The Utah Brouhaha

A couple of the officers of the Utah Chapter of AMTA are upset with me for a video I put out yesterday about H.B. 243 that is in the works in their state. You may read the bill here.

This bill removes the term “therapeutic” from the description of massage. It also modifies the language in their Practice Act to include “recreational massage.” Is there anyone among us who would like to be known as a recreational massage therapist? Please weigh in on that. I am personally not acquainted with anyone who would like to be known that way.

I read the bill in its entirety, when it was brought to my attention, and then, AMTA member that I am, went to the Utah Chapter’s website to see what they were doing about this. I was shocked to see no mention of it anywhere, so during the course of the video I encouraged AMTA members to get in touch with their board members and mobilize them to take action on this, and I urged all Utah therapists to contact their legislators to protest what in my opinion is a detrimental change in their language. I posted it on the Utah Chapter’s FB page, as well as my own.

Imagine my disbelief when I received a communication from one of their officers on my youtube channel telling me that I should have contacted them before making my video and telling me to take it down asap. They are of course free to remove it from their own page. They are not free to tell me to remove it from mine. It has had over 700 hits in the last 24 hours and been shared by over 400 therapists. One therapist had made a positive comment about H.B. 243 on FB, the last time I checked. Too many others to count were all as distressed about it as I was.

I also received a lengthy and polite response from one of their officers, that stated  “There is no mention of this on the Utah Chapter website. This matter has purposely not been published on our website at AMTA Utah Chapter precisely for the purposes of NOT bringing attention to the fact that the Massage Therapy Practice Act was being “opened for changes” in this legislative session,” and ended with the request that I remove the video without comment, and to check with them in the future before I make any reference to Utah again.

Sorry, but that will not be happening. Perhaps you have heard of the First Amendment.

Perhaps you have also heard that all legislation is an open book–or it is supposed to be. It is the public’s right to know. If something is affecting massage therapists, it is the massage therapist’s right to know. And it is the mandate of any public board and any non-profit organization to operate in a transparent manner. Anything less than that is unacceptable. Nothing is, nor should it be private, about changes in a Practice Act.

The two AMTA representatives, one of whom emailed me and the other who left a comment on my youtube page,  obviously feel differently than I do about this, and that’s their right. We can agree to disagree. But as much as I am personally mortified by this bill, I am even more mortified that someone would think that massage therapists shouldn’t be informed of what is going on in their own state, given the opportunity to weigh in on it, and to openly hear their professional organization’s stance on it, until after the fact. That doesn’t work for me, and it shouldn’t work for you. I have preached this sermon many times about knowing what is going on in your state, and this is a prime example of that.

Any state’s Practice Act may be up for changes at any time.  And when a precedent is set in one state, it’s that much easier to get it passed in another. Practice acts are always “open” to changes, assuming any interested party can manage to get it on the legislative calendar. Here in NC, we had a detrimental change that our Board had no knowledge of  at all until it was a done deal. That’s not a good thing–and keeping secrets from the massage therapists who are affected by proposed changes in legislation is not a good thing, either. I refuse to apologize for spreading the word, or for expressing my opinion on it.

23 thoughts on “The Utah Brouhaha

  1. Pingback: The Utah Brouhah | WIBB

  2. Edie Sims LMT

    I was kicked off the board for putting members needs first. The current Utah AMTA board has had its own agenda for to long…

    Thanks for opening up eyes around the state…

    Thank you
    Edie Sims LMT
    former 1st VP

  3. Tyffani

    Hey Laura, I am in Utah and very appreciative of your video. Without it, I would not have known anything was changing and therefore would not have the opportunity to contact my local legislators. This IS something that affects my business, and I should have an opportunity to weigh in and hopefully decrease the chance of this new definition of Massage Therapy. It is embarrassing that the AMTA Utah Chapter did not share this with every MT in Utah. Please do continue to share things with us from NC! That is ridiculous that I had to find out about a UT bill from a fantastic friend in NC, but I (and the many MT’s I have shared this info with) appreciate you for sharing!

  4. Julie

    Thanks for following up on this Laura.

    Yes that is the way of AMTA. I have run into that before with our WA State AMTA when I went to a volunteer day to see if I wanted to join and help them. I heard so many things that day that I found appalling and I kept saying you have to get this out to everyone and they said NO – for whatever their reason. They didn’t want to create a panic. Well they should be creating a panic. That’s why I have never joined them although I have been thinking about it because of some insurance billing issues going on here in WA.

    Every single MT in UT should be at emailing today. Is there an AMTA UT facebook page?

    I am curious to know more about why they think they should not be sharing this info….

    Julie

  5. Kristen

    I am also glad you’re getting this information out there.

    I am very curious why the UT AMTA folks feel this would be a positive change. I sure cannot think of any reason why it would be beneficial for MTs there or anywhere else in this country.

    ~Kristen

  6. Katie

    Laura,
    you did the right thing. From what I gather it wouldn’t have made a difference if you had contacted them first. Sounds like something strange is going on in that chapter… I definitely appreciate you letting everyone know so we can all be prepared in the event that something completely outrageous such as this might be brewing in other states as well… No; I certainly wouldnt ever want to have to ever introduce myself as a “recreational” massage therapist…
    This whole thing is an outrage… Thank you for your dedication, concern to our profession and that you have the intelligence in knowing that we all needed to be made aware of this immediately!! Blessings… Katie

  7. Leslie Knee

    Good for you! We in Maryland had some sneakiness lurking through our massage board, and most of us never got wind of it through AMTA/ABMP via email until it was almost too late. Fortunately, therapists rallied through personal email lists and word of mouth, and got them to “revisit” the changes, which mainly affected our record keeping and continuing education.

    Lesson in all of this? I need to pay more attention. After 12 years of working in the field, and no longer teaching for the last few, I got lazy. I assumed things would just keep rolling right along, and I’d read whatever magazine or email came across my desk to keep informed. I used to attend board meetings with my students, so they could see how it worked. I’m heading back.

    I also want to put a fine point on your statement that once this starts in one state, it may travel throughout the rest. This should lull us out of our complacency.

  8. Elisabeth Wilcox

    It would AMTA Utah’s complete lack of action on anything that really decided me when I was renewing insurance this year. I went elsewhere with my money and my support. AMTA should support the therapists as much or more than the Therapists support it. They should be keeping their members and others informed, and actually follow through on things like this that can affect everyone. I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that Utah AMTA had very much let the profession and all Utah therapists down.

  9. Scott Rayburn

    Laura I applaud you! I know that legislators, lobbyists and unfortunately massage therapists attempt to “slide” through regulations and changes to serve their own interests but if you ask me this is very unethical behavior. We make every effort to operate transparently here in our board activities. And the wording changes in the UT bill is defamatory to their massage therapists! Everybody knows who I’m referring to when I use the term “recreational massage”. And I’m very disappointed to hear of Julies experience with her state board. It’s a fact that every board has it’s own personality and often agendas. But I would like reassure Julie that not all state boards operate in this manner and AMTA is responsible and ethical organization. Julie I would suggest that you take the steps to become involved in your state board and start making changes!

  10. Marilyn Nelson

    What you expose here sounds so antithetical to a healthy, honest, trustworthy organization — I would hope that the national AMTA would get involved. If I lived in Utah I would definitely look to finding a different professional affiliation. And if the national AMTA organization doesn’t look into this I would question my affiliation with AMTA as well. Laura, thank you for speaking up and exposing this. I don’t like being a part of anything like this. (from Minnesota)

  11. Sue Peterson

    Let’s just make this much worse by calling some massage persons “entertainers” and others “therapists.”

  12. Sue Peterson

    To add fuel to these flames: In California, the law folks have often complained to m.t.s that they have a hard time licensing “entertainer” or “hostess” massage workers who meet bare minimum requirements to provide massage but seem to be offering their pleasant company and sympathetic touch to lonely men (comfort not sex). It drives them crazy. Is this Utah’s somewhat inept attempt to draw the line between therapy and comfort? Would even the “entertainer” or “hostess” massage workers like to be labeled such?

  13. Heather

    I don’t really consider my job “recreational”. I studied for 20 months to get through a program that was demanding. I love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else. I like my job so much that I don’t really even consider it a job.

    It is time for AMTA members in Utah to vote with their feet. If you don’t like something stop paying the fees that they charge for membership. Then take action outside of the organization and educate people about your career. Knowledge is power.

  14. Sue Shekut

    Laura,

    While I agree that MTs have aright to know what is going on and that the term “recreational” massage is not a step forward, I’d like to hear more from AMTA-UT WHY they choose to keep this issue quiet. What’s the real story behind the politics? I don’t believe it is as simple as it appears. What’s AMTA-UT’s end game?

    In my experience with AMTA-IL, the local volunteers were not sure how to present a change to Chicago legislation that effectively segregates new massage businesses to areas where used car lots and tattoo parlours are allowed. They did not want to aid fuel to the fire and set us back even more by being blatently honest about what transpired in city counsil. And there were a number of political considerations the local chapter was trying to avoid. They chose to keep mum about some issues (like who in the city council were the trouble makers) so that they could mount a more proactive attack down the road. Working with legislators is a tricky situation. Some politicians are very sensitive to attacks on their egos. Sometimes losing a battle in the short term means winning a war down the road.

    I don’t know the actual facts in the Utah case, but after I blogged about our situation in Chicago when AMTA-IL was quite about it, I joined the local AMTA-IL chapter and am trying to work from within to see that they follow through with promises to combat the legislation. Having a new mayor in Chicago that is opposed to one of the chief promoters of the legislation restricting massage businesses may also help make repealing the restriction easier. And as an individual MT, I can say things in my blog that a national organization may not want to be as up front about.

    I hope the Utah AMTA and MTs in Utah are successful in protecting legitimate massage. In the long run though, I think working on improving our educational standards and media perception of massage will do more to protect us from being perceived as providers of recreational massage. IMHO Keep up the good work Laura! At least we are talking about it!
    Sue

  15. Jeanne Riley

    Laura, Thank you for watching for things like this and for sharing the info. I am not from Utah, but once again I am so glad to know someone like you is paying attention and helping spread the word. I am guessing you never sleep.

  16. Laura Allen

    Sue, I also reported on the Chicago mess while that was going on. Initially a lot of MTs mobilized and showed up at the city council meeting to stop it. A few months later it was slid in again.

    UT’s stance was that they deliberately kept quiet so no special interest groups would seize upon their practice act being open to make detrimental changes.

    What people seem to forget is that EVERY state’s practice act can be opened at any time by any group or individual that can manage to get it on the legislative agenda. It has happened in NC and neither our Board nor AMTA knew anything about it until it was a done deal.

    Secrecy in government is never a good thing. Public boards and non-profit organizations are obligated by the law to conduct their affairs in a transparent manner. Furthermore, AMTA probably represents less than 20% of the therapists in UT based on their average membership in other states. Everyone has the right to know what is going on in their state, not just AMTA members.

  17. Tracy Smodilla

    Hi Laura:

    Indeed the recent situation in Utah is concerning, but it is a symptom of many problems within the “big picture”. While I do not support the actions by the Utah DOPL or the management of the amendment by the AMTA Utah chapter, it is important to consider a few of the problems that may have contributed to the Utah amendment:

    1) DOPL advised the Utah AMTA Chapter because there must be a history of a relationship between them, but not the ABMP or the AMTA National office. In speaking with a Utah AMTA Chapter member about the AMTA National’s involvement (or lack of ), he stated that (sic) “it was happening so quickly that they didn’t have time to wait for National to decide whether or not they would help them.” There is conflicting information about how “engaged” the National office was in this, however, I have heard the Utah attorney who was parcel to this issue sent a letter to the AMTA National GR office praising them for their support of his position.

    2)The ABMP or the AMTA National offices both tout legislative tracking services that would have put the issue on their radars. While the AMTA Utah chapter did have responsibility to reach out to their National office and membership in this situation, it was also incumbent that the national organizations to reach back to the chapter with support and out to the membership.

    3) We also need to remember that these are volunteers and without support and substantial training on GR issues, mistakes are bound to happen. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Utah chapter understood at the time that they did in fact have the right to vehemently oppose a misguided amendment that was essentially a regurgitation of language from an ignorant and uninformed attorney defending someone practicing “adult entertainment”. I suspect that the Utah volunteers may have felt “bullied” or pressured under the short timeline and perhaps didn’t understand that they didn’t have to acquiese to this bad legislation that serves only to confuse the public, and codify illicit activity.

    4) The language can be replealed. But until then, all stakeholders should be contacting the Utah DOPL and legislators and members of Utah State Legislative Committees on Healthcare, Professional Licensing and Licensing activities (or similar committees in the Utah state legislature).

    Regarding Chicago, you should know that the AMTA IL GRC has made considerable progress with the City. Navigating the political landscape here is not easy and requires considerable deliberation and mindful relationship building. The AMTA IL GRC currently has a working relationship with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and they are committed to a long-term partnership. As a result the AMTA IL GRC has been able to provide assistance to Chicago LMT’s and massage establishment owners, both AMTA and ABMP members alike; we have not been discriminant.

    As a point of clarification, the AMTA-IL along with some LMT’s testified before the Chicago Zoning Committee in April ’10, two days before the amendment was to go to a vote before the city council. We were successful in building coalitions among the local chambers of commerce in Chicago and many aldermen and managed to have the vote deferred and published at the time of the first vote. Knowing that there was substantial opposition to the vote, the sponsoring alderman relied upon the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee to resurrect the amendment under “Old/Unfinished Business” at the June ’10city council meeting.

    I know that some MT’s took the initiative to attend the sponsoring alderman’s ward meeting sometime in April ’10, but their presence was seen as an affront to him. I applaud their enthusiam, but because of the nature of personalities here, we sometimes need to be very mindful of our approach with some personalities in elected leadership.

    Last, I agree in the necessity for transparency at all levels of government. But how do we encourage managing organizations, volunteer boards and stakeholders to more actively partner together in the name of protection and progress?

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