Inclusion of underrepresented perspectives enriches the union and our industry. Fair wages ensure more voices can be heard. When art pays the rent, more people can make art.
Equity must do everything in its power to foster and maintain a diverse membership. Make no mistake: the lack of inclusion in our industry poses an existential threat to the survival of live theater as a vital and relevant art form. In recognizing the severity of this issue, the #FairWageOnCouncil slate of candidates will work for Fair Wages on all contracts, the creation of Safer, Accessible Workplaces for our members, and increased Transparency and Accessibility in Hiring Practices. We believe focusing on these priorities can foster a more inclusive union.
Fair Wages on all Equity contracts are at the heart of the #FairWageOnCouncil platform precisely because decent, livable salaries are the great equalizer in our industry. Low, stagnant wages hit early-career artists from working-class backgrounds the hardest, and those artists disproportionately come from black, brown, and/or rural communities.
Without fair wages, our members inevitably fall into debt, even when working steadily and achieving great artistic heights. They rehearse hungry. They call a show exhausted from working three jobs at once. If they lack trust funds, family support, or other financial privileges, they perform while plagued with worry about how to pay their bills and support their families. They are forced to abandon the art and profession they love because they cannot sustain themselves on substandard wages. And worst of all, we lose their talent, and their voices.
Our union must do better. Our contracts must be better.
#FairWageOnCouncil is committed to fighting unfair contracts at every turn. We will never support wages that do not properly reflect our employers’ actual ability to pay our members. We will refuse to allow producers to subsidize their work on the backs of our least fortunate members. For more about our commitment to Fair Wages, see the Wages plank of our platform.
Of course, Equity’s contracts are about more than just wages. The union has long fought for safe and sanitary workplaces for stage managers and actors, ensuring that our members need not fear for their physical safety while onstage, backstage, or in the booth. However, demanding Safe, Accessible Workplaces in the rehearsal room or at the theater isn’t limited to raked stages, clean water, and dry costumes.
Sexual harassment, racial aggression, anti-LGBTQ+ bias, and ignorance about accessibility for people with disabilities pose real and serious harm to the well-being of our members. Patriarchal structure, old-school prejudices, and outdated attitudes regarding acceptable behavior, language, and boundaries still abound, and age, race, orientation, and ability bias remain rampant in audition rooms throughout the country.
Unfortunately, the open nature of our work too often engenders miscommunication, and environments that are ripe for exploitation. Our members have too often been made to feel powerless to combat the real threats they face while at work.
Your current FairWagers on Council have been working with other Councilors to push for the creation of Equity’s recently announced President’s Committee to Prevent Harassment, with hopes to address basic member education on sexual harassment, clarity around the reporting process, and how to access resources; to add language about intimacy direction into contracts; to track and stop repeat offenders; to develop a Code of Conduct like the one SAG/AFTRA recently released; and to ensure a harassment-free environment so that people can feel safe and empowered at work.
And FairWagers on Council Claire Karpen and Kellie Overbey, in addition to their work with Equity, have also been active in TimesUp, organizing and participating in panels, town halls, and community events on sexual harassment.
Workplaces that are hostile to any artist are unfit for all artists, and pose a serious threat to an inclusive and diverse membership and industry.
#FairWageOnCouncil will further work to require that first rehearsal meetings, liaison committee meetings, and communication between deputies and the union place proper focus on workplace harassment and intimidation. Equity members have to know how to report incidents of harassment and intimidation, and be able to do so without fear of reprisal. They have to know and exercise their rights, and our union has to protect those rights more vigilantly. Clear and confidential lines of communication between actors, deputies, stage managers and Equity staff must be promoted, strengthened, and maintained.
Harassment and intimidation prevent artists from feeling safe. Truly safe and accessible workplaces allow us all to focus on our jobs and do our deepest work; to relax and perform without fear, confident in our job security. Being a stage manager or an actor is tough enough without having to navigate a minefield of prejudice, intimidation, and/or unwanted sexual attention. Our members must know Equity has their back. #FairWageOnCouncil will make this a top priority.
The inclusion of underrepresented voices in the theater offers artists and audiences alike the possibility to expand and cultivate our collective empathy. Without it, our industry will wither and atrophy. Our society at large suffers. We recognize that there’s only so much a union can do to foster an inclusive industry if jobs are not being made available to our underrepresented members. Lack of inclusion in casting and storytelling is a moral failure that can no longer be endured. Therefore, Equity must support and provide Transparency in Hiring Practices.
Despite making up a significant majority of the workforce, female stage managers are far less likely than their male counterparts to work on Production contracts. Actors of color, older actors, LGBTQ+ actors, and actors with disabilities are offered a fraction of the auditions their young, cis, het, white, non-disabled colleagues are offered. According to a recent Equity study, nationally between 2013 and 2015 60% of all contracts went to men, and 71% of all contracts went to white actors. And all too often, our employers are unwilling to even contemplate inclusive casting.
Your FairWagers are already working on contract committees and non-contract committees—such as EEO, Member Education and Tech/New Media—to ensure that inclusive language and policy are inherent in the contracts we negotiate and resources we develop.
In order to properly combat inequities, we must have access to information and statistical analysis about hiring practices within our industry. We applaud our union for monitoring and maintaining this information, and making it available to membership. From interview to open call to final callback, equal access to employment must be promoted and protected, and information on inclusion and accessibility in hiring is an essential first step to better representation. It holds our industry and our art accountable.
We also recognize that there’s only so much a union can do. There are limitations to what can be achieved with contract language and collective bargaining, and if our members truly desire to #ChangeTheStage and see a more inclusive industry, it will require creative thinking and action outside the scope of what happens in the Council room. As Councilors, we will do everything within the union’s power to encourage inclusive hiring practices by our employers, to be sure. But we will also use our platform as individual leaders in the industry to lead by example, and discuss steps individuals can take to make the theater truly diverse—like promoting inclusion riders for equitable hiring on and off stage for women, POC, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities.
#FairWageOnCouncil will promote and prioritize INCLUSION by demanding Fair Wages, Safe, Accessible Workplaces and Auditions, and Transparency in Hiring Practices. Every member deserves to create without fear. It’s Equity’s duty to ensure that everyone can afford to participate and thrive in this glorious profession.