A team of actors and stage managers hired by a non-union touring production of the musical “Waitress” is seeking union representation, encouraged by the growing focus on working conditions in the theater business and the recent success of the labor movement in other industries.
The Actors Equity Association, a trade union representing 51,000 performers and stage managers, said it had collected signatures from more than 30 percent of workers required for the election and submitted an election petition to the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday. , Which conducts such selections.
The number of victims is low – Equity has 22 actors and stage managers on the tour – but the move is significant because Equity is trying to organize a non-union tour for the first time since a failed attempt two decades ago. To unify a touring production of “The Music Man”. (The union wanted to boycott that production.)
Union officials said the “waitress” tour was an obvious place for an organizational campaign due to an unusually clear comparison: there are currently two touring companies for that musical instrument, one represented by the union and one not. Equity says one-third of what union workers are doing is being paid to workers on non-union tours, and they have less security. (Minimum union actor salary is $ 2,244 per week.)
“We thought it was unfair and unfair, so we went to them to see if they were interested in representing us,” said Stephanie Frey, the union’s director of organizing and organizing. Frey said the productions were so similar that some non-union performers were asked to teach performers in union productions, and some went from non-union productions to union productions. “It’s a clear group of people being exploited,” he said.
Jennifer Ardizon-West, chief operating officer of the NETworks presentation, the company that produces the non-union “waitress” tour, declined to comment immediately, saying “it is too early for me to comment until we see the actual filing.”
Tours are an important, and profitable, part of the Broadway economy. The 2018-19 theater season – the last full season before the epidemic – saw the United Touring show earn $ 1.6 billion according to the Broadway League, with 18.5 million people attending. Similar statistics are not readily available for nonunion tours, but Frey said, “Nonunion tour world has grown over the last 15 years.”
Equity is in the process of hiring two additional organizers as it seeks to expand its efforts, according to David Levy, a union spokesman who cited recent successful efforts to organize some employees at REI, Starbucks and Amazon. The National Labor Relations Board said last week that the number of applications for union elections was increasing dramatically.
Frey said the closure of the long-running epidemic of theaters also contributed to a new interest in organizing in the theater industry. “Workers are feeling a little over their strength and want to fight differently for what they deserve,” he said.