For the first time in twenty years, Actors’ Equity is organizing a national tour. They applied to the National Labor Relations Board after running a card campaign against actors and directors working in a non-union touring play. Waitress. They are currently awaiting a response from their employer, a touring production company. networks.
NETworks did not respond to a request for comment on this article.
According to Equity’s mobilization director, Stephanie Freythe main impetus for the unification of the tour was the fact that there are two Waitress tours are currently being held: one union, another non-union. On a non-union tour, actors and directors earn three times as much as workers on a union tour. Their daily expenses on the tour are so small that they dig into their own savings to pay for food and transportation. One performer works a day job. Others go into debt to pay their bills.
Despite the huge gap between what workers get at a union exhibition and what workers get at a non-union exhibition, the exhibitions themselves are essentially the same. The actors are equally talented, and union actors are trained from videos of performances from a non-union show. The show uses props and decorations. Sometimes they even split the performers. Actors who started a non-union tour were promoted to a union tour and even transferred to a Broadway show. According to Frey, the non-equity show is used as a talent pool: performers are trained and rehearsed on the show while being paid extremely low wages. These exploited workers, trained during the non-equity tour, can then be transferred to other industries. This saves time and money on casting and preparing for other shows.
This pool of low-paid but well-trained talent from the non-union show also helped the Broadway production. Waitress stay open during Omicron splash. When artists tested positive en masse and needed to be sent home, touring performers stepped into their roles and kept the lights on Broadway.
All of these factors have put Equity on alert, which over the past six years has changed its organizational philosophy and turned towards more active member participation. Frey told the Olx Praca that they “focused on the worker and how we can help the worker regain power in their workplace.”
Equity organizes this tour in a much friendlier working climate than anyone has seen in a generation. President Biden’s National Labor Relations Board helped in the huge organizing efforts of Starbucks and Amazon and inspired workers across the country to organize their jobs. Frey told the Olx Praca that the actors and leaders of the organizers of the non-union tour of Waitress were inspired to form unions because of the unionization of workers in other industries.
“I think we all really empower each other through our different jobs even in different industries,” Frey told the Olx Praca. “We hope we can inspire someone else who might be thinking about organizing their workplace.”
The widespread show of solidarity with workers’ unionization is both touching and highly strategic: however different these industries may be, when it comes to the anti-union tactics of their employers, these workers are all in the same boat. NETworks, a non-union touring company, has hired an anti-union law firm Littler Mendelsohn in the fight against the submission of documents to the NLRB by their employees. This is the same firm that Starbucks is using in its anti-union campaigns across the country.
Equity hopes that the organization of this tour will Waitress inspire other non-union tours to unionize. “My hope is that more and more people in our industry will take back their power and understand that just because there is a lot of workforce available in our industry, it doesn’t mean you need to be exploited,” Frey told the Olx Praca.
Performers need publicity early in their careers. They also need to pay their bills. The relatively high salaries and lengthy tours of Equity are a lifeline for actors, especially young performers. In an industry where volatility is the norm, where constant alternation between acting and retail and service jobs is commonplace, a stock tour can be your ticket to a degree of career stability. Growth of non-union tours at 21st. the century ate some of the income of actors and directors. Non-union tours are doubly unfair because tickets for these shows now cost almost as much as tickets for Broadway shows, even if the touring company spends the money. one third to one half on the production, because they pay their performers and directors so little.
In accordance with Gotham Gazette, these productions can remain non-union while maintaining close relationships with union shows, subcontracting and exploiting legal loopholes. As long as the producer is not a producer in the Equity documents, the show may run without a union. Broadway producers are members of the Broadway League and therefore cannot enter into non-equity contracts. However, this barrier does not prevent them from doing business with non-union touring companies. Actors’ Equity member and labor organizer Dana Steer told the Olx Praca that many of these producers have non-union producing partners through whom they license their show to a major touring company such as NETworks.
Thanks to such loopholes, the number of non-union tours has increased exponentially over the past twenty years. It is precisely because of these loopholes that union and non-union production Waitress share not only performers, but also managers. According to Frey, the producer of the non-union show is also the general manager of the Equity tour. The organization of this card campaign allowed Equity to root out such shady subcontracting between national touring companies.
“The work we do is the same work that our friends on the Equity tour do,” the non-equity tour members said in an interview. statement released by Actors’ Equity “so we’re asking our employers why we can’t be treated with the same respect.” These performers tried directly through management to increase their wages and working conditions, but to no avail. Now they have turned to Equity at a time of increased labor activity to help them on their path to unionization and fair treatment by their employer.