what we believe and how we want to get there

here’s the short of it…


Wages must reflect our contribution with higher salaries and more union jobs. A labor of love is still labor, and what we cost should be based on an employer’s ability to pay.


Inclusion of diverse perspectives enriches our art and our union. Fair wages ensure more voices can be heard. When art pays the rent, more people can make art.


The decisions we make affect your lives and livelihoods. We believe deeply in unionism and worker-driven governance of our union. That belief is built on trust. We always endeavor to earn that trust.

…and the long of it
(get wonky with us! click a plank to read the platform in full)


Wages must reflect our contribution with fairer salaries and more union jobs. A labor of love is still labor, and what we cost should be based on an employer’s ability to pay.

The #FairWage movement originally began as small meetings of rank-and-file members in living rooms; stage managers and actors all working on the same contract and who believed it could be better. Those meetings blossomed into a larger movement built by engagement, organization, activism, and courage; becoming a pressure group of rank-and-file Equity members separate from, but working alongside the union. Together, we encouraged Equity to bargain harder, and gave the union the critical leverage needed to turn the Off-Broadway Agreement into a fairer contract, achieving historic wage increases of up to 83% over the span of the contract—a direct response to those very members who chose to meet in those living rooms. Members who could not afford their rent or other basic expenses—some to the point  of declaring bankruptcy—even after working the contract 52 weeks of the year.

Galvanized by this success, we’ve spread the movement nationwide, electing a total of 19 #FairWage candidates to Council from cities all across the country, because all stage managers and actors deserve fair wages. 

#FairWage Councilors and #FairWage core members on Equity committees are championing new philosophies of negotiation and change. We read the contracts. We research. We reach out to our fellow workers. We ask why things are the way they are. And, if the answer is, “Because it’s good enough,” or, “That’s the way it’s always been done,” we work to get you a better deal, to make your contracts stronger, changing the atmosphere on contract committees. In doing so, we inspire others to do the same, empowering our electeds to ask for more, because you deserve it—because the work you do is important. Since 2017, when the first group of #FairWage Councilors was elected, we have been able to deliver on three significant campaign promises in the form of major policy changes at Equity. Working both with engaged rank-and-file members and in partnership with the entire National Council, #FairWage has helped enact:

        • Our signature Judge It by the Budget policy, which states that when negotiating or promulgating agreements, the union will assess a not-for-profit employer’s ability to pay our members based on their total financial picture, not just on their box office receipts, empowering us to consider the whole of a theater’s current circumstances when determining what is fair.
        • Elimination of the Dues Cap, so that ALL members pay the same percentage of their salaries in working dues, rather than higher earning members paying a smaller percentage, coasting on those who make negotiated minimums.
        • Modernization of Conflict of Interest Policies, giving staff power to enforce rules preventing employer-members from attending cast meetings, membership meetings, and participating in governance, and creating mechanisms that protect members’ anonymity when voicing concerns about employer-members, protecting those reporting  from repercussions.

The current #FairWageOnCouncil candidates want to carry this work forward, because too many of Equity’s agreements still don’t accurately reflect an employer’s ability to pay. Now that Judge it by the Budget is Equity policy, it’s time to put it into action, and your #FairWage Councilors are already at it, working with Equity staff and their fellow Councilors to begin examining not only how we might approach future negotiations differently, but also examining the entire contract structure at Equity, with the hopes of improving and streamlining negotiating processes that will ultimately result in stronger, better, and fairer contracts for our members and our employers. 

Judge It by the Budget is the foundation. Now is the time to help us build, and the Fair Wage On Council slate of candidates are best prepared to do the work. Overall, #FairWage incumbent Councilors, core non-councilor members, and allies on committees are already shifting the conversation within the union, and committees and Council are becoming more judicious about concessions.  And they’re bolder in negotiations: for the recently ratified NEAT contract, the negotiating team secured a 28% salary increase over the life of the contract, elimination of free overtime hours during tech, doubling the stage manager tech bump, and contract gains in all three categories, proving that, even in a market where theaters employ both union and non-union talent, you can go for money AND jobs. 

The #FairWage movement saw the need for change Off-Broadway, and we all came together, over a thousand of us, to make a change. We righted that ship, but we had taken on so much water from decades of substandard wages, that we’re not yet coasting. And we have ships to turn all over the country. We’re sensitive to specific regional concerns and want to hear your needs and wants. And we will listen. Local members should drive local change. We ask that you empower the #FairWageOnCouncil slate of incumbents and candidates to help us to continue to spread this change nationwide.

With your help, WE CAN DO THIS.


Fair Wages on all Equity contracts are at the heart of the #FairWageOnCouncil platform because decent, livable salaries are an equalizing force. 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 the privilege of a safety net, these artists are forced to abandon the art and profession they love because they cannot sustain themselves on substandard wages.

Our union must do better. Our contracts must be better. #FairWageOnCouncil is committed to championing fair contracts at every turn. 

Of course, Equity’s contracts are about more than wages. The union has long fought for safe and sanitary workplaces for stage managers and actors, ensuring our members’ physical safety while onstage, backstage, or in the booth. However, demanding Safe, Accessible Workplaces in our industry isn’t limited to raked stages, clean water, and dry costumes. Sexual harassment, racism, anti-LGBTQ+ bias, hostility towards pregnant and caregiver artists, and a lack of intentional accessibility for people with disabilities are just a few issues that pose real and serious harm to the well-being of our members both on and off stage. Antiquated attitudes regarding acceptable behavior, language, and boundaries still abound. The open nature of our work too often breeds interactions that are ripe for exploitation.

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.

The inclusion of underrepresented voices in the theater offers artists and audiences alike the possibility to expand and cultivate our collective empathy. 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. Therefore, Equity must support and provide Transparency in Hiring Practices. Despite making up a significant minority of the workforce, cis-male stage managers are overrepresented on Production contracts when compared to cis-female, trans, and/or non-binary SMs. Actors of color, older actors, LGBTQ+ actors, and actors with disabilities are offered a fraction of the auditions their young, cis, hetero, 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. In order to properly combat these and other 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 will continue to push for renewed efforts for transparency on this front. 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.

The work:
  • Incumbent #FairWage Councilors Kellie Overbey, Claire Karpen, and Nikka Graff Lanzarone have worked on the President’s Committee to Prevent Harassment in combatting sexual harassment, clarifying reporting, implementing a confidential hotline, and envisioning and moving toward a harassment-free environment so that people can feel safe and empowered at work.
  • And incumbent #FairWage Councilors 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.
  • #FairWageOnCouncil incumbent Jeffrey Omura is the Chair of the International Actors Committee, working to make Equity’s membership policies more inclusive to immigrant actors, while aggressively enforcing our exchange agreement with UK Equity to expand opportunities for our members to work overseas.
  • In Chicago, #FairWage candidate Bear Bellinger has worked on a free resource to assist casting in finding actors who have self-identified within many of the protected classes in order to facilitate a more representative stage. He has also worked as a writer, panelist, consultant, facilitator, and mediator advocating for the many ways we can foster a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive work environment both on the stage and in the world at large.
  • #FairWage candidates Bear Bellinger, David S. Cohen, Brian Myers Cooper, and Leslie Sears, incumbent Councilors Claire Karpen, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, and Jeffrey Omura, and incumbent Eastern Regional Vice President Sid Solomon are all working hard within the EEO Committee to ensure we support protected classes within our union and look forward to continuing to press our committee to cultivate the type of progressive policies which can make our union an inclusive space for all peoples.
  • #FairWageOnCouncil incumbent Councilor Erin Maureen Koster is a Vice Chair of Equity’s Parents Committee, championing the needs of pregnant and caregiver artists. Goals include negotiating terms for working caregivers into our agreements, while also achieving dependent care for those serving the union, removing barriers that too often keep caregiver artists off of negotiating teams or the National Council itself. She is also an ambassador and #FairWage advisor to the Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL), a national community, resource hub, and solutions generator for parents and caregivers in the performing arts and the institutions who support them. #FairWageOnCouncil and PAAL proudly partner in the fight for fair compensation as it helps all workers, including those with family responsibilities, and share the goal of eliminating discrimination against caregivers in our field in all its forms.

Of course, #FairWageOnCouncil recognizes that this work is never done. The heart of that work is constant education to ensure that we can do all in our power to create a more inclusive industry. The goal posts of inclusion are ever-shifting as we come to terms with the reality of how many voices have been marginalized by our society over time.  From tough conversations about inclusive casting, to informative articles about what constitutes workplace harassment, to brainstorming sessions surrounding how best to address the binary language in our contracts, #FairWage members are daily pushing each other to grow beyond our own experience.

We revel in the discomfort of learning. We cherish perspectives that expand our minds. We work to bring more voices into the conversations that reshape our ideas of what is fair. We reach out and we listen so we can better represent YOU.


The #FairWage movement started with a series of meetings in living rooms—stage managers and actors sitting together and dreaming of what their contracts would look like if they were perfect. There were only two rules: No limits on what could be imagined, and no complaining. Just “Blue Sky thinking.”

The ethos of those initial meetings—labor consciousness, Blue Sky-ing, and daring to dream big—remain at the heart of what it means to be a #FairWager, and how we continue to value engagement in our work as both grassroots activists and as members of Equity’s National Council. Since the first #FairWageOnCouncil candidates ran in 2017, Engagement has always been a cornerstone of our platform.

Engagement, though, is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot in our elections—words like “communication”, “transparency”, “experience”—often to the point of feeling like they have no meaning at all, despite their obvious import. Every candidate vows that they will listen and learn and represent their fellow members, and they should! But it doesn’t really help define specifically what it is that you should expect from your Councilors once they’re elected.

So, driven by the guiding principles of our founding, here is our commitment to you, a look at what we’ve been doing, and what you can always expect of us moving forward:

  • First and foremost, as stage managers and actors, we will bring labor consciousness with us to our workplaces—talking about our worth as workers, sharing the values of solidarity, and encouraging Blue Sky thinking among our fellow members as we practice our art. The work of being a union leader begins at work, and we will proudly lead from the front lines of rehearsal halls, dressing rooms, decks, booths, and stages across the country.
  • As Officers and Councilors, we will challenge each other to broaden our understanding of Equity’s workforce, and the realities of their lives. Our union has dozens upon dozens of contracts, some of which only exist at a single theater. No single stage manager or actor will ever be able to have firsthand experience working every agreement, so it’s incumbent upon us to speak to and learn from those members who do.
  • We will create safe, collaborative spaces for discussion of the issues facing our members across the entire country. Just as we have sponsored Pub Nights and Town Halls in the past, we have now instituted weekly #FairWageFridays via Zoom that allow us to connect to each other in these unprecedented times. We hope these will continue both beyond the election and beyond our current period of social distancing.
  • We will be experts at turning our engagement with you into action for you. We have refined our ability to turn the germs of ideas into new, exciting, sometimes even groundbreaking Council policy by mastering the union’s governance system and processes. And we have built deep, meaningful, lasting relationships with our fellow Councilors from across the country, eagerly receiving the experience of those that came before us, while also forging consensus on the need for progressive change for our members.
  • We will lean enthusiastically into tough conversations. The #FairWage movement is made up of smart, creative, dynamic, and diverse people who challenge one another’s thinking and assumptions. We believe the best ideas often emerge from spirited debate between people who see and solve problems differently. We see disagreement not as a vice nor a threat, but as an opportunity. And we will always hear you and encourage your lived experience to inform our own.
  • We will strive to own our shortcomings and to learn from them, both individually and collectively. #FairWage came into being because we challenged the conventional wisdom of decisions being made on our behalf. And we want you to challenge our thinking, challenge the decisions we make. Because those challenges give birth to innovative ideas that will strengthen our union and our solidarity.
  • Finally, we will never forget that the decisions we make affect your lives and your livelihoods. We believe deeply in unionism, and in worker-driven governance of our union. That belief is built on trust. And we always endeavor to earn that trust.

This we promise to you. This is what Engagement means to us.

Think we missed something? Assumptions you’d like to challenge? A new perspective to offer?
Let us know. We’re eager to learn.