New York— Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, has concluded its first-ever convention, from April 25 to 27.

Because it is not yet safe to convene in person, the delegates met remotely to recommend policy for the future of the union in accordance with the convention’s theme: “Equity: Solidarity in a New Era,” as well as to attend breakout sessions to learn more as member leaders and hear from guest speakers. 

Guest speakers included AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, and Fedrick C. Ingram and Zach Law Ingram. Federick serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers and is a music teacher. Zach Law Ingram is an Equity member and choreographer who began his own company, 6 o'Clock Dance Theatre, in January of 2014. Equity President Kate Shindle and Executive Director Mary McColl also addressed the delegates. 

The following resolutions were adopted at the convention, listed in the order in which they were approved. Most resolutions are advisory to Equity’s National Council.

  • A Plea for International Artists:
    Amending Equity's constitution, bylaws, collective bargaining agreements and codes to remove membership restrictions involving International Artists and Immigrant Artists. 
  • Organizing Cruise Ships:
    Recommending that Equity organize cruise ships, making sure this work already being done by members is under contract. 
  • Racism/Safety:
    Increasing protections involving racism by creating contract language that emphasizes that racism makes for an inherently unsafe workplace. 
  • Work-Life Balance Support Act: Education/Training and Protecting Members from Pregnancy and Sex/Gender Discrimination:
    This resolution recommends that council prioritize education and training on existing legal rights regarding pregnancy discrimination, pregnancy-related harassment and other forms of sex/gender discrimination for members and all those who represent Equity. 
  • Unified Resolution to Address Harassment:
    This resolution puts forth several recommendations to combat workplace harassment, including reporting data about harassment reports and implementing a three-strike system to bring charges against accused harassers. 
  • Audition/Interview Safety:
    This resolution focuses on audition injuries: recommending a path forward to protect members and improve conditions, including a reporting platform for injured members. 
  • Extending Protections to Ensemble Work in a Play:
    This resolution recommends providing the same contractual benefits to ensembles in non-musical plays that exist for chorus members in musicals. 
  • Single-Payer Healthcare:
    This resolution would ensure that the union will actively support universal national single-payer healthcare legislative initiatives. 
  • Transparency and Confidentiality:
    This resolution recommends changing confidentiality practices in the union. This would include council issuing meeting reports and that a full staff list be made available to membership. 
  • Cancelling Concession Culture:
    Drastically reducing or eliminating the granting of concessions and gaining the assent of affected members before agreeing to them. 
  • Fight Captains:
    Creating and making readily available an electronic volume of resources to inform Fight Captains, and the membership at large, of the duties, rights and best practices of the role. 
  • BIPOC Inclusion on Disciplinary Hearing Committees:
    Tasking council with creating a process that mandates the presence of BIPOC members on all disciplinary hearing committees as well as establishing an Anti-Harassment Working Group to codify this practice. 
  • Stipulations on Remote Work for Stage Managers:
    Recommending more specific guidelines on the role and duties of stage managers in remote work contracts, including access to/use of electronic equipment. 
  • Sexual Harassment Training:
    Developing a theatre-specific harassment training program for union members and requiring they undergo anti-harassment training annually. 
  • Membership Outreach:
    Recommending that council instruct and advise the union to be more proactive in its outreach to future members. 
  • The Black Theatre Matters Bill:
    • Article I: AEA History Restoration and Preservation Act:
      The establishment of a History Restoration and Preservation Committee, dedicated to the past, present and future recordkeeping for the union.
    • Article III: Under The Umbrella Act:
      An initiative to organize as-yet non-Equity communities, such as Spanish-language theatres.
    • Article IV: Environmental Sustainability Through Digital Engagement:
      Increasing digital access to auditions as well as creating for purchase a bi-annual commemorative membership card.
    • Article V: The Equity Spectrums:
      Establishing a publication tracking the hiring practices of all of the Actors’ Equity Association’s bargaining partners, accessible to the public.
    • Article VII: The Strategic Plan:
      Holding a referendum about changing the name of the union and potential future mergers with other unions.
    • Article VIII: Lift Every Voice Act:
      Increasing digital access to union business, including meetings and elections, as well as publishing meeting attendance records online.
    • Article IX: Growth and Prosperity Act:
      Establishing standards for the union’s real estate investments.
    • Article X: Fallen Soldier Act:
      Publishing the name, picture and obituary on social media for every Equity member who passes on.
    • Article XI: Agent of Reconciliation:
      Recognizing Indigenous people in mentions of U.S. land in the union’s communications.
    • Article XII: Black Lives Still Matter:
      An update to the “Black Lives Matter” statement issued by council in June 2020. 
  • Living Wages for Stage Managers and Actors:
    Demanding living wages in all collective bargaining agreements. 
  • Technology Retrofit:
    Outlining several suggestions to update the union's technology systems, including going mostly paperless and revisiting the online audition signup system. 
  • Equity’s Mission and Purpose:
    This resolution reaffirms Equity's foundational principles, including wages and benefits, worker advocacy, contract enforcement and safe workplaces free of discrimination and harassment. 
  • Black Equity in HMU:
    Recommending steps to ensure that Black performers have adequately equipped professionals to be employed in hair and makeup on Equity productions. 
  • Increased Sick Pay:
    Recommending the union prioritize sick pay in contract negotiations. 
  • Actor-Musician Resolution:
    Recommending that the union take steps to set standards for executing a safe and fair actor-musician workplace. 
  • Revise the Access to Union Membership:
    Restructuring how theatre workers join the union, broadening the criteria to actors and stage managers who can represent that they have been contracted and earned verifiable income from their craft. 
  • Reinstating Special Membership Meetings:
    Reinstating the provision for a critical mass of members to call for a special membership meeting. 
  • In Support of Stage Managers:
    Recommending equal inclusion of stage managers in the union, including increased communication with stage manager members and education of membership and producers regarding the role of stage managers. 
  • Solidarity and a Just Industry Recovery:
    Acknowledging the challenges the theatre industry currently faces in the pandemic and recommending council reaffirm its commitment to fairness and solidarity as the industry rebuilds. 
  • In Solidarity, Change the Name of Our Union:
    Asking the union to change its name to be more equitable and inclusive for all of its members. 
  • Negotiation Priorities Omnibus:
    ​This omnibus resolution passes the following ten resolutions on negotiating: 
  1. Actor-Musician:
    Recommending that the union prioritize actor-musician terms in negotiations including pay, instrument care, and specific workplace guidelines. 
  2. Audition Liability Insurance:
    Recommending that council prioritize negotiating language in all union contracts that requires employers to disclose their liability insurance carrier. 
  3. Black Equity in HMU:
    Recommending that theatres be required to employ skilled hair stylists and makeup artists that work in all hair and skin types and that the names of those professionals be reported to Equity.  
  4. The Black Theatre Matters Bill Article VI:
    Recommending that when members are asked to utilize a special skill set that they are compensated appropriately. 
  5. Creating Accessible, Human-Centric Working Conditions by Eliminating 10 Out of 12s and Six-Day Workweeks:
    Taking steps to end “10 out of 12” workdays and six-day workweeks. 
  6. The Elimination of Five Show Weekends as a Regular Performance Schedule:
    Prioritizing the removal of a heavy show volume from contracts. 
  7. Ending EMC Wage Exploitation:
    Asking that the union require employers to document that they are meeting labor law expectations when using the EMC program. 
  8. Hazard Pay and Stunt Consent:
    Recommending that the union explore adding hazard pay for actors performing difficult stunts or intense levels of combat in stage performances. 
  9. In Support of Stage Managers:
    Recommending that “Capital A” in equity contracts be replaced by naming stage managers and actors.  
  10. Work-Life Balance Support Act: Education/Training and Protecting Members from Pregnancy and Sex/Gender Discrimination:
    Recommending that Council will negotiate language in contracts that will protect members from pregnancy or sex/gender discrimination. 
  • Increase Contracts and Pay Outside of Office Cities:
    Asking council to make a focused effort to increase the number of contracts and pay at theatres outside of office cities. 
  • The Walt Disney World Resolution:
    Including the Theme Parks Committee and members who work at Walt Disney World in decisions related to the Walt Disney World contract. 
  • Communication and Member Engagement:
    Outlining recommendations to improve inclusivity within Equity’s governance structure, including continued use of virtual platforms for meetings and information gathering, a public calendar of all meetings and a revamped website.
  • Stage Management Negotiation Concerns:
    Outlining several recommendations for how to prioritize stage managers during the development of new contracts, as well as during contract negotiations, including their role in pre-production. 
  • Making Surveys Work for the Association:
    Reviewing member surveys to ensure that they are crafted without bias or leading questions and that the membership is aware when they may have inadvertently opted out of survey mailings. 
  • Equity for Caregivers:
    Dedicating financial and other resources to ensure that caregiver members may fully participate in the governance of the union and that their needs, as well as protections for pregnant people, be prioritized during contract negotiations. 
  • Job Share Program for Parents and Caregivers:
    Recommending that council seek to negotiate a Job Sharing Program clause into every union contract, allowing for members to essentially share an on stage or stage management track. 
  • COVID Era Communication:
    Proposing specific recommendations for how the union communicates with both membership and collective bargaining partners during and about the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Ending EMC Wage Exploitation:
    Asking that the union take steps to prevent unpaid internships in its Equity Membership Candidate Program. 
  • Amending AEA Rules of Order:
    Asking Equity's council to amend the bylaws to expand its rules of order beyond solely Robert's Rules of Order for union business. 
  • Protect and Enhance Members Retirement and Health Benefits:
    Recommending that Equity’s contract with its Executive Director include a requirement that said Executive Director must be named one of the union’s Trustees of the Equity-League Benefits Funds. 
  • Live Virtual Auditions:
    Prioritizing live, virtual auditions, rather than self-tape ones, during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Utilizing Local Members Knowledge for Contracts:
    Prioritizing working with Equity members outside of office cities when organizing contracts that affect said members.

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks

April 28, 2021