Workers Left Behind as SAG-AFTRA Undercuts Equity Safety Rules, Health Care and Wages by Signing Equity Employers During the Pandemic

New York – Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement regarding SAG-AFTRA, which has undercut contracts and cost Equity members $154,000 in health fund contributions during the pandemic. 

Early on during the pandemic, Equity created temporary COVID-19 remote work agreements for longtime Equity employers based on employers’ existing collective bargaining agreements, all of which include health and pension contributions. From March through September, these agreements resulted in more than 3,400 work weeks, generating $2.5 million in earnings and more than $670,000 in contributions to the health fund. 

“As a union, our job is to ensure that workers are protected with fair pay, benefits and a safe workplace. This is supposed to be a matter of solidarity throughout the labor movement,” said Kate Shindle, President of Actors' Equity Association. “Our duty during this unprecedented emergency is to ensure that members can continue to work for their Equity employers to earn fair wages - and health insurance during a pandemic -  and to assist our theaters in retaining their subscriber base. It is beyond frustrating that instead, we are now having to argue over whose fence is where. And it is completely unacceptable to have a sibling union tell us to our faces how “supportive” and “helpful” they want to be, while their staff is contacting our employers and offering cheaper contracts.”

Since the pandemic began, members reported to Equity that SAG-AFTRA began signing agreements with Equity employers that undercut the Equity terms and conditions. The union has tracked some 60 productions signed with SAG-AFTRA, with some members reporting they are put on “deferred compensation” agreements that undercut Equity wages. Productions that should have been Equity contracts amounted to an estimated $600,000 in lost earnings and $154,000 in lost contributions to the Equity-League health fund. 

In some cases, Equity stage mangers have been excluded entirely, had their contracts revoked or been offered work as independent contractors without workers’ compensation protections.

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

October 8, 2020