Happy Labor Day weekend!
Earlier this summer, it was widely reported that U.S. workers are unionizing their workplaces at the highest rate in almost a decade, a rise that reflects warming public attitudes toward unions.
This weekend, we celebrate both the bright future of the labor movement and the storied history that got us here.
At AGMA, we are continuing negotiations at a fast and furious pace. Every staff negotiator is bargaining with several companies simultaneously. Our members have won significant gains in our Collective Bargaining Agreements, and we’ve highlighted many of those wins on our social media channels. We are growing, and we are getting stronger.
A great labor hymn that comes to mind this weekend is, “Which Side Are You On,” written by Florence Reese, popularized by Pete Seeger, and sung in union halls and on picket lines for generations. “Which side are you on” is, at once, a question, an accusation, an affirmation, and a rallying cry. It reminds us that while the world isn’t designed in terms of absolutes, at the end of the day, when the chips are down, you’re either on the side of the workers or you’re on the side of the bosses. AGMA firmly and proudly stands in solidarity with the organizing efforts across the country, from Starbucks to Amazon, and everyone in between.
It's important that we, as active participants in the worldwide labor movement, remember our history and honor the people who came before us, who fought and died for the protections we take for granted. So many have largely been forgotten.
In that spirit, we’d like to turn back to our friend and union hero Fannie Sellins. Fannie was a famous labor organizer of the early 20th Century, an organizing pioneer that fought for some of our country’s first unions. In August of 1919 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, she witnessed guards beating a picketing miner. When she intervened, she was gunned down by deputies and then they fractured her skull with a cudgel. She died on the picket line.
We share her story in part to underscore the difficulties that early union organizers faced, how winning a union often meant hard decisions about whether one’s family could survive another week on the picket line. When contemplating those difficulties, it’s understandable why our forerunners drew a hard line, and demanded that everyone step to one side or the other of that line.
In times like these, the work of AGMA members is more important than ever, because it represents some of the best that humanity has to offer. AGMA Artists spend their lives putting beauty into the world, telling stories that humans have told one another for generations, stories that bind us together and help us make sense of our short time on our pale blue dot. Art is not a panacea; we cannot sing or dance our way to a world free of violence and hatred and division. When violence rips at the fabric of our shared world, art helps sew it back together.
Thank you to AGMA Artists, for working every day to create and to leave the world better than you found it and working each day to make AGMA, and the broader labor movement, stronger.
Happy Labor Day to all,
Ray Menard, AGMA President
Sam Wheeler, National Executive Director
PS. JOIN US! We will be walking in the upcoming New York City Labor Day Parade on September 10. Any AGMA Artists in the area that day are encouraged to join AGMA leadership, staff, and their fellow members. AGMA's meeting location is East 44th Street between Madison Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue. Arrive around 9:15 a.m. ET for coffee and to get organized! Members who have AGMA swag are encouraged to wear it to the parade! Register here by September 8.