Approximate Transcript of President Hanlon’s First Report
Originally presented on June 20, 2023 at the AGMA Board Governors June meeting
Good afternoon! I’m Ned Hanlon, and it is an HONOR to deliver my FIRST report as AGMA President. I want to officially welcome AGMA’s Board of Governors to this new term. Whether you are new or returning leaders of AGMA, I want to thank you for volunteering your time, expertise, and unique skillsets to our union’s members and the betterment of the Union. And to ALL AGMA members who may be watching or reading these remarks today, thank you for entrusting me with this privilege; I will not let you down.
With the new leadership officially installed, it’s time to get to business.
We are all aware of the arts picket lines across the country. In the first week of June - the first week of this Board’s new term - there were two important arts picket lines in New York City. I am speaking on these specifically, because I attended.
AGMA’s Sibling Union AFM Local 802 held a demonstration outside Carnegie Hall protesting DCINY’s continued use of scab musicians, and The Writers Guild of America marched in front of Amazon as part of their continued strike to demand fair compensation for new streaming.
Both were strong showings, with 802 bringing fantastic music and the WGA coming in strong with great - and often very clever signs - as you would expect from writers! Marching at the rallies in solidarity with WGA and 802 were members of SAG-AFTRA, Actors’ Equity, IATSE, and, of course, AGMA. All our entertainment unions rallying together! The president and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO even came up from Washington for the WGA picket line.
So why do I bring this up in my first official address as AGMA President? Because I think it is indicative of where the labor movement is right now. Organized labor is under relentless attack. Management wants us OUT of their workplaces, and we all know why.
Now, this is nothing new, right? It’s the same sustained attack that has been eating away at unions since the 1970s, but it’s now brought to the forefront of EVERYONE’S minds thanks, in part, to social media exposure.
Over the past few years, there have been strong signs that the Labor Movement has no intention of letting this union-busting trend continue. We’ve seen this dynamic play out more and more, and quite blatantly, at our AGMA signatory companies. Each time we come face-to-face with ruthless union busting, AGMA stands up against their attacks and shows them that we are NOT a union to be bullied. At the table, in the press, and on social media, we push back against textbook union-busting lies and tactics, and, by doing so, send a clear message to the opera, ballet, and concert industries. Unions are here. Unions are staying. Unions are growing.
When you take a closer look, AGMA has been building for years toward the moment we find ourselves in now. We are in good shape financially, yet have also successfully built out our impressive professional staff, focusing specifically on positions that deal directly with the public and AGMA membership, most notably our Director of Communications, negotiators, and our new business reps. Between electronic communication like emails, social media activity, monthly newsletter, AGMAzine, and direct engagement with Artists, like webinars and negotiating committees, AGMA leadership has never been more connected with the Artists we represent.
And AGMA Artists are ready to go! Our recent run of successful organizing campaigns was initiated by the Artists of the companies we organized. These have been bottom-up, grass-roots initiatives, which is exactly why they have had so much success.
Here’s the truth: A difficult and often hostile performing arts industry toward Artists exists. The AGMA Board of Governors is confronted with this reality as we begin this term. But what also exists is a will from Artists to do something about it; this Board is plugged in, and we see how AGMA Artists use their voices, not only for themselves but for others, every single day. As a union, we have more tools than we have ever had at our disposal to make this an industry that we can be proud of together.
How do we do that? How do we allocate our resources and engage in a long-term strategic plan, all the while remaining flexible and ready to respond to anything the industry throws at us? As President, I certainly have ideas, and I know all our officers and governors are ready to bring their experience, enthusiasm, and desire to help Artists and begin these collaborative conversations. I know we all look forward to hearing from ALL AGMA members, or sibling unions, and our non-union colleagues too.
In early 2022, In his first National Executive Report, Sam Wheeler talked about AGMA needing to become a “fighting union.” The picket lines across the country and AGMA’s recent experiences involving flagrant union busting reiterate how important that is - how imperative it is for us to be a proactive union, not one that just reacts to problems when they arise. We need to stay multiple steps ahead. We are getting better at this every day. As your president, along with the Officers and Governors of this union, it is our job to make sure we have the resources and focus necessary to confront problems, to mitigate crises before they worsen. That is the challenge each one of us on the Board accepted when we took on this responsibility.
I have the utmost confidence in this Board. I know when we promise AGMA members across the country and globe that we have their backs, we mean it.
Solidarity forever. Thank you!