OUR RESPONSE

TOOTSIE

FIRST NATIONAL MEANS ACTORS' EQUITY

In case you hadn’t heard, the First National Tour of Tootsie is going out non-Equity. As if this news wasn’t bad enough on its own, a hiring process for a full Equity tour had already taken place—with offers made to our members—before the rug was pulled out from under them, and their promised jobs taken away.

This would be devastating during normal times. But with all our workplaces shuttered, and the stage managers and actors of Equity left in uncertainty about when any of us might have a job again, it’s absolutely catastrophic.

Our members deserve better. Workers deserve better. People deserve better.

We’re angry, and we know that you are, too. Angry at the loss of work for our members. Angry at the loss of promised income and health weeks. Angry that after getting bona fide offers of needed employment, Equity members would simply be tossed aside, and in the middle of a global health and economic crisis get the message that “Sorry, we just don’t need you anymore.” It makes our blood boil.

But just as importantly, we’re angry because post-pandemic, stage managers and actors heading out on the road deserve to have union protections. We all know that being on tour brings with it its own particular set of challenges under normal circumstances, and the thought of workers being asked to travel the country for paltry pay, no benefits, and with questionable safety standards is infuriating. We don’t yet know what a safe return to work will look like, but at the very least we know that Equity members can be assured we won’t be forced to re-enter workplaces that haven’t been cleared by experts. Those who are eventually hired for this non-Equity tour will have no such assurance.

But, we’ve been here before. The very first seeds of the #FairWage movement were planted because members working on the Off-Broadway Agreement were angry—angry they couldn’t pay their bills, angry their employers were valuing set pieces over salaries, angry that their work and their worth wasn’t being properly valued and compensated.

What we learned, however—and continue to learn—is that anger is most useful when it gives way to activism. Back in 2016, we harnessed our anger and pivoted to what we call “Blue Sky” thinking. We challenged ourselves to think about what a perfect contract, a perfect industry, a perfect world would look like. And once we’d imagined it, we—alongside a thousand fellow members—set to work achieving it. We encouraged and empowered our union to take action, we organized the membership, we rallied, and we won. And in the four years since that first #FairWage campaign, we’ve seen this model successfully replicated, both for NEAT negotiations in Boston, and the #NotALabRat development strike.

This can be a pivotal moment: the issue of non-Equity touring requires some Blue Sky thinking and creative solutions, and we are here for both. Let’s vent our anger, and then let’s challenge each other to imagine what a perfect touring market will look like—not only in our near-term recovery, but to ensure long-term success.

Find out more about Blue Skying, our history, our platform, and our plans here.