The working document is a dynamic text, which has often been amended and then had amendments become irrelevant as the overall structure of the group changed in relation to our workspace, financial, and membership. We have been very bad in keeping it in shape over the years. Consequently, its status has partially moved from written to oral tradition. What follows is a revised version of the working document approved by the Floor of ACT UP in 2003 that hopes to bring out the most pertinent aspects of how ACT UP operates. If this sounds confusing, imagine what the debates about its interpretation have been like.
One fundamental principle has to be emphasized. There is only one body of authority in ACT UP -- supreme and unappeallable -- and that is the general floor at the weekly Monday night meetings. It is the sole legitimating and financial authority. The floor can, by majority vote, decide whatever it wishes.
The ACT UP Working Document 2003
This organization shall be named the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power -- ACT UP. We are a diverse, nonpartisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. We protest and demonstrate; we meet with government and public health officials; we research and distribute the latest medical information; we are not silent.
Members do not pay dues or fees. There is no annual membership fee. Members must attend three meetings in order to be eligible to vote. Members are encouraged to participate in discussions and working groups.
II. ELECTED POSITIONS
All elected positions shall be responsible for representing the membership by committed and consistent involvement with ACT UP by continuing to pay strict attention to the concerns of the membership. The voting procedure for all elected positions will be completed over two meetings. At the first meeting the elections will be announced so that members can consider if they will volunteer or whom they will nominate, and at the second meeting volunteers and nominations will be taken (no limit). Ballots will be prepared if needed with all nominees' names (and members will vote by secret ballot if there are more nominees than positions open). No elected position can be voted on until the nominee addresses the entire group.
Three elected Facilitators for the General meetings shall be elected by the membership for terms of no less than four months. The three Facilitators will, at their discretion, alternate the facilitation of the General meetings. Facilitators shall ensure that all proposals are stated, debated, and disposed of. They shall be familiar with ACT UP meeting procedures and shall organize the agenda before the meetings. It is understood that Facilitators shall remain impartial during meetings. While facilitators are allowed to call on themselves they should remember they have the responsibility to be wholly equitable to the entire membership.
Two Treasurers shall be elected to a one year term but may appoint assistants as he/she chooses. Six months into the one year term of Treasurer a second Treasurer shall be elected. Any assistants the Treasurer considers must be presented to the floor for approval. The Treasurer shall report on the status of the Legal Defense Fund and the General Fund every three months. The Treasurer shall be responsible for co-ordinating all contracts with providers (e.g. transportation, printing, meeting facilities, etc.), the management of any other ACT UP accounts, and preparing a quarterly written Treasurer's Report, auditing each and every expense of the past week and a weekly verbal Treasurer's Report for the General meeting. The Treasurer may step down from the position at any time, for any reason, by asking the members to elect a new Treasurer. Both Treasurers will choose a member in good standing to serve as a third signatory.
III. MEETING MANAGER
The Meeting Manager is a volunteer position and shall act as a liaison with the LGBT Community Center to arrange space and materials. Whenever the Meeting Manager wants to give up his position he or she shall inform the floor and a new person shall be selected. The Meeting Manager may appoint assistants as he/she chooses.
IV. NEW MEMBER REPRESENTATIVES
Two New Member Representatives shall be elected to a 6 month term. The purpose of these elections shall be to integrate new members to ACT UP more quickly and comfortably.
A. New Member Representatives shall go off the floor each week with the new members, where they will introduce themselves and assign themselves, depending upon their interest focus (i.e. treatment, health care, etc.), to any interested new members.
B. New Member Representatives shall be available to their assigned new members to answer any questions regarding ACT UP, specific committees, and upcoming actions, or to refer the new member to someone who may be more knowledgeable.
C. New Member Representatives shall attend new member activities, and call as necessary their assigned new members with information which might help to keep them involved, such as upcoming teach-ins or actions.
V. EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM
The Emergency Response Team ("ERT") shall respond only to urgent needs that cannot wait until the next ACT UP meeting, such as writing press releases, signing onto letters (alone or in coalition with other groups), or using the ACT UP name and logo for affinity actions that cannot be brought to the floor before they are undertaken. The ERT shall make every effort to take only actions that are consistent with ACT UP policy. The ERT shall consist of five members chosen by election, three of whom have been members of ACT UP for at least one year. They shall serve for a term of six months. Three members of the ERT must agree for any action to be taken, and the ERT shall inform the floor of any actions taken at the next regular meeting of ACT UP.
VI. VOTING PROCEDURES
A. In the interest of more informed group decisions and considering the highly variable attendance of the meetings, individuals should be encouraged by the Facilitators to participate in discussion but not vote until their third meeting. As we have no formal membership and no means of recording attendance, this would largely be dependent upon the honor system, but should serve to promote an increased sense of responsibility to the one person/one vote system.
B. Should an elected position become vacated, nominations will be taken immediately, with election following the subsequent week, and incumbency to begin immediately thereafter. The person elected in such a circumstance will hold the office only for the remainder of the term of the predecessor. In cases the floor deems to be an emergency, nominations may be taken and a special election held immediately thereafter.
C. Should any person be unable to temporarily fulfill the duties of his/her office (e.g., an ACT UP representative is unable to participate in a prearranged telephone conference call), a temporary substitution shall be made for a designated task/period by the floor, or in emergencies, by three members of the ERT.
VII. PHONE TREE AND MAILING LIST
The phone tree will be activated to generate support for ACT UP actions with approval by the floor. Committees responsible for letter writing/petition campaigns, organized occasions or other long term activities shall have access to the mailing list and should plan far enough in advance to use it effectively. The mailing list will only be used for approved ACT UP efforts. Anyone wishing access to the mailing list must request approval from the floor and return the list upon request. The phone tree manager and web site manager shall be volunteer positions. All ACT UP fliers shall include the ACT UP web site address.
VIII. PROCEDURES FOR CREATING ACTIONS
A regular action is one which is planned to take place more than one week after the meeting in which it is approved. Any member(s) (whether or not they are part of a committee) or any committee can propose an action for approval by the general membership at a general meeting provided that:
A. the action is listed on the agenda for the meeting (see ORDER OF BUSINESS, I, MEETINGS)
B. the membership agrees to the action:
1. the person(s) or committee proposing the action, or some other member(s) or committee, shall agree to take responsibility for organizing it prior to its approval
2. the person(s) or committee organizing the action shall follow procedures for policy statements (see section X: POLICY STATEMENT PROCEDURES)
IX. PROCEDURES FOR CREATING ZAP ACTIONS
A zap action is one which is planned to take place before the next general meeting. There are two kinds of zaps: endorsed and unendorsed.
A. An endorsed zap is one which has been approved by the membership. Any member(s) or any committee can propose a zap for approval by the general membership at a general meeting provided that:
1. the zap is listed on the agenda for that meeting (see ORDER OF BUSINESS, I, MEETINGS)
2. if the membership agrees to the zap:
a. the person(s) or committee proposing the zap or some other members(s) or committee agree to take responsibility for organizing it prior to approval
b. the person(s) or committee organizing the zap shall follow procedures for funding and for policy statements
B. An unendorsed zap is one that can be announced at a general meeting without a request for approval. It can be proposed at a meeting but not given approval. It can be engaged in by members of the group as individuals without announcement at a general meeting. Unendorsed zaps:
1. cannot use the ACT UP name on literature or as group identification (such as banners or posters)
2. cannot assume that funding will be provided by the organization. However, a budget may be requested following the regular ACT UP expenditure procedures (see XII, EXPENDITURE PROCEDURES)
X. POLICY STATEMENT PROCEDURES
Since this organization has an identity with the public and the press, ACT UP is being called upon to articulate its policy or platform on certain issues in a formal manner (e.g., letters of endorsement/inter-organizational correspondence). For this reason, we recommend:
A. Printed material which is to be sent out articulating ACT UP's policies (e.g., fund-raising letters, outreach letters, responses to editorials, inter- organizational letters, etc.) shall be approved by the floor except as indicated in Section B. below.
B. Printed material which may require too quick a turn-around to be approved by the floor as a group (e.g., fact sheets, news/advertisement copy, press releases, etc.) shall be approved by at least three but preferably more members of the Emergency Response Team, if possible, in person or by phone, before the material is printed and goes out.
C. Endorsements will be submitted to the floor for approval at least one week, but preferably more, before such endorsement is needed. Any endorsement by the Emergency Response Team must be brought to the regular Monday night meeting for approval or retraction.
XI. PARLIAMENTARY AUTHORITY
ACT UP runs its meetings using a loose version of Robert's Rules of Order.
XII. EXPENDITURE PROCEDURES
A. Proposed expenditures of $500 or more will go directly to the floor. The membership may recommend, discourage, or suggest a modification in the proposed expenditure.
B. If an expenditure of $500 or less, already approved by the floor ultimately exceeds $500, the floor may approve an expenditure of up to 20% over the originally approved expenditure. For example, if an expenditure was approved for $500 and an additional $100 was incurred, the floor could approve the additional $100 without sending the request to the General meeting, but an approved expenditure of $400 which incurred an additional cost of $150 would have to go to the General meeting for approval.
C. A proposed expenditure of over $500 should be made at least one week in advance for voting at the next week's meeting. If a proposed expenditure of more than $500 is made requiring a quicker decision than one week, it 1) must receive limited discussion by the membership; and 2) the membership is required to approve, deny, or modify the proposed expenditure by consensus, within a 24 hour period, without further discussion by the membership.
D. Funds approved by the floor and not spent within six months of the approval date are to be returned at the discretion of the Treasurer.
ORDER OF BUSINESS
Regular meetings shall be held each Monday. A quorum shall consist of at least five members. The agenda should retain the form we have been using:
1) AIDS-related announcements,
2) Life-saving information,
3) Actions/ Zaps,
7) Non AIDS-related Announcements.
Time limits should also be determined at the beginning of every meeting. Request for extensions of time must be voted on by the floor.
II. DISABILITY ACCESS
People with AIDS and other immune system disorders, as well as people with other disabilities, have a right to participate in ACT UP. They must not be prevented from participating because of stairs, heat, or other avoidable barriers. In order to make ACT UP information and empowerment available to all PWAs and other disabled people:
A. ACT UP's general meetings must accommodate the disabled by providing comfortable, safe, and accessible spaces. Committee meetings must also take place in accessible places.
B. The hearing impaired community has an especially difficult time getting access to accurate AIDS information. Whenever possible, ACT UP's general meetings must be ASL (American Sign Language) interpreted. In order to increase access to ACT UP for hearing-impaired people, we should publicize our fax number, e-mail address and web site address on our publicity.
I. DISCRIMINATORY DOOR POLICIES
ACT UP will not hold benefits at clubs that do not have a first-come first-serve door policy. ACT UP should not associate itself with any club or institution that discriminates, whether on the night of the event of the benefit or any other night of the year. This includes discriminatory door policies. To do business with clubs that discriminate not only condones and perpetuates discrimination but also reflects negatively on our organization.
A. At moving demonstrations, the pace must be slow enough so disabled people can participate. Marshals should be aware that it is easy, and common, for the police to "pick off" and arrest those who can't keep up.
B. At major actions a rest area must be set up with food and water available, as well as a place to lie down, if at all possible. Organizers of actions should make every effort (before and during the actions) to ensure that those arrested will have access to their medication while in police custody. In some cases, this may include releasing a statement to the police demanding that arrestees have access to their medications. However, people should be aware that it is not uncommon for the police to confiscate medications anyway.
C. Action organizers must set up a "Buddy System" for those using wheelchairs, or others who may need assistance during a demonstration. Your "buddy" should know about your medical condition, your physical limits, medication needs, etc. He/she should be committed to assisting with wheelchair throughout the action.
D. Organizers of actions should make it known, in advance of an action, whom other disabled people should contact regarding their needs, and they should make every effort to meet those needs. When scouting sites for demonstrations, organizers must consider ease of access and egress.
A few notes to the disabled community: If possible, please inform the action organizers in advance of what your needs will be.
Do speak if your needs are not being met.
III. TRANSLATION OF ACT UP PRESS RELEASES, ADVERTISEMENTS, POSTERS, PAMPHLETS, ETC.
A. All fact sheets, press releases, advertisements, posters, pamphlets and handbooks that are endorsed by ACT UP must be translated into Spanish whenever possible (and languages of other communities when ACT UP deems necessary) before being distributed for public awareness and/or education.
SPECIFIC ROBERTS RULES OF ORDER USED BY ACT UP NEW YORK
(Other Robert's Rules of Order may or may not apply.)
CALL THE QUESTION (previous question): is used to end discussion and bring to an immediate vote one or more pending proposals. This immediately closes debate and stops amendment of the pending proposal or other proposals the motions may specify. It also prevents the making of any other motion except the motion to (lay on the) table (see below).
Calling the question applies to any main motion on the floor.
Calling the question is out of order when another question or proposal is on the floor. You cannot interrupt the proposal to call another proposal or question.
Calling the question must be seconded.
Is not debatable.
Is not amendable.
A FRIENDLY AMENDMENT: is used to help clarify and to pass a motion.
A friendly amendment is applied to a motion while it is pending to aid in treating or disposing of (voting on) it.
A friendly amendment can be made from the
moment the motion is stated until the vote on the motion begins.
Therefore, a friendly amendment is one that aids in clarifying
the intent of the main motion and the maker of the motion can
accept. However, the friendly amendment may be debated on the
floor without the consent of the maker.
TO TABLE (lay on the): allows the floor to set aside debate for a more urgent matter.
When there isn't time to discuss the matter immediately discussion may resume later and consideration of the motion may be taken up again at the will of the majority and will take priority over any new question or proposal. Anyone may continue original discussion over the tabled proposal or question.
To Table cannot be used to kill or avoid dealing with a measure. In that case make a motion to postpone.
A motion to table takes precedence over
A motion to postpone is debatable.
A motion to table is not debatable. However, the Facilitator may properly ask the maker of the motion to state his/her reason.
A motion to table can only be applied to main motions.
A motion to table is out of order when another has the floor.
A motion to table must be seconded.
1. "Welcome to ACT UP" at beginning
of every meeting
2. "Go-around" at beginning of every meeting
3. No chatter or cross talk
4. No personal attacks
5. Disagree with ISSUES not individuals
6. Stick to queue
7. Do not keep repeating what others have already said
8. 20 to 30 minutes for campaigning/brainstorming at each meeting
9. Make clear and concise proposals and comments
10. Announcements should be no longer than 90 seconds please
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