Have questions? Email ConstitutionalReferendum@musicalartists.org
Table of Contents
Updates - updated 11/16/2020
AGMA’s Constitutional Referendum is now underway!
Key takeaways of this message:
- Voting for AGMA’s Constitutional Referendum begins today. We hope that you will make your voice heard on this important Referendum.
- On the ballot, you will have a choice to vote for either the “Board of Governors Revision” to the AGMA Constitution, the “Petition Amendments,” or neither. This is a choice between two fundamentally different visions for AGMA’s future.
- Additionally, you will be asked to vote on the Petitioners’ proposal to increase dues by raising and then eliminating the dues cap, along with a reduction in the initiation fee. AGMA’s Board of Governors recommends that you vote FOR the Board of Governors Revision and AGAINST the dues proposal.
- The Board of Governors Revision will make AGMA stronger, more efficient, more inclusive, more equal, and more just. The Revision is a continuation of the progress AGMA has already made in recent years – progress that has allowed AGMA to fight for our members during COVID-19.
- The Petition Amendments do not serve the needs of AGMA’s membership and would undermine AGMA’s ability to perform our most basic function: to use our collective power to advance the well-being and safety of our members.
- No matter the outcome of the Referendum, the Board of Governors will continue to fight for all of our members, no matter their category, geographic area, or opinion on this Referendum. But AGMA members should understand what is at stake in this choice.
We hope you will vote for theAGMA Board of Governors Revision today.
Please let us know if you have any questions by emailing ConstitutionalReferendum@musicalartists.org.
If you would like to know more, continue readingfor a detailed explanation:
This Referendum vote is a choice between the Board of Governors Revision to the Constitution, the Petition Amendments, or keeping our current Constitution. It is fundamentally a choice between two different visions for AGMA’s future, built on two very different foundations and ideas about what it means to be a labor union.
The Board of Governors Revision
The Board of Governors Revision is a comprehensive overhaul of AGMA’s governing document driven by the desire to make AGMA a more transparent, democratic, efficient, inclusive, respectful, united, and just organization. The Board of Governors Revision took over a year of hard work to create. The existing AGMA Constitution was thoroughly read, evaluated, torn apart, rewritten, and put back together better than before by dozens of AGMA members in different working categories from all over the country. It was the subject of intense discussion and debate, and was amended in response to member feedback by AGMA’s Committees and the entire Board of Governors. It was fully vetted by AGMA’s in-house attorneys and outside counsel.
The Board of Governors Revision will make AGMA stronger and allow us to stand together against the challenges that await us in the future. It includes clear statements of our values—including a commitment to combating racism and sexism in our industry—and gives AGMA the tools it needs to keep fighting for our members. The Board of Governors Revision dramatically increases the democracy of the union, by guaranteeing at-large Board seats for every area, by creating a new at-large seat for non-resident artists, and by stating that our members on payment plans are full members of the Union.
For more about how the Board of Governors Revision accomplishes these goals, please view the recent member webinar at which member leaders of the Board of Governors explained all proposed changes.
The Petition Amendments
By contrast, the Petition Amendments – signed by less than 1% of AGMA’s membership – is a set of narrow proposed changes that, if adopted, would undermine the strength and unity of AGMA.
For the most part, the principles and process behind the Petition Amendments remain a mystery. We do not know who drafted the Amendments, if any AGMA members (let alone a representative set across categories and geographic areas) were given the opportunity to provide feedback or offer changes, or if they were subject to any kind of necessary legal review before they were submitted to the Board.
This lack of transparency is important because what we do know is that the Petition Amendments, if adopted, would change AGMA profoundly – and not for the better.
- The Petition Amendments take away our members’ right to decide for themselves what kind of artist they are within AGMA, instead forcibly reclassifying members based on an arbitrary, mechanical metric.
- The Petition Amendments would undermine solidarity and allow one group of members to make important decisions without the rest of the union.
- The Petition Amendments disrespect your decision-making by shortening the terms of the Board members and Officers you elected just two years ago, because some were unhappy with the choices you made.
- The Petition Amendments could dilute the influence of our small geographic areas by ending the long tradition of electing category representatives to the Board of Governors by geographic area. Instead, the Petition Amendments create national “at-large” seats on the Board of Governors for our small categories, putting the ability of our members from small areas to serve on the Board of Governors and as National Officers in serious jeopardy.
What we also know is that there are those who are hoping you and other AGMA members will take seriously the inflammatory social media posts claiming that AGMA’s 85-member Board of Governors (made up of your fellow AGMA members – singers, dancers, and stage staff) is fundamentally corrupt, that your friends and colleagues whom you have elected to represent you have dark ulterior motives, or that some employment categories within AGMA are engaged in a conspiracy against the rest.
We trust that you know the truth: that your Board of Governors is made up of artists just like you, artists who are dedicated to fighting for their fellow AGMA members and ensuring the future of the arts.
You may soon start receiving emails from the advocates of the Petition Amendments containing claims that the Board of Governors Revision will spell disaster for the Union. However, these emails will likely not explain what, exactly, the Petition Amendments would do to tackle the real challenges facing AGMA as a labor union in the 21st Century.
It is now up to every AGMA member in good standing to have their vote and voice counted.
The Board of Governors Revision was written by AGMA members for all AGMA members and provides us with the foundation and the tools we need to create a more perfect Union. The choice is clear, and it is yours.
All AGMA members deserve a say in how our Union is run. The Board of Governors recommends that you vote in favor of the Board of Governors Revision!
Ray Menard, AGMA President
11/13/2020 - On Monday, November 16, every AGMA member in good standing will be sent 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”, (a complete revision of the Constitution developed by a Constitutional Working Group comprised of members of the Administration and Policy Committee and Executive Council, and reviewed, revised, and recommended by the Board of Governors); the “Petition Amendments,” (a set of amendments to AGMA’s existing Constitution submitted to AGMA by a petition signed by roughly 50-70 AGMA members), or for neither set of changes. Additionally, you will be asked to vote on an increase in dues by raising and then eliminating the dues cap, along with a reduction in the initiation fee proposed by the petitioners.
This Referendum is the culmination of more than a year of work by AGMA’s elected member-leaders, who have been working to revise and fix AGMA’s Constitution since last fall. On October 28, the AGMA Board of Governors approved and recommended to AGMA’s membership the “Board of Governors Revision,” a comprehensive rewrite of the AGMA constitution
The Board of Governors Revision focuses on transparency, justice and equality, democracy, clarity, modernization and legal compliance, and includes many exciting changes for AGMA’s members. The Revision revises AGMA’s election structure to ensure that every eligible member of AGMA can run for AGMA’s Board of Governors. The Revision creates “at-large” seats for every AGMA geographic Area and for AGMA’s non-resident artists, ensuring that AGMA’s governing body is representative of its entire membership. The Revision changes AGMA’s definition of “active member in good standing,” to include its new members who are still paying off their union initiation fee. Finally, the Revision includes a new Article on Justice and Equality, underscoring AGMA’s commitment to eliminate racism, sexism, and other discrimination from our workplaces.
If either the Board Revisions or the Petition Amendments receive the majority of the vote, they will go into effect.
Unlike the Board’s Revision, the alternative Petition Amendments won’t fix the major structural problems in our Constitution. The Petition Amendments include a proposed dues cap increase – to be voted on separately – that would substantially increase dues for many AGMA members. AGMA’s elected leadership rejected recommending such a change in their Constitutional Revision because they do not believe that now, during the COVID-19 crisis, is the time to impose a dues increase.
“AGMA members deserve a Constitution that is transparent; one that reflects our values; clearly spells out our rights and obligations; allows all eligible members to run for office, and creates the foundation for a brighter future for our Union. The Board’s Revision provides this. We urge you to reject the dues cap increase and vote to approve the Board of Governors Revision,” reads AGMA’s ballot statement.
On Thursday, November 12, AGMA hosted a full-membership webinar about the upcoming Constitutional Referendum. The recording is available to watch here.
During the webinar, AGMA leadership enthusiastically urged members to vote in favor of the Revision, and AGMA President Ray Menard directly addressed some member concerns surrounding the ability of AGMA members to recall their elected leaders and remove them from office. Some members noted how this right was not contained in the Board of Governors Revision of the Constitution.
Menard assured AGMA members that this was not intentional.
“The ability to recall Governors and Officers for serious misconduct is a bedrock right in a democratic union. To be honest, the working group that drafted the Revision missed this when we were redrafting the new Articles on the Board of Governors and AGMA's National Officers. It should have been included, but we, as humans, made a mistake,” said Menard.
“As you know, the Board held a two-day special meeting to debate the Revision, during which time several important amendments were made that further improved the document,” he continued. “I wish that any Board members who were aware of or may have had concerns about this issue had chosen to offer an amendment, because I am certain it would have passed. In any case, we are fixing it now.”
On Friday, November 13, the Executive Council of the American Guild of Musical Artists adopted a resolution authorizing the Constitutional Working Group Joint Committee (CWGJC) - – which includes members of AGMA’s Executive Council and Administration and Policy Committee – to revise the Bylaws of the Board of Governors Revision to the Constitution to retain the right of members to recall and remove Board members and Officers. Once the members comprising the CWGJC have completed their work, the CWGJC will submit the revised Bylaws for the Board’s approval.
This Executive Council resolution reinforces that the right to recall and remove BOG members and Officers will remain in the power of AGMA members.
As an AGMA member, you can expect an email this Sunday, November 15, from Global Election Services that will help you prepare for completing your ballot that will arrive electronically or via email the following day. Every AGMA member, and the public at large, has access to all relevant information regarding the referendum. AGMA encourages all AGMA Artists to take a deep dive into all the publicly available, detailed resources posted on AGMA’s Constitutional Referendum webpage.
11/9/2020 - Dear AGMA Artists:
The right of the members to recall their elected leaders for serious misconduct is a hallmark of a functioning democratic union. AGMA would never intentionally strip you of that right.
Since releasing the details of the Board of Governors Revision of the Constitution, some members have raised concerns that the Revision removes this right. I am writing to reassure you that this will not happen should the Board of Governors Revision be approved.
To be clear, the ability and procedure for AGMA members to sign a petition triggering a recall election for a National Officer or a member of the Board of Governors was never in our Constitution. Instead, this provision was contained in AGMA’s Bylaws. In rewriting the Constitution, one of our overarching goals was to move all “governance” matters from the Bylaws into the Constitution, in an effort to make sure members could access all relevant information regarding how AGMA is run in one place. When we drafted the Articles for Board of Governors and National Officers—moving rights, rules, and responsibilities from the Bylaws to the Constitution—we unintentionally missed this important provision. However, the recall provision is still in AGMA’s Bylaws and will not be removed through the referendum.
The Board of Governors will consider amendments to AGMA’s Bylaws to correspond with the will of the membership. For instance, if the Board of Governors Revision passes, the Board will likely remove from the Bylaws the provisions of the Bylaws that were incorporated in the Constitution. I will personally make sure that the recall provision is included in whatever set of Bylaws the Board passes in the aftermath of the referendum.
I’m very thankful that our members are detailed proofreaders and brought this to our attention so that we could quickly realize our mistake and work to correct it. Your Board of Governors is a group of elected AGMA members who are also human beings. Sometimes we make mistakes. Doing a complete revision of our Constitution was a massive undertaking and, although the Revision was reviewed by all Officers, Board members, and Standing Committees, the absence of the recall provision was missed by all involved and wasn’t raised during the Board of Governors meetings.
The simple truth is, whether you vote to approve the Board of Governors Revision or the Petition Amendments, the ability to recall leaders will remain in your power.
About AGMA's Constitutional 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. 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.
Board of Governors Revision Ballot StatementBOG-Revision-Statement
Board of Governors RevisionBoard-of-Governors-Revision-Constitution-and-Bylaws-FINAL
Videos & Webinars
Annotated Board of Governors RevisionAnnotated-Board-of-Governors-Revisions-FINAL-2
Explainer of Board of Governors RevisionBoard-of-Governors-Revision-Explainer-FINAL-1
Petitioners’ Ballot StatementPetition-Amendments-Ballot-Statement
The Petition Amendments were submitted by 50-70 AGMA members. Find the Petition Amendments below, for your reference.Petition-Amendments