Working Document __ 1990s version

A simulation of the ACT UP Working Document.

Why not the "real thing"? That answer is that 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 moved from written to oral tradition. What follows is a rearranged, annotated, and edited version of the working document that hopes to bring out the most pertinent aspects of how ACT UP operates. Consequently, the numerical apparatus has been removed in favor of general outlines. 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, supreme and unappeallable, in ACT UP 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.

Meetings Procedure

Four Facilitators for the general meetings should be elected by the membership to terms of no less than four months. The general meetings will be facilitated by two of these facilitators, who will alternate facilitation. Facilitators are entirely utilitarian positions (i.e they generally stay out of discussion and encourage discussion) and for this reason should be held by ACT UP members who are familiar with Roberta's Rules of Orders and ACT UP procedure and are willing to be wholly equitable to the entire membership. A facilitator may step down at any time, for any reason, by asking the members to elect a new facilitator.

The agenda of the general meetings will be planned by a meeting committee that meets 1/2 hour before the general meetings. Formerly, the agenda was set by a co-ordinating committee on the Sunday evenings. The agenda is generally 90 second Announcements; Emergency Life-Saving information; Actions and zaps; committee reports and procedural matters. Time segments are typically 5 or 10 minutes. the floor can vote to extend time of discussion.

Committee reports should routinely include summaries of the committee's current activities regardless of whether or not these activities pertain to a current proposal. This will serve to demystify the committee and encourage new members to participate in committee efforts.

The voting procedure in the general meetings loosely follow Roberta's Rules of Order. However, in the interest of more informed group decisions and considering the variable attendance of meetings, individuals are encouraged, by the facilitators, to participate in the discussion but not to vote if they have not attended at least two ACT UP meetings. Since we have no formal membership and no means of recording attendance, this is largely dependent on the honor system, but should serve to promote an increased sense of responsibility to the one person/one vote system. Abstentions must be counted for every vote. A proposal passes when it has a majority of yes votes over abstentions and no votes.

Action and Zaps Procedure

A regular action is one which is planned to take place more than one general meeting after the one in which it is proposed and approved.

Any member, (though, like voting, we ask that individuals do not propose an action or zap until they have attended at least two general meetings) 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:

1. It is listed on the agenda for the meeting;

2. If the membership agrees to the action:

a) the person(s) or committee proposing it, or some other member(s) or committee, agree to take responsibility for organizing it prior to its approval,

b) the person(s) or committee organizing it follow procedures for policy statements, and

c) the person(s) or committee organizing it for procedures for funding approval.

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.

1. 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. It is listed on the agenda for the meeting;

2. If the membership agrees to the action:

a) the person(s) or committee proposing it, or some other member(s) or committee, agree to take responsibility for organizing it prior to its approval,

b) the person(s) or committee organizing it follow procedures for policy statements, and

c) the person(s) or committee organizing it for procedures for funding approval.

2. an unendorsed zap is one which can be announced at a general meeting without a request for approval, can be proposed at a meeting but not given approval or can be engaged in by members of a group without announcement a general meetings.

Unendorsed zaps:

a) cannot use the ACT UP name on literature or as group identification

b) cannot assume that funding will be provided by the organization.

The phone tree will be activated by vote only to generate support for ACT UP actions. This means only demonstrations and major zaps that have been discussed and supported by the membership. This does not include: committee meetings, poster parties, letter writing/petition campaigns, organized occasions, or the actions of other organizations which have not received the discussion, endorsement, and participation of ACT UP. The phone tree will be activated only for actions with at least 38 hours lead time and it is strongly recommended that it be activated no more frequently than once a week and that information for no more than two actions be relayed at a time.

Policy Statements Procedure

In order to co-ordinate the efforts of the various committees and maintain a coherent identity, all use of the ACT UP name or logo by a person(s) or committee must be approved by a vote of the general membership at a general meeting. Previously, the Co-ordinating committee also had this authority.

Printed material which may require too quick a turn-around to be viewed and edited by the general floor or the co-ordinating committee can be approved by three members of the Co-ordinating committee.

Endorsements for events sponsored by other organizations must be brought to the general membership for discussion and a vote at a general meeting, in which case sufficient copies of the proposal must be provided.

Expenditure Procedures

All funding or reimbursement for an action that is more than a certain amount (the ceiling has varied over the years) has to be approved by the general membership at a general meeting.

Generally, a printed and distributed budget outline must accompany the presentation of an action. The funding proposal is introduced for discussion by the floor and should be broken down into categories (i.e. lodging , transportation, materials, etc.) It is then brought back the following week to be voted on. Funding is approved in one week's time only if the floor decides to consider it an emergency.

Funding or reimbursements that are less than this defined limit can be approved by the co-ordinating committee.

Groups are encouraged/required to have fund-raising mechanisms to raise the money, but all money raised goes to the general fund where it is spent at the direction of the general floor. A group or committee can not create its own bank account or funding pool separate from the general fund managed by the membership.

Elected Office Procedure

In order to ensure continuity in the carrying out of responsibilities and the overlap of incumbency, ACT UP elects officers in a staggered fashion for positions that run typically either 3 or 6 months (the exception are the treasurers which are year positions).

Election procedure is that nominations for elected positions are taken from the floor no more than two weeks before the election. From these nominations, a ballot is made and the floor votes at a general meeting no more than one week from the start of the term of office. All offices are formally divided between genders (i.e. if we have 2 at-large representatives than one must be for a woman and one for a man - we haven't yet had to deal with trans issues in elections so this hasn't been addressed).

The offices have included:

General meetings facilitators (5). Responsibilities included facilitating the general Monday night meetings.

General Meeting managers (2). Responsibilities include te setting up and breakdown of the Monday night meetings along with taking minutes of meetings.

Workspace Managers (2). responsibilities include overseeing the operation of the workspace, its security, equipment, and operation.

ACT UP Network Representatives (2). Responsibilities include representing ACT UP/New York in network conference calls and actions.

Treasurers (2). Responsibilities include managing and negotiating the groups finances and making regular reports to the floor about the finances

At-large representatives (2). Responsibilities include representing the non-committee membership, particularly on the co-ordinating committee.

New Member Representatives (2). Responsibilities include going off the floor each week with new members to give them a brief new member training and be available to answer questions from new members.


Co-ordinating Committee Procedure

The co-ordianting committee is composed of a representative from every committee and the elected officers. The co-ordinating committee has in the past arranged the agenda for Monday night meeting, been responsible for authorizing the use of the ACT UP name and logo in emergency and approving small sums of money, and helping to co-ordinate activities between committees. It is not an advisory or superior board to the floor.

Amendment Procedure

The Working Document can be amended by a majority vote of the floor. Amendments must be presented in writing for discussion. The week after discussion it is put to a vote.



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see current Working Document 2003