AGMA claims exclusive jurisdiction over all aspects of the work of its members and shares some Broadway jurisdiction with its sister union, Actors’ Equity Association.
Any artist who performs at principal American opera or dance companies work under AGMA contracts. Pursuant to federal labor law, each of those contracts requires that performers become and remain member of AGMA as a condition of being employed by those companies. The same situation applies with regard to working in the jurisdictional sphere of the other AAAA unions.
The AGMA logo is an original drawing by William Chandler Christy, given as a gift by him to AGMA.
AGMA maintains its principal office at 1430 Broadway in New York City, and has offices in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
As in any entertainment labor union, AGMA’s structure includes both a professional staff of employees who administer the union and a system of internal government that sets the policy for the union. AGMA’s governing entity is called the Board of Governors, and is composed of elected officers who are members of the union and elected by the members of the union. AGMA’s President is James Odom, a singer at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
AGMA’s senior staff consists primarily of negotiators: Some are lawyers who worked for unions or in the entertainment business, and others are lawyers who were earlier in their careers singers or dancers. Others were singers or dancers who attained their negotiating experience while serving as shop stewards and union delegates at principal opera houses. The one thing that staff and members have in common, and which they share with the professional staffs of the other talent unions, is the dedication of their professional lives to the protection of the men and women who, in turn, create America’s cultural heritage.
Since 2000, AGMA’s National Executive Director has been Alan S. Gordon, who’s entire legal career has been spent in the administration of labor unions and the defense of union members. Recruited by former President and Metropolitan Opera singer Linda Mays, Gordon recaptured earlier AGMA jurisdiction lost to other unions, expanded its professional staff, extended its coverage among opera companies, led the successful effort to make AGMA the ‘home of the American dancer’ and, working with the elected leadership, implemented the philosophy that AGMA is the ‘working partner’ of the employers that hire its members.
AGMA is unique among the AAAA entertainment unions for several reasons: First, unlike all other performers’ unions, AGMA does not prohibit its members from performing non-union work. Rather, AGMA believes, its members should be free to explore any employment opportunity and to perform before any audience. Second, AGMA does not impose restrictions on who can perform AGMA work. Any performing artists may join AGMA at any point in their career. Third, recognizing that opera and dance are international in scope, AGMA welcomes foreign performers into its ranks so that they may perform in the United States. Finally, despite having the lowest initiation fee of any entertainment union ($500.00) and the lowest annual dues ($78.00) AGMA provides an extensive nationwide net of attorneys and negotiation specialists to defend the professional, civil and human rights of its members. Finally, despite a continuing downturn in U.S. labor union membership, over the past seven years AGMA’s membership has grown at the rate of one percent per month. AGMA prides itself on being the most litigious of entertainment unions, and is continuously involved in federal, state and administrative agency litigation on behalf of its members. All AGMA contracts provide for the absolute equality of workplace opportunity based on talent.
Likewise, AGMA regulates the relationship between its members and their agents pursuant to a “Code of Professional Conduct for Agents and Managers Representing AGMA Artists” and litigates on behalf of members with agent or manager problems.
AGMA also represents the principal singers, choristers, Directors and production personnel at Arizona Opera, Baltimore Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Carmel Bach Festival, Central City Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Cincinnati Opera, Dallas Opera, Florentine Opera, Music Before 1800, Musica Sacra, New Orleans Opera, New York City Opera, New York Concert Singers, New York Grand Opera, New York Philharmonic, New York Virtuoso Singers, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Orchestra of New York, Opera Pacific, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Orchestral Association, Philadelphia Singers, Philharmonic Orchestra of New Jersey, Pittsburgh Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Grant Park Symphony, Henry Street Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Lyric Opera Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Melodius Accord, The Metropolitan Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Portland Opera, San Diego Opera, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, Tri-Cities Opera, Washington Concert Opera, Washington National Opera, and Wolf Trap Opera.