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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to spend a day with board members and other LMT’s (Licensed Massage Therapists) from the Illinois Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association. Since we’ve had so many legislative issues effecting Chicago and Illinois massage therapists, I wanted to do my part and put my two cents in on their annual Strategic Planning session. I want to share my observations with my loyal readers and any fellow massage therapists that read my blog.

What So Great About the AMTA?

First off, I recently rejoined the AMTA after quitting the organization about 6 years ago. I’ve been a member of the Association for Bodywork and Massage Professionals for the past 6 years or so instead. However, after seeing how proactive AMTA-IL has been, I decided to reactive my AMTA membership. Now, I belong to both organizations! Why, because both organizations do different things well. And two things I’ve seen AMTA-IL do really well this past year is to get out the word to massage therapists about pending legislation and to use the AMTA local volunteer network to access legislators on a few key issues. Unfortunately, AMTA and massage therapists efforts were not enough to stop two pieces of legislation from being passed–legislation that is damaging to massage therapists, and in my book, to the public as well.  But as the old saying goes, it ain’t over til it’s over. Or in this case, it’s not over until AMTA-IL  massage therapists, and the public in general, decide to stop fighting against legislation that is not in the public’s best interests nor in the best interests of the massage therapy profession. I just don’t see that fight ending any time soon. Legislation can be overturned or changed. New laws and ordinances can be written. It just takes effort. A lot of effort!

The Interesting People I Met at the Strategic Planning Meeting of the AMTA-IL Chapter

That all said, the Strategic Planning session was about 10 times more fun than I anticipated. There were about 25 people in a meeting room at a local Schaumberg hotel. The Chapter provided breakfast, lunch, treats (Fresh made cookies from the hotel kitchen as well as fruit, my favorite snack!) and beverages to keep us fortified and hydrated.

• I met “celebrity” massage therapist and winner of the  National Sports Massage Achiever Award, Nester Battaung. You would recognize Nester if you say him because his face is plastered all over Athletico ads in the area. Nester is fun, energetic and a former collegiate gymnast.

• I also spoke at length with  Becky Schwoebel, Senior Vice President of the chapter and a massage therapist in the eastern part of the state near St. Louis. If it hadn’t been for the meeting, I would never have met Becky since she practices and lives 5 hours away.

• One of the treats of the day was to hear stories about the history of massage therapy from Pat Malone, a man with a book inside his head, waiting to come out. (Write your stories into a history of the profession, Pat!)

• I also met Heather Rabbit in the flesh. In addition to being a Licensed Massage Therapist, Heather runs Infant Massage Classes at Swedish Covenent Hospital and she promised to share her infant massage video with me for this  blog. (Coming soon!)

• I also got to spend time with Mike Hovi, President of the IL Chapter and a real stud! (One of the bonding exercises we did was to draw a symbol that represented how we see ourselves. Mike drew a stud because he holds up/supports the chapter and, like a stud in the wall, he can’t do it alone.)

• Lastly, I met Robin Doerr,  an LMT from Elmhurst that runs her own massage business and has rooms for rent for other LMTs in the area. Robin and I have read each others comments on Facebook (and realized we were both WMTI grads!) but this was our first chance to meet in person and swap ideas about business and management.  She has since agreed to meet my Facebook challenge and plans to present at the upcoming  Spring Conference of the AMTA-IL.

What We Did at the Strategic Planning Meeting

We spent a great deal of time coming up with ideas to help promote Illinois massage therapists, and to educate the public, the medical community and our legislators about the massage profession. There are still many legislators (as evidenced by our recent City Council passing restrictive zoning ordinances) that don’t know the difference between massage “parlor” illicit activities and legitimate massage therapy.  There are also large segments of the population that don’t have access to or experience with licensed massage therapists, only with people pretending to be massage therapists but really offering illicit activities. We also talked about how massage therapists as a group need to be better educated about massage research, how to use it and how to conduct or design new research studies for massage therapy as well as about how to run their own businesses, market their practices and be successful.

The Future of Massage Therapy in Illinois

Some people may see this as a dark time for the massage profession because we’d had so many setbacks legislatively, in the media (The View, The Al Gore story, etc.) and with the struggling economy. I see it as a time of great opportunity for the massage profession to use these obstacles as a spring-board for a stronger, better educated, better organized, proactive approach to making massage an important part of mainstream health care, a practical low-cost stress management intervention for workplaces, and a partner with other health care providers. And the AMTA-IL Chapter is one big cog in this wheel of progress.

As only the recently converted can be, I hope I don’t come across as a zealot for the AMTA-IL chapter. I simply have high hopes for the over 3300 massage therapists in Illinois that rely on the guidance of the Illinois chapter. As one of  the over 3300, I am doing my part to help my fellow massage therapists, my clients and the public in general to live in a future world where massage is more respected, where massage therapists are better educated and proactive regarding legislative issues that effect our profession.  Mike Hovi will be publishing the results of the Strategic Planning committee to members soon and he will also be putting out a call to action to Illinois AMTA members with all the gory details.

A Great Opportunity for AMTA-Illinois Massage Therapists

If you are a LMT and a member of the AMTA-IL, don’t be intimidated (or bored) by the idea of working with the chapter. They need all of us to do even a small part. Sometimes they need someone to send emails or make phone calls or help out with mailings or other tasks. If you are an instructor with something valuable to share with other massage therapists, the chapter is looking for presenters for the upcoming AMTA-IL state conference in Itasca in April. If you are Facebook savvy and want to help out with the chapter Facebook pages (due to the mysteries of how Facebook works,  they have two Facebook pages for the IL Chapter!), they need help there as well. Link here and here.

How AMTA-IL Members Can Benefit Massage Clients

If you are a client of a Licensed Massage Therapist who is an AMTA member ask them what is going on with the Illinois chapter of AMTA. (Don’t know if they are? Ask them!) Your AMTA-IL massage therapist may be able to work with you to help provide outreach efforts in your community for charity events, community fairs or even give short talks about massage therapy to your group or church.

My Contribution to AMTA-IL State Conference in April

My friends, clients, and family know I am a very busy person. I run a business, have my own clients, and also started graduate school in Clinical Professional Psychology this fall. (You may have noticed my blog postings slowing down, Now you know why!) But I felt this Strategic Planning session was too important to miss.  I don’t have much time left in my jam-packed schedule to help out the AMTA-IL chapter, but I am fitting in what I can when I can. This spring I committed to presenting a Continuing Education session for my fellow massage therapists on Marketing their practices. If every busy, and especially not busy, of the over 3300 AMTA-IL massage therapists did just one thing, one task, one project, or attended one meeting, think of all the good that could come for the profession, for the lot of Illinois massage therapists and for the public.

I can hardly wait to see how this year unfolds. And see what my fellow AMTA-IL massage therapists and the chapter board members produce in the coming year. I will keep you posted as I find out!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Chicago City Council

I don’t know about you, but I am getting pretty exhausted by the ups and downs of this amendment to the Chicago Massage Establishment Act process. (More info from my previous posts here and here.) After all the hooplala about the amendment being voted on  in the Chicago City Council meeting on May 12….nothing happened. Well, not nothing, but the amendment did not come up for a vote and there was no word anywhere about the City Council meeting until today.

According to Alderman Moore’s Ward City Council Report, “You might recall from my last City Council report that I delayed a vote on a misguided piece of legislation that restricted the ability of “massage establishments” to operate in business districts.  Fortunately, this legislation did not come up for a vote at this City Council meeting, and I’m told discussions are underway to amend the proposal to make it far less onerous.  I will keep you apprised of this legislation, as well.”

UPDATE: The latest word from AMTA, as of May 15, 2010, is that the amendment did not come up for a vote and this may be viewed as a tentative win.

Thanks to each of you who contacted Chicago officials to voice your opposition to the proposed zoning amendment. The time you took to do this was worthy of the investment. At this time, we’ve stopped the amendment from going to a vote. Your emails and phone calls to city alderman have been heard.

At the same time, according to AMTA, there is still opportunity for this misguided piece of legislation to be reintroduced for full City Council vote on June 9th or any City Council Meeting between then and May 2011 when the new City Council is seated. The Zoning Committee needs only 48 hours notice to the City Clerks office to have the proposed amendment put on the City Council Agenda.

Therefore, the AMTA-IL Government Relations Committee will continue to dialogue with the City to effectively have the proposed amendment tabled (meaning it would not be reintroduced again). The AMTA is also expanding partnerships with City officials to ensure that the application process for a massage therapy business license is fortified and preemptive in an effort to mitigate illicit activity. AMTA will also continue to develop and bolster the relationships forged among other allied healthcare professions and the small business communities that have a stake in this issue.

I will keep you up to date as I learn more. For now, if you are so inclined, thank Alderman Moore for his efforts to make this amendment less damaging to legitimate massage businesses in Chicago!

Alderman Joe Moore  email: ward49@cityofchicago.org

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Thank You
Image by jaredchapman via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Thanks to the overwhelmingly negative reaction of massage therapists and the public, including those of you on this blog that wrote or emailed your alderman, today Chicago City Council defeated the proposed amendment to the Massage Establishment Act.

Link to Chicago Tribune  article about today’s vote here.

Thank you so very very much for taking the time to make your concerns heard. The AMTA and the ABMP are continuing to work with our aldermen to address the issue of massage “parlors” without causing harm to legitimate massage therapy businesses.

Thanks you, thank you, thank you!

Now back to wellness, stress management, nutrition, fitness and ergonomic topics!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It is with a very sad and heavy heart that I write this post. This morning, the City of Chicago’s Committee on Zoning passed the amendment to the zoning ordinance that would restrict  “massage establishments” to B-3 and C Zones despite testimony from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), a representative from Massage Envy and other Chicago massage therapists.

The amendment is now slated to for a full vote before the full Chicago City Council on Wednesday, April 14th that would immediately enact the ordinance.

The AMTA Illinois Chapter and I, and all the licensed massage therapists I know, continue to strongly oppose the amendment. The amendment is discriminatory and does not address the issue of illicit activity, the purported impetus of the original zoning amendment. And the worst part yet is the amendment does not allow legitimate massage establishments to operate in B-1 and B-2 districts (safe and busy retail districts where you can now enjoy your massages). It is still unclear if this means that 100’s of legitimate massage business in Chicago will have to relocate or go out of business!!!

WE CAN STILL STOP THIS AMENDMENT, BUT YOU MUST ACT TODAY! Time is running out! We have less than 36 hours for all fifty Chicago Alderman to hear us loud and clear.

On Tuesday April 13, please call, e-mail and write to the alderman where you live, work or patronize a massage therapy clinic !

We really need YOUR help, fellow Chicagoans! Please take just a few minutes to call or email your alderman or alderwoman today. Ask them to support legitimate, licensed massage therapists and local economies citywide and Vote NO to this amendment to the zoning ordinance!

Here is a sample email you can cut and paste or use and modify in your own words:

“As a client of a legitimate massage therapy business, I implore you to oppose the amendment to limit massage therapy establishments to only B-3 and C Zoning Districts.  I value the health care benefits of massage and do not want my legitimate massage therapist penalized for the actions of a few illegal massage parlor operators. I visit my massage therapist in a safe convenient location. I do not want to have to travel to an industrial corridor to get massage therapy. Approving this amendment to the Massage Establishment Act will put a huge financial strain on legitimate massage therapy businesses if they are forced to relocate, would make it unnecessarily difficult for new massage therapists to open a business, and could increase the city’s unemployment by putting legitimate massage therapists out of work.  It will not damage illegal massage parlors–it will only make it easier for them sell their illegal services in less populated areas. And it will hurt legitimate massage businesses and make it less safe for them to provide therapeutic, legitimate massage therapy to tax paying citizens like me. Please oppose this amendment.”

Feel free to cut and paste our sample email or write your own. I appreciate your help on this important issue!

City of Chicago Alderman Names and Emails by Ward

1st Ward Proco Joe Moreno ward01@cityofchicago.org
2nd Ward Robert Fioretti ward02@cityofchicago.org
3rd Ward Pat Dowell Pat.Dowell@cityofchicago.org
4th Ward Toni Preckwinkle tpreckwinkle@cityofchicago.org
5th Ward Leslie Hairston lhairston@cityofchicago.org
6th Ward Freddrenna Lyle flyle@cityofchicago.org
7th Ward Sandi Jackson Sandi.Jackson@cityofchicago.org
8th Ward Michelle Harris mharris@cityofchicago.org
9th Ward Anthony Beale abeale@cityofchicago.org
10th Ward John Pope jpope@cityofchicago.org
11th Ward James Balcer jbalcer@cityofchicago.org
12th Ward George Cardenas ward12@cityofchicago.org
13th Ward Frank Olivo (Zoning Committee Member) folivo@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 581-8000  City Hall Phone: (312) 744-3076
14th Ward Edward Burke (Zoning Committee Member) eburke@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: 773-471-1414  City Hall Phone: 312-744-3380
15th Ward Toni Foulkes Toni.Foulkes@cityofchicago.org
16th Ward JoAnn Thompson JoAnn.Thompson@cityofchicago.org
17th Ward Latasha Thomas (Zoning Committee Member) lrthomas@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: 773-723-0908 City Hall Phone: 312-744-7738
18th Ward Lona Lane ward18@cityofchicago.org
19th Ward Virginia Rugai vrugai@cityofchicago.org
20th Ward Willie Cochran Willie.Cochran@cityofchicago.org
21st Ward Howard Brookins ward21@cityofchicago.org
22nd Ward Ricardo Munoz rmunoz@cityofchicago.org
23rd Ward Michael Zalewski mzalewski@cityofchicago.org
24th Ward Sharon Dixon Sharon.Dixon@cityofchicago.org
25th Ward Daniel Solis (Zoning Committee Chair) dsolis@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 523-4100 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6845
26th Ward Roberto Maldonado Contact by Phone 773 395-0143
27th Ward Walter Burnett wburnett@cityofchicago.org
28th Ward Ed Smith (Zoning Committee Member) ehsmith@cityofchicago.org
29th Ward Deborah Graham Contact by Phone (312) 744-8805
30th Ward Ariel Reboyras ward30@cityofchicago.org
31st Ward Ray Suarez (Zoning Committee Member that sponsored amendment) rsuarez@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 486-6488 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6102
32nd Ward Scott Waguespack ward32@cityofchicago.org
33rd Ward Richard Mell rmell@cityofchicago.org
34th Ward Carrie Austin (Zoning Committee Member) caustin@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 928-6961 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6820
35th Ward Ray Colon (Zoning Committee Member) ward35@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 365-3535 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6835
36th Ward John Rice Contact by Phone 773)622-3232
37th Ward Emma Mitts emitts@cityofchicago.org
38th Ward Thomas Allen (Zoning Committee Member) tallen@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 545-3838 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6811
39th Ward Margaret Laurino (Zoning Committee Member) mlaurino@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 736-5594 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-7242
40th Ward Patrick O’Connor pjoconnor@cityofchicago.org
41st Ward Brian Doherty bdoherty@cityofchicago.org
42nd Ward Brendan Reilly Brendan.Reilly@cityofchicago.org
43rd Ward Vi Daley (Zoning Committee Member) vdaley@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 327-9111 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-3071
44th Ward Thomas Tunney ttunney@cityofchicago.org
45th Ward Patrick Levar plevar@cityofchicago.org
46th Ward Helen Shiller hshiller@cityofchicago.org
47th Ward Eugene Schulter (Zoning Committee Member) ward47@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: 773-348-8400 City Hall Phone: 312-744-3180
48th Ward Mary Ann Smith msmith@cityofchicago.org
49th Ward Joe Moore ward49@cityofchicago.org
50th Ward Bernard Stone (Zoning Committee Member) bstone@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: 773-764-5050 City Hall Phone: 312-744-6855
Note: Ald. Bernard Stone (50th Ward)  is the only Committee member that was opposed to the ordinance.  Thank you Alderman Stone!!!!!

A Better Idea For Massage In Chicago

In the meantime, the AMTA-IL Government Relations Committee is finalizing language for a model ordinance that would require massage therapy establishments to submit proof of state licensure when applying for business licenses or renewal (currently not done), and levying substantial fines for violations (also not currently done). Members of the Zoning Committee and a City Commissioner want to partner with the AMTA to address the issues of illicit activity in their wards without discriminating against licensed massage therapists and legitimate massage therapy establishments.

The AMTA proposal is designed to protect the public from illegal massage “parlors” without adversely effecting the business of legitimate massage therapists. But this proposal will likely fall on deaf ears if the current nonsensical and damaging amendment to the Massage Establishment Act passes on Wednesday.

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