Engagement by our members empowers our union, and is driven by clear communication from leadership. We will help you engage with AEA, because a union is only as strong as its members.
For years, it’s been a common refrain among those running for Council that Equity needs to improve its communications. Our members desperately want a union that knows how to reach out, knows how how to listen, and knows how to empower its members individually and collectively. Yet continually we elect Councilor after Councilor with the best of intentions of changing how we operate, but see very little change, if any.
Time and again we see Equity struggling to communicate meaningfully and effectively with the membership. Poor short- and long-term strategy has seen Equity on the defensive far too often with its own members, failing to recognize that the fostering of meaningful lines of communication and responsiveness engenders trust between the union its membership. Simply put, if the first time a stage manager or actor reaches out to Equity is when there’s trouble, it’s already too late.
#FairWageOnCouncil is committed to initiating a new era of engagement from Equity.
A union’s first priority must always be to negotiate fair wages and working conditions for its members, and the only way a union can do that is by engaging its membership to both understand their concerns, and to wield their collective power. We believe that Equity needs to dedicate proper attention and resources to member engagement, including facilitating membership’s understanding of our contracts, communicating more clearly and consistently about the union’s work on behalf of membership, and empowering and enlisting members in the fight for better wages. We should engage in educational outreach to acting students and other future Equity members, who will form our backbone once we’re gone.
We know how to do this.
The #FairWageOnCouncil slate of candidates have demonstrated time and again that we can not only talk the talk, but walk the walk of communication, engagement, and empowerment of the stage managers and actors of Equity.
During the Off-Broadway Contract negotiations, we crafted a letter to our employers that detailed the ways in which our members’ lives had become unsustainable, and 1,105 of our fellow members signed their names to it. We delivered this petition by hand to artistic directors across New York, putting faces and names behind the demands being made by Equity.
We went theater to theater throughout New York City, talking and listening to each and every company working Off-Broadway to answer questions about the negotiations, and prepared them for further action as the contract expiration approached.
We organized hundreds of members to make online videos, bravely communicating the hardships they faced, while still professing their love for our industry and artform, and their desire to be able to simply make a living.
We encouraged members to wear #FairWageOnStage buttons when they attended Off-Broadway productions, and to engage with board members, artistic directors, donors, audience members, and anyone else who was willing to talk about the cause of fair pay for stage managers and actors.
What we learned from these strategies is that when our members were informed, they became galvanized. Knowing what the union was fighting for at the table made them more interested in taking up that fight. It was this collective organization and activation that directly led to our success at the bargaining table, resulting in historic wage increases of up to 83% Off-Broadway.
We applaud Equity 2020. We look forward to using that increased nationwide engagement and organization as leverage to empower our negotiating teams to make our contracts more perfect.
While the National Council doesn’t have direct oversight of Equity’s communications strategy, it does direct the union’s resources, sets policy, and provides oversight of the execution of that policy. Electing the #FairWageOnCouncil slate of candidates will enable us to shift the conversation on Council, properly placing focus on issues of engagement that have too long gone unaddressed.
Equity’s website needs to be brought into the 21st Century. As a primary resource of information about the union for our members, we will advocate for it to be easily navigable, user-friendly, and up-to-date. All contracts, union rules, and other essential documents should be easily searchable. Members should be able to find relevant information quickly by searching keywords so they can get the information they need.
Likewise, while the new online EPA signup system is a long-anticipated and much-needed improvement, despite the increase in access it has created for members across the country, the the user experience has left much to be desired. Resources will need to be devoted to both policy and technological improvements to the system to ensure that the job access it provides to our members—which is one of the primary benefits of choosing to join our union—is being offered efficiently, effectively, and fairly.
Emails from Equity are too often uninformative, hard to read, and unfocused. Members are too likely to ignore communication from the union because they assume it will be either poorly executed, irrelevant, or simply illegible on mobile devices. We will advocate for mass communication that is targeted, precise, and relevant to the members most affected by the content.
Embedded videos have become the major way we digest information. Our constitution and contract stipulations have numerous items of significant interest that are unknown to the vast majority of membership. Easily-digestible, well-shot, short videos are inexpensive to produce and carry huge payoff in educating our membership. We will push for these to become more common and of better quality.
Our contracts are long and dense by necessity, but this serves as a roadblock to many of our members. The protections in a contract are rendered worthless if our members can’t or won’t read the rulebook. We will advocate for the creation of easy-to-digest contract summaries that will ensure members are informed, empowered, and ready to stand up for what they’re entitled to.
Perhaps most importantly, members have typically been left in the dark about contract negotiations. Leverage is critical to successful negotiations, and our 50,000+ members are being left as an untapped resource. This costs our members money. Once elected, we will insist on using our comprehensive internal organizing, engagement and empowerment of the members not just for necessary dues increases, but around negotiations, ensuring that the stage managers and actors of Equity are enlisted in achieving the fair wages they deserve.
For all of the changes we’d like to see in Equity’s ability to communicate, we can easily make this promise: #FairWageOnCouncil will always be ready, available, and eager to communicate and engage with you. We believe the duties of a Councilor include keeping an open line to the membership, and we stand ready to bring your values, ideas, concerns, and hopes into the Council room with us.
Equity is a great union, with a proud, tough, and diverse membership. But we will only be strong if we are organized, engaged and empowered. We will fight for this on Council.