New York – As the live arts industry begins to restart, and work increases as the pandemic diminishes, Actors’ Equity Association, the national union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, has announced a new Open Access membership policy, allowing any theatre worker who can demonstrate they have worked professionally as an actor or stage manager within Equity’s geographical jurisdiction to join the union. 

Previously, eligibility for union membership had been limited to those working for an Equity employer – whether by direct contract offer or through the Equity Membership Candidate program – or to members of a sibling union. Now, Equity is broadening access to union jobs that offer living wages, benefits and important workplace safety provisions. 

“The old system had a significant flaw: It made employers the gatekeepers of Equity membership, with almost no other pathways to joining,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “The entertainment industry is disproportionately white, including and especially theatrical leadership. The union has inadvertently contributed to the systemic exclusion of BIPOC artists and others with marginalized identities by maintaining a system in which being hired to work those contracts was a prerequisite of membership. We hope that artists from all backgrounds will join us in building a union that uplifts the entire theatre community, especially those who have not felt included or welcome in the past.” 

Additionally, the Open Access policy invites former members of Equity to rejoin the union without having to secure a new Equity contract, as required under previous policy. Former members and former applicants for membership who choose to join Equity under this policy may also apply previously paid initiation fees toward their current application.  

Open Access is effective immediately for actors and stage managers who wish to join or rejoin Equity, regardless of country of origin or residence. Eligibility will extend for two years, with application and down payment of applicable fees required by May 1, 2023. Further details about the policy are available on Equity’s website. 

Background: Open Access is one of the pillars of the union’s Diversity & Inclusion Retrofit, Equity’s strategic framework for re-examining its own systems, structures and processes from the ground up to move Equity toward becoming an antiracist organization.

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

July 21, 2021