Nick Westrate

Eastern Principal Councilor Candidate

I’m a founding member of #FairWageOnstage, the grassroots movement that demanded an end to decades of stagnation, and gave Equity critical leverage last fall in securing wage increases of up to 83% Off-Broadway. Now our #FairWageOnCouncil slate is running to ensure FAIR WAGES, INCLUSION, PARTICIPATION, and ENGAGEMENT for actors and stage managers nationwide. 

Stage managers and actors are the essential element of theater, and it’s high time that we’re paid accordingly. We must elect a fresh slate of battle-tested members to achieve long overdue justice.

With #FairWageOnstage, I helped destroy the myth that substandard contracts were the norm, and can’t wait to do the same on every contract in every region.

Too long has our community been plagued by fear and worn the same path. We’re losing brilliant artists who can’t afford to finance our industry from their families’ pockets. I declared bankruptcy after working a full year Off-Broadway, so I know the struggle firsthand. Stage managers and actors deserve a middle class living.

I believe we can find dynamic solutions so small theaters can grow. Through vigorous engagement with our union, members and employers, we can build a thriving theater that nurtures stage managers and actors first. We must assert our place at the center of the conversation.

When we galvanize our community behind a common purpose, there is no limit to what we can achieve. We are the indispensable core of a multibillion dollar industry. We must stand up for fair wages, and generate work by demanding more union contracts across the country.

We must elect the courageous. It’s time for a change.

I hope that I can earn your vote over the coming weeks.

My philosophy and passion for fighting for fair wages is deeply rooted in my own experience. From 2011-2012 I worked in four consecutive Off-Broadway plays (Unnatural Acts at CSC, Love’s Labours Lost at the Public, Galileo at CSC, and Tribes at Barrow Street Theater), I won a special Drama Desk Award for my contribution to the theatrical season in New York that year, and two days before the ceremony I had to file for bankruptcy. What should have been a proud year for me was quite humiliating.
I had put my young career on credit cards because the contracts at these multi-million dollar theaters paid so little. I had been working mostly on Off-Broadway and LORT contracts in the 6 years prior, years of working low wage contracts negotiated by my union finally broke me financially. This is very personal to me. I have been homeless in New York for almost a year while I was working. That is why I came to this fight.

I don’t want to lose a generation of working class artists because they simply can’t afford to take the kind of financial risks that I did. The young artists that this affects most are those from minority and rural communities. If they aren’t given the opportunity to thrive, we will have a theater only for the privileged. That terrifies me.

I am passionate about demanding that theaters with the money pay us more. A lot more. Roundabout, Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theater Club should pay a production contract for their Broadway plays. They can afford it, and have massive budgets. Why has this been allowed to go on for so long?!

I know that every theater doesn’t have a huge budget, but there are plenty who do. They have been given low wage contracts because our union representatives have let it happen. I don’t pretend to know why these low wages have been perpetuated, but I think it is because a large part of our community is afraid, afraid that if we ask for more, we will loose work. Afraid that we will be replaced if we raise our voices. We must rise above this fear, and know that we are worth more.

Single bargaining unit theaters have to be judged by their operating budgets, and we need to make sure that stage managers and actors are their highest budgeting priority. I know that there are dynamic solutions to problems at each and every different theater. I would also love to find a way to honor theaters that do this already without being forced to.

I am also passionate about getting members to be more engaged with their union. I reached out to hundreds and hundreds of members over the 3 months that I ran the video campaign for FairWageOnstage. So many members are resigned to thinking that there is nothing that we can do, and I pleaded with a huge portion of the New York community, I got them to engage, to put themselves out there, and look what we were able to accomplish!

I also vehemently believe that progressive politics starts in the union hall. Organizing labor has always been the backbone of the American left, and there is nothing more important to the progressive agenda than wages for low paid workers. When low paid workers gain in pay and benefits our country rises. I believe that the most effective political act we can engage in at present is organizing. I am really really good at getting members to engage, and developing strategies to keep them engaged. I have organized all of the Fair Wage Onstage pub nights because I know that members need each other, and sometimes a bar is the place to talk about problems in the workplace. I want to help Equity do so much more to connect members with each other and to foster union activism through solidarity.

The different voices on this slate are what makes it strong. I found through the intense months and months of organizing that we did for Off-Broadway our personalities are incredibly different, and so are the ways we approach a problem. The different perspectives in our slate have taught me so much.
I talk to Erin Koster almost every day and not only does she educate me about stage manager concerns I had never thought of before, but she let’s me know about the challenges of parenting while being a working artist.
Nikka has so much institutional knowledge, and I learn about what chorus members face on and off Broadway from her. Mano has taught me so much about the particular challenges swings face and has so many dynamic and exciting ideas to better our 401Ks!
Claire has taught me loads about what pressure small companies like Fiasco are under, as she is one of its founders.
Carson teaches me about the history of labor all the time, his depth of knowledge is amazing.
I learn so much about what it is like to be a young actor of color from Jeffrey Omura, and we share a passion for advocating for LGBTQ stage managers and actors.
Kellie understands organizing and activism in such a massive way due to her work with “A is for…”- she teaches me patience and peserverence under pressure.

#FairWageOnCouncil is a collective of members who volunteers together tirelessly to help the union. We brainstorm, we listen, we work and work and work because we believe that we can make a difference. Through this collaboration we have come so share many priorities, the main one being fighting for better wages. After all…Wage is our middle name.

I hope you will feel free to contact me with any and all questions you might have.