WHAT IS AGMA?
AGMA is a labor union. Because performing artists live to perform, they are vulnerable to employer exploitation, unfair and unsafe conditions and illegal discrimination. They can find the protection they need by joining AGMA – the American Guild of Musical Artists. Performing artists support themselves with their talents and skill, but the beauty they create doesn’t necessarily pay the rent or the doctor bills. It doesn’t put food on the table or guarantee any of the other necessities of life. It doesn’t even assure that the artists can continue to develop their craft. Without forceful advocacy of their interests, artists can be subjected to abuse, to unfair pay without benefits, to unsafe and unprofessional working conditions, and no job security.
AGMA negotiates collective bargaining agreements for its members that provide them with these vital benefits: guaranteed salaries; rehearsal and overtime pay; regulated work hours; vacation and sick pay; access to low-cost health benefits; good-faith resolution of disputes; and protection of their legal and contractual rights. AGMA represents all of the artists at most of America’s leading opera and dance companies, and many other performing arts institutions. All of these performers have concluded that being part of our union has significantly enhanced their earning power. AGMA artists throughout the USA enjoy greater prestige; better performing conditions and a higher quality of life because of the American Guild of Musical Artists. That’s why we hope you will join us in the mission for which AGMA was first created: to protect performers and enhance the image of musical artists everywhere.
AGMA is unique among entertainment unions: Despite the fact that AGMA is the smallest of the talent unions, it is unique in several important respects: First, unlike SAG, AFTRA or Equity, AGMA recognizes the need for performers to accept as much work as is possible and, consequently, AGMA doesn’t prohibit its members from working non-union jobs. Second, although it has the lowest initiation fees and dues of any talent union, AGMA has iron-clad, ‘real world’ contracts and a staff of exceptionally skilled negotiators and attorneys to provide extensive services to our members. Third, it’s the only entertainment union that, while being professionally administered, is actually run entirely by its members. Our leadership, members who are elected by other members, creates AGMA’s policies which are then, in turn, implemented by its professional staff. Fourth, AGMA does not have nationwide votes on its collective bargaining agreements. Only those members who actually work for any particular AGMA company can vote on the ratification of contracts that effect them. Fifth, AGMA doesn’t ‘organize’ in the traditional union sense. We don’t attempt to convince performers to join. Rather, when a non-member asks us why it’s good to belong, we tell them to ask any AGMA member. Once you’ve worked in an AGMA house after working non-union, you’ll immediately understand the kind of protections you get under an AGMA contract. Sixth, despite a nationwide decrease in union membership, AGMA’s membership has continued to grow at a rate of 1% per month. Finally, and perhaps most important, AGMA is an entirely ‘open’ union and membership in AGMA is available to artists at any time in their careers.
Through AGMA, performers win the respect and recognition they deserve for the beauty they create.