New York, NY – This week, the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), which represents stage performers here in NYC, called for a strike and issued a “Do Not Work” order. This comes after two years of attempts to negotiate a new contract with the Broadway League, which represents producers and theater owners, among others.
Last year, was the highest-grossing year on record for Broadway, yet salaries on the “Lab Agreement” have not changed since 2007. Many of the performers contribute significantly to the creation of new shows throughout the development process, yet are not compensated, and get none of the profits, except in a small number of cases.
“It’s unconscionable that Equity members who go to work developing some of the biggest hits on Broadway have gone more than a decade without a raise, especially when we regularly read about many of those same shows smashing box office records and generating billions of dollars in revenue,” Equity president Kate Shindle said.
The “Do Not Work” order tells union members, “As an Equity member, you may not perform or stage manage without an Equity contract… Under no circumstances may you rehearse or perform in any company without a properly executed and signed Equity contract. You face union discipline and risk losing your membership for any violation of this membership rule – which applies even if your membership is inactive.”
Despite its stern-sounding order, members are also reassured by a message from the union that their best interests are at the heart of this action, “Your union is working to get a raise for you when you are working to develop a new show. We are working to ensure that Broadway rehearsal time is paid appropriately, and we are working to ensure that actors and stage managers share in the success if the producer makes a profit. To get this, we need to strike.”
The union went on to tell members, “We’ve heard from countless Equity members who have worked on Labs and in show development. The work has fundamentally changed since the Lab was created. Equity members in the Labs are making creative contributions and should be compensated fairly. They are writing new lines and developing original choreography. That means they should be able to share in the profits when a Lab goes on to become a Broadway hit.”