At its core, A Voice for All is a movement to bring true union democracy to AGMA. Though the ballots don’t go out until mid-April, and not a single vote has yet been cast, we at V4A feel there is already much to celebrate about the way AGMA’s upcoming election will differ from the elections of the past.
For starters, the election will be conducted by an outside firm with significant expertise in making sure that both AGMA’s election rules and the relevant federal laws governing union internal elections are followed. Participation in the election will also be easier than in past years: ballots may be returned postage-free from anywhere on the globe(*). And most importantly, for likely the first time in AGMA’s history there are a group of candidates running together in a CAUCUS SLATE.
Caucuses, which are in essence the union equivalent of a political party, are an incredibly important component of union democracy, and I am immensely proud of the V4A caucus for the work we’ve done to make sure that AGMA’s members have a meaningful choice between competing visions in this year’s election.
Both SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity have constitutional requirements of diversity of representation (based on membership category) among their national officers. AGMA does not. As a consequence, it is possible for the five vice-presidencies in AGMA’s national governance to be insufficiently reflective of AGMA’s membership. This is an old problem, and there have been various attempts to rectify it over the years – all of which have proved inadequate to the task, and all of which occurred out of view of AGMA’s rank-and-file members. The only mention of a previous mechanism you may have spotted can be found in the April 2009 issue of AGMAzine in which a candidate for the Board of Governors makes mention of their service on an “Officer Recruitment Committee”. Though board confidentiality (about which I say more here) prevents me from sharing what I know of this committee and its actions over the years, I can warrant that it was deeply problematic. An election-related process involving only incumbent members of governance to “recruit” candidates naturally favors the incumbents themselves or those of a similar ideology.
Supposing that such a mechanism would have given some thought to the composition of these candidates as a group, an additional problem arises, in that, unless those candidates acknowledge the mechanism behind their nomination and campaign together, the possibility exists that any successful challenger will inadvertently diminish diversity in national governance.
The most elegant and lasting way to solve this problem would be to amend Article V, Section 6 of AGMA’s Constitution, to bring the guarantees of representation offered by our sister unions to AGMA’s governance. Until that day arrives, the best way to both ensure diversity and representation within AGMA’s governance and mount an effective challenge to an ideologically entrenched incumbency is to do precisely what V4A has done: form a caucus and run a slate of candidates who offer a new vision for AGMA’s future and will bring balance to the lopsided governance that has created a strong sense of marginalization among some of AGMA’s members.
It is not acceptable to me that AGMA has gone four years without a dancer in national office, and it should not be acceptable to you. It is not acceptable to me that AGMA has had only two director governors (to the best of my understanding) and zero director national officers in the last thirty years, and it should not be acceptable to you.
One of the primary goals of V4A is to make AGMA a more democratic union, and a more representative union is a more democratic union. While this work will by no means be finished after this year’s election, and though there are many more intersectional considerations to achieving true diversity we must be constantly mindful of in the years ahead, I am incredibly excited to be running alongside the remarkable candidates who comprise the V4A slate. It is our mission to elevate previously marginalized voices in AGMA’s governance so that the solutions proposed and implemented to the immensely challenging problems facing our membership will be sure to raise all ships and leave no one behind. Breaking down the structural obstacles that have created this marginalization does not require that we place obstacles in the paths of others. We stand ready to listen to all of AGMA’s members, including those long-serving members of governance with whom we have significant disagreements, and work to build consensus.
I proudly stand as V4A’s candidate for President of AGMA, and am even prouder to be standing with Liz, Tess, Stephen and Sam. I look forward to sharing more of our vision with you in the days ahead. For now, I invite you to read more about the team here on our website. And, when your ballot arrives, know that the candidates with “A Voice for All” after their names mean to achieve just that. We are here to put the power of AGMA back in the hands of its members. We run to ensure that all voices will be heard. We run knowing that AGMA is ready for change and that your votes will be the instrument of that change. This May, vote out the incumbency. This May, vote #V4A!
* At the time of the writing of this article, it is our understanding that if your ballot is mailed to a US address, the return envelope will be a business reply envelope that will not require postage if mailed in the United States. If your ballot is mailed to a foreign address, the return envelope will be an International Business Reply Service envelope that will not require postage if mailed to the United States from a foreign country. Thus, for example, your ballot may require postage if you receive it in the United States but take it with you to a foreign country, or if you receive it in a foreign country but then return with your ballot to the United States. Please be aware of this important distinction.