the vote, they will go into effect.
We’ll be in touch soon with more details about these changes and what they mean for our union. We will be announcing meetings and other opportunities to discuss all of this with AGMA. Every member in good standing will have access to both sets of changes and the current Constitution before casting their vote, so that they can make an informed choice about the best direction for AGMA. In the meantime, we wanted to tell you a bit about the Board of Governors Revision, and why it is important.
The Board of Governors Revision
The Board of Governors Revision focuses on transparency, justice and equality, democracy, clarity, modernization and legal compliance.
The Board of Governors Revision makes the union significantly more transparent to its members. The Board of Governors Revision includes a significant restructuring of the “governance” sections of the Constitution. Under the Board of Governors Revision, there are Articles of the Constitution dedicated to the Board of Governors, AGMA’s National Officers, and AGMA’s Standing Committees and Area Committees. Each of these Articles sets forth the rules governing each entity, clearly laying out their composition, their rules, and their roles and responsibilities. We’ve crafted a document that is crystal clear about how AGMA runs, so that all of our members can understand and participate in our union.
Justice and Equality
Our Constitution, our governing document, should reflect our values as a union. We’ve added a new Article underscoring AGMA’s commitment to fighting for anti-racism and anti-sexism initiatives throughout our industries. We’ve rewritten our preamble to be a call for AGMA to participate in these fights moving forward. We’ve taken out all gendered language in the Constitution.
The Board of Governors Revision take significant steps to increase the democracy of AGMA:
- The Board of Governors Revision now ensures that every eligible member of the union can run for union office and vote.
- The Board of Governors Revision creates eight Vice President positions, four of which are elected by specific regions (New York, Midwest, Western, and Eastern/Southern) and work groups, and four of which are elected by specific work groups (Solo Singers, Choristers and Actors, Dancers, and Stage Staff).
- The Board of Governors Revision now provides for direct election of a majority of members of the Executive Council, as all Officers will automatically be members of that committee.
- The Board of Governors Revision creates at-large seats on the Board of Governors for our Areas to ensure representation of all AGMA members across the country.
- The Board of Governors Revision creates a seat on the Board of Governors elected by members residing outside of the United States.
- The Board of Governors Revision ensures that everyone in an area can vote for their Area Committee leadership.
The Board of Governors Revision also includes a comprehensive overhaul of how we elect our Board of Governors, a change made to bring us in compliance with federal law. We’ll have more information on the details of that change soon.
We want our Constitution to be accessible to all AGMA members, including those who want to quickly and easily understand their rights and responsibilities as members. We did our best to remove vague, confusing, legalistic, and antiquated language.
Modernization and Legal Compliance
In an effort to be greener, to save AGMA resources, and to be more efficient, we’ve proposed changes that ensure that we can send notices by email, except where otherwise required by law, and to hold AGMA meetings by videoconference. In rewriting our Constitution, we found out that there were several parts of the constitution that were not compliant with federal labor law. Because we believe that AGMA should have a legally-compliant Constitution, we’ve recommended that those provisions be removed.
In the coming days and weeks, AGMA will be hosting a number of meetings about the constitutional referendum. We will soon be circulating both sets of changes to our membership, distributing information to help you decide which way to vote, and making our case for why the Board of Governors Revision is both exciting and essential for the future of the union.