Wages must reflect our contribution in the form of higher salaries and more union jobs. A labor of love is still labor, and what we cost should be based on an employer’s operating budget.
#FairWageOnstage was born from a singular frustration: the wages being paid to stage managers and actors Off-Broadway were woefully insufficient and unfair. While our employers built new facilities, constructed lavish sets and costumes, and paid significant salaries to full-time administrators, Equity members were left struggling to make ends meet.
What began as a series of small meetings between rank-and-file members in living rooms, blossomed into a movement built by engagement, organization, activism, and fearlessness. Together, we gave Equity the critical leverage necessary to turn the Off-Broadway Contract into a fairer agreement for our members, achieving historic wage increases of up to 83% over the span of the contract.
Something had to change. #FairWageOnstage made that change happen.
Now our #FairWageOnCouncil slate of candidates—made up of founding members of the #FairWageOnstage movement—is seeking election to foster similar change nationwide. Too many of Equity’s agreements remain fundamentally unfair, offering contracts and wages that don’t accurately reflect a producer’s actual ability to employ and pay our members.
Wages are at the core of our platform because the ability to make a living as a stage manager or actor is crucial to the survival of the American theater. Unfair wages create imbalances in our workforce and union membership that pose existential threats to our vitality. When only the wealthy can afford to work in live theater, live theater suffers. Consequently, we are committed to refocusing the union’s priorities and organizational direction towards fair wages on every single Equity contract.
In order to be better equipped to judge the fairness of our contracts, members of #FairWageOnstage have been hard at work since the completion of the Off-Broadway contract negotiations, researching and compiling information and statistics on the financial capabilities of our employers nationwide. We’ve examined their operating budgets, executive staff compensation, and how their growth has compared to the wages they’ve agreed to pay our members. This research has been both enlightening and frustrating. The more we learn, the more we see that much of what we’ve been conceding—in terms of salaries, Equity/non-Equity ratios, and company categorization—is unfair, with stage managers and actors getting a disproportionately small piece of the pie.
We firmly believe that a producer’s ability to fairly pay stage managers and actors must be based on the entirety of their revenue. While commercial producers primarily take in money from box office receipts, not-for-profit companies have multiple sources of income including ticket sales, charitable contributions, and return on investments. Unfortunately, many of our agreements with our non-profit employers base our salaries solely on box office receipts, rather than on the entire operating budget of the organization. Too often, our pay is based on the number of seats in the theater rather than the dollars in the coffers of the company. Full-time administrators aren’t paid less based on the size of the room they work in. Why should our members be?
Something has to change. The #FairWageOnCouncil slate of candidates want to make that change happen.
How exactly will electing #FairWageOnCouncil impact your paychecks, and move our agreements towards fairness? Equity’s National Council approves the contracts that determine what our members are paid, and does so in three distinct ways: Negotiation, Promulgation, and Committee Approval.
Contracts like Production, LORT, COST, and CORST are negotiated through collective bargaining. Input and feedback are solicited from various Equity committees regarding these contracts, from which the National Council approves a set of proposals and priorities for its negotiating team. The team then sits across the table from groups of our employers and fights for the best deal it can get, with the National Council having final responsibility for evaluating the terms agreed to, eventually giving its stamp of approval.
Once elected, we promise to accept nothing less than what is truly fair on negotiated contracts. We will not shy away from sending our negotiating teams back to the table if the deal they’ve reached doesn’t properly reflect our employers’ actual ability to pay our members.
Other Equity contracts are promulgated, such as SPT, Guest Artist, and Special Appearance. Rather than being the result of a negotiation, these contracts are created internally, using input from Equity staff, Councilors, and committee members to determine what our members need and deserve when working for producers under these agreements. Already, members of the #FairWageOnCouncil slate have begun to populate the committees that work to oversee these contracts, and a strong presence on the National Council will allow us to have even more of a say in the terms set forth.
Once elected, we promise to accept nothing less than what is truly fair on promulgated contracts. We will not shy away from significantly amending or rejecting committee proposals if they do not require fair compensation for our members.
Finally, we have employers that we refer to as “Developing Theaters” that produce on Letter of Agreement (LOA) contracts. These agreements are individually negotiated by Equity staff with the producers before being sent to one of Equity’s three regional Developing Theater Committees for committee approval. Many factors are examined when evaluating a Developing Theater, including an employer’s production budget, the needs of stage managers and actors in the city and region, the producer’s history of salary increases, and even the inclusiveness of their hiring practices. There are already a number of #FairWageOnCouncil candidates serving on Equity’s Developing Theater Committees, and electing our slate to the National Council will further empower them to provide oversight of these agreements.
Once elected, we promise to accept nothing less than what is truly fair on committee approved contracts. We will not shy away from rejecting proposals of the Developing Theater Committees if they do not appropriately reflect the producer’s actual ability to pay our members.
#FairWageOnstage saw the need for change Off-Broadway, and we made that change happen. We ask that you empower the #FairWageOnCouncil slate of candidates to help spread this change nationwide.