May Day Video Message from AGMA President Ned Hanlon

Published May 1, 2024   |  By Musical Artists  |  Post in All Areas

Please tune in to this special May Day video message from AGMA President Ned Hanlon, as we commemorate the globally recognized day known as May Day (or International Workers' Day or Labour Day). Celebrated on May 1, May Day holds historical significance, honoring workers' remarkable achievements and sacrifices and their ongoing advocacy for improved working conditions, fair wages, and the protection of workers' rights.

Below is a transcript of President Hanlon's remarks

Hello everyone! May 1 is an important day for workers around the world. In the labor-verse, we call it May Day, Labour Day (with a “u” of course!) or International Workers Day. Since this is my first May Day as President of AGMA, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the day’s importance to us.

In the United States, May Day commemorates the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labor movement. On this day, we remember the hanging of four people found guilty – without any tangible evidence – in the Haymarket affair in Chicago, a multi-day strike that turned bloody. One of the four souls, August Spies, proclaimed before he was executed, “There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” This declaration resonated with workers in the U.S. and worldwide and continues to inspire labor movements to this day.

Why is this day a significant day for us, for the dancers, singers, staging staff, actors, faculty, staff and instructors of our union? Because, for us, it is a day that reminds us that we are workers. ARTISTS ARE WORKERS.

In the performing arts industry, it can be so easy to forget the LABOR involved. After all, this is a “passion.” What artist hasn’t been approached to do something for free, or at a greatly reduced fee for “exposure,” or because it’s “for a good cause,” or because “it’s a privilege to do what you love.” And all too often, we do it. I certainly have. Why? Because we feel guilty, or we have imposter syndrome, or it will help someone out, or we feel lucky to have the opportunity – any opportunity. And then artists go back to lives of barely scraping by, making a living by working multiple jobs, sometimes not even able to afford to live in the cities where they work.

I want to make it clear that I’m not speaking in the abstract. Recent studies reveal a stark reality. The Soloist Collective for Emerging Artists recently reported the findings of a study that only 3% of self-identifying emerging artists in the opera industry earned all their income from singing work. During their most recent campaign to improve their contract, we found that only 30% of the Artists of American Ballet Theatre earn a sufficient income from their salary to sustain themselves. And in AGMA’s demographic survey we found that only 60% of AGMA members consider their work in the performing arts to be their primary source of income.

Today, May Day, is a day for workers – and that includes every member of AGMA. Artists Are Workers. We need to keep repeating it, reminding ourselves of it, and acting like it. We must fight for ourselves, for our rights as workers. All of us deserve fair compensation, benefits, and security. We deserve our work environment – the stages, dance studios, rehearsal rooms, concert halls, offices, and dressing rooms we spend our time in – to be places where we are safe, supported, and treated with respect and dignity.

We can accomplish this goal. But, to do so, we must proudly unite with working people worldwide, joining together in the collective fight for our rights as workers. So Happy Labour Day (with a “u”), Happy International Workers Day, Happy May Day, and – as I’m going to start calling it – Happy Artists Are Workers Day. And Solidarity Forever!