Actors' Equity Association

Last updated

Actors' Equity
Actors' Equity Association logo.gif
FoundedMay 26, 1913;108 years ago (1913-05-26)
Headquarters Manhattan, New York City
Location
  • United States
Members
43,648 (2015) [1]
Key people
Kate Shindle (president)
Affiliations AAAA, AFL-CIO, FIA
Website www.actorsequity.org
Actors Equity Building, near Times Square Actors Equity Building 165 W46 in 2021 jeh.jpg
Actors Equity Building, near Times Square

The Actors' Equity Association (AEA), commonly referred to as Actors' Equity or simply Equity, is an American labor union representing the world of live theatrical performance, as opposed to film and television performance (which is represented by SAG-AFTRA). However, performers appearing on live stage productions without a book or through-storyline (vaudeville, cabarets, circuses) may be represented by the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). As of 2010, Equity represented over 49,000 theatre artists and stage managers. [2]

Contents

Actor's Equity Association is currently under the direction of President Kate Shindle. AEA represents more than 51,000 actors and stage managers nationwide (Though the US Dept of Labor lists the number closer to 40,000). [3] The AEA works to negotiate and provide performers and stage managers quality living conditions, livable wages, and benefits. [4] A theater or production that is not produced and performed by personnel who are members of the AEA may be known as "Non-Equity".

Background

Leading up to the Actors and Producers strike of 1929, Hollywood, and California in general, had a series of workers equality battles that directly influenced the film industry. Hollywood was producing what was considered the three most important IWA/WIR films in the post-Kruse era. The films The Passaic Textile Strike (IWA 1926), The Miners’ Strike (1928) and The Gastonia Textile Strike (1929), gave audience and producers insight into the effect and accomplishments of labor unions and striking. [5] These films were set apart by being current documentaries and not melodramas produced for glamour.

In 1896 the first Actors Union Charter was recognized by the American Federation of Labor as an attempt to create a minimum wage for actors being exploited. It wasn't until January 13, 1913, that the Union Charter failed. It later re-emerged as the Actors Equity Association with more than 111 actors with Francis Wilson as its founding board president. [5]

History

Actors' Equity president Francis Wilson (right) on parade with other leaders during the 1919 strike seeking recognition of the association as a labor union Leaders of Actors Equity on Parade During 1919 Strike.jpg
Actors' Equity president Francis Wilson (right) on parade with other leaders during the 1919 strike seeking recognition of the association as a labor union
Marie Dressler, Ethel Barrymore & others during the 1919 strike. DresslerBarrymore1919.jpg
Marie Dressler, Ethel Barrymore & others during the 1919 strike.

At a meeting held at the Pabst Grand Circle Hotel in New York City, on May 26, 1913, Actors' Equity was founded by 112 professional theater actors, who established the association's constitution and elected Francis Wilson as president. [6] [7]

Leading up to the establishment of the association, a handful of influential actors—known as The Players—held secret organizational meetings at Edwin Booth's The Players at its mansion in Gramercy Park. A bronze plaque commemorates the room in which The Players met to establish Actors Equity. Members included Frank Gillmore, who from 1918 to 1929 was the Executive Secretary of Actors' Equity and its eventual President, a position he held from 1929 to 1937. [8]

Actors' Equity joined the American Federation of Labor in 1919, and called a strike seeking recognition of the association as a labor union. [6] The strike ended the dominance of the Producing Managers' Association, including theater owners and producers like Abe Erlanger and his partner, Mark Klaw. The strike increased membership from under 3,000 to approximately 14,000. The Chorus Equity Association, which merged with Actors' Equity in 1955, was founded during the strike. [9]

Equity represented directors and choreographers until 1959, when they broke away and formed their own union.

1929 nationwide actors and producers strike threat

Membership (US records) [10]

Finances (US records; ×$1000) [10]
     Assets     Liabilities     Receipts     Disbursements

The Actors Equality Strike was a series of walkouts that started in 1927, which started out in smaller local theaters in Los Angeles but quickly grew to the Motion Picture stage. [11] During the series of nationwide walkouts, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences started issuing contracts for freelance film actors, which led Hollywood's actors and actresses to fear the loss of their jobs. The theater strikes combined with freelance contracts fueled the need for actors and stagehands to strike for better working conditions and pay. [11] Frank Gillmore, the head and treasurer of the Actor's Equity Association, understood that he would need multiple unions across the country in order to make a change in not only proper representation and pay, but in the ability for actors to be able to negotiate any contract that any studio would put out worldwide. On July 20, 1929, the Actors Equity would gain its first victory, which would give producers and actors a leg to stand on in their battle for equality. Over the course of thirty days (up to August 20, 1929) Mr. Gillmore fought to give the Actors Equity the ability to be the main representation of all actors, producers, radio personality, vaudeville performers, and agents in the country. This would also give all power and representation to one organization in order to create a more organized equality strike. [12]

Starting June 5, 1929, Frank Gillmore flew and attended several meetings in New York with the Heads of Broadway. After the meeting Mr. Gillmore notified the Actors Equality that appearances in sound and talking motion pictures has been suspended until the outcome of the meetings between Frank Gillmore, Equity's president, and the international Studio Crafts Union. Anyone else who is involved in the production of motion pictures was also encouraged to attend. [13]

Due to the negotiations taking place and the suspension of contracts through the Actors Equity, studios were desperate for actors to speed up production, which had dropped significantly. The New York Times stated, "It was pointed out that while the Equality regulations were in effect, about 2000 motion picture contracts, involving salaries said to amount to $500,000 were offered to actors in New York." [13] Any actor that was to partake in any contract not approved by the Actors Equity would be banished from the Union and would have to reapply for admission after negotiations were finished. [13]

By December 1929 the Actors Equity Association was well under the curtain negotiating terms to reset the movie stage under better conditions, but this was the least of their problems. In late December groups of theater owners as well as non-represented producers filed lawsuits to claim damages done by the Actors Equity Association's contract hold out. "The plaintiffs not only seek a temporary injunction against the defendants, pending trial on an order to show cause why a permanent injunction should not be granted, but also ask damages of $100,000." [14]

Effects of strike

The Actors Equity Association allowed small numbers of contracts to be negotiated over the next few years. In 1933 the Screen Actors Guild was created and took the place of AEA as the main representative for movie actors and producers. This allowed the Actors Equity Association to focus its efforts on live productions such as theatrical performances, while the Screen Actors Guild focused on movie production and non-scripted live performances such as minstrel, vaudeville, and live radio shows. [15]

Causes

In the 1940s, Actors' Equity stood against segregation. [6] When actors were losing jobs through 1950s McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist, Actors' Equity Association refused to participate. Although its constitution guaranteed its members the right to refuse to work alongside Communists, or a member of a Communist front organization, Actors' Equity never banned any members. At a 1997 ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the blacklist, Richard Masur, then President of the Screen Actors Guild, apologized for the union's participation in the ban, noting: "Only our sister union, Actors' Equity Association, had the courage to stand behind its members and help them continue their creative lives in the theater. For that, we honor Actors' Equity tonight." [16]

In the 1960s, Actors' Equity played a role in gaining public funding for the arts, including the founding of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Actors' Equity fought the destruction of historic Broadway theaters. [6] It played a major role in the recognition of the impact the AIDS epidemic was having on the stage. [17] [ circular reference ]

Joining

There are three ways to become a member of Equity: through an AEA contract, EMC points or via a sister union. If you are offered a position under an AEA contract you may join during the term of your contract. Alternatively, you can become a member by generating a number of Equity Membership Candidacy Points (EMC). They do this by securing a position at an EMC-participating theatre and then registering as a candidate for Equity. For every week they work at a participating theatre, they accrue a point. Performers are required to earn a minimum of 25 weeks of EMC work along with a $400 initial payment in order to become an official Equity member. You can also become a member by virtue of prior membership in a performing arts sister union: SAG-AFTRA, AGMA, AGVA or GIAA. To qualify through this means, you must be a member of the sister union for at least a year, be a member in good standing at that union, and have worked as a performer under the union's jurisdiction on a principal or "under-five" contract or at least three days of extra ("background") work. [18]

Contracts

Actors' Equity has a number of different contracts with a number of different rules associated with them. Each contract type deals with a specific type of theatre venue or production type. [19] These include, but are not limited to: Council of Resident Stock Theatres (CORST), Guest Artist, Letters of Agreement (LoA), League of Resident Theatres (LoRT) Small Professional Theatres (SPT), & Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA).

Actors and stage managers within Actors' Equity are not allowed to work in any non-equity houses, or on any productions in which an equity agreement has not been signed anywhere within Equity's jurisdiction. [20]

Presidents

See also

Footnotes

  1. US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 006-029. Report submitted June 29, 2015.
  2. Healy, Patrick: "Actors’ Equity Association Names Mary McColl New Executive Director". The New York Times, October 14, 2010.
  3. "UNIONS WITH SUBSTANTIAL MEMBERSHIP". wdr.doleta.gov.
  4. "actorsequity.org | About Actors' Equity Association". www.actorsequity.org. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
  5. 1 2 Steven J. Ross, Working-Class Hollywood (Princeton University Press, 1999) 221
  6. 1 2 3 4 Actors' Equity Association. "Actors' Equity: A 90 Year Celebration". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  7. Stevens-Garmon, Morgen (May 21, 1913). "100 years of the Actors' Equity Association" . Retrieved September 9, 2014., blog of the Museum of the City of New York
  8. http://www.sag.org/sag-timeline Gillmore on the Screen Actors Guild website
  9. "Timeline, 1919" Archived 2014-05-12 at the Wayback Machine actorsequity.org, accessed December 3, 2011
  10. 1 2 US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 006-029. (Search)
  11. 1 2 "SAG Timeline – SAG-AFTRA". www.sagaftra.org.
  12. "Equity's Setback". The New York Times (1923–current file); August 20, 1929; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times pg. 21
  13. 1 2 3 "Gillmore To Confer With Union Heads Here: Actors Notified Rules on ...", The New York Times (1923–current file); August 20, 1929; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times pg. 37
  14. "Equity Sued By Producers: Louis Macloon and Lillian Albertson Charge ...", Los Angeles Times (1923–current File); December 12, 1929
  15. "SAG History – SAG-AFTRA". www.sagaftra.org.
  16. Greg Krizman, webpage: "Hollywood Remembers the Blacklist", Screen Actor, January 1998 (special edition).
  17. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
  18. "Join Equity | Actors' Equity Association". www.actorsequity.org. Retrieved 2019-08-30.
  19. Khalili, Behnoosh (Feb 21, 2001). "Equity Contracts". Backstage. Retrieved Oct 17, 2019.
  20. "Contracts & Codes". ActorsEquity. Retrieved Oct 17, 2019.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Screen Actors Guild American labor union

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) was an American labor union which represented over 100,000 film and television principal and background performers worldwide. On March 30, 2012, the union leadership announced that the SAG membership voted to merge with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to create SAG-AFTRA.

Equity (British trade union) British trade union for creative professionals

Equity, formerly officially titled the British Actors' Equity Association, is the trade union for actors, singers, models, performers, directors, choreographers, designers, stage managers, and other creative workers in the United Kingdom. It was formed by a group of West End performers in 1930 and incorporated the Variety Artistes' Federation in 1967. As of 2017, it has approximately 43,555 members.

Stage management Theatre or event coordination and organization

Stage management is a broad field that is generally defined as the practice of organization and coordination of an event or theatrical production. Stage management may encompass a variety of activities including the overseeing of the rehearsal process and coordinating communications among various production teams and personnel. Stage management requires a general understanding of all aspects of production and offers organisational support to ensure the process runs smoothly and efficiently.

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists former performers union

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) was a performers' union that represented a wide variety of talent, including actors in radio and television, radio and television announcers and newspersons, singers and recording artists, promo and voice-over announcers and other performers in commercials, stunt persons and specialty acts—as the organization itself publicly stated, "AFTRA's membership includes an array of talent". On March 30, 2012, it was announced that the members of AFTRA and of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) had voted to merge and form SAG-AFTRA.

Ned Vaughn is an American film and television actor who served as vice president of the Screen Actors Guild prior to becoming the founding executive vice president of SAG-AFTRA. He resigned that position on 21 August 2013, when he announced he would run as a Republican candidate for California's 66th State Assembly district, representing Los Angeles County's South Bay region. However, he later withdrew from the race.

The Associated Actors and Artistes of America (4As), established in 1919, is the federation of trade unions for performing artists in the United States. The following unions belong to the 4As:

Residuals are financial compensations that are paid to the actors, film or television directors, and others involved in making TV shows and movies in cases of reruns, syndication, DVD release, or online streaming release. Residuals are calculated and administered by industry trade unions like SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America, and the Writers Guild of America. The word is typically used in the plural form.

A background actor or extra, is a performer in a film, television show, stage, musical, opera or ballet production, who appears in a nonspeaking or nonsinging (silent) capacity, usually in the background. War films and epic films often employ background actors in large numbers: some films have featured hundreds or even thousands of paid background actors as cast members. Likewise, grand opera can involve many background actors appearing in spectacular productions.

An Equity card is proof of membership in the Actors' Equity Association of the United States or Equity in the United Kingdom.

American Guild of Musical Artists

The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) is the American labor union that represents about 8,000 active and retired opera singers, ballet and other dancers, opera directors, backstage production personnel at opera and dance companies, and figure skaters.

The Broadway League, formerly the League of American Theatres and Producers and League of New York Theatres and Producers, is the national trade association for the Broadway theatre industry based in New York, New York. Its members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers in New York and more than 250 other North American cities, as well as suppliers of goods and services to the theatre industry.

Rhoda Williams

Rhoda Elaine Williams was an American actress who voiced Drizella Tremaine in Walt Disney's Cinderella.

Frank Gillmore

Frank Parker Gillmore was an American playwright and a stage and early film actor. He was a founder and former President of Actor's Equity.

Leslie Hoffman

Leslie Hoffman is a former American stunt performer, stunt coordinator, and actress.

SAG-AFTRA American labor union governing media professionals and entertainers

The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is an American labor union representing approximately 160,000 film and television actors, journalists, radio personalities, recording artists, singers, voice actors, internet influencers, fashion models, and other media professionals worldwide. The organization was formed on March 30, 2012, following the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG-AFTRA is a member of the AFL–CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States.

1919 Actors Equity Association strike

The 1919 Actors' Equity Association strike officially spanned from August 7, 1919, to September 6, 1919. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the theatre industry was revolutionized by powerful management groups that monopolized and centralized the industry. These groups created harsh working conditions for the actors. On May 26, 1913, actors decided to unionize, and they formed the Actors' Equity Association. After many failed attempts to negotiate with the producers and managers for fair treatment and a standard contract, Equity declared a strike against the Producing Managers' Association on August 7, 1919. During the strike, the actors walked out of theaters, held parades in the streets, and performed benefit shows. Equity received support from the theatrical community, the public, and the American Federation of Labor, and on September 6, 1919, the actors won the strike. The producers signed a contract with the AEA that contained nearly all of Equity's demands. The strike was important because it expanded the definition of labor and altered perceptions about what types of careers could organize. The strike also encouraged other groups within the theatre industry to organize.

Pamela Gaye Walker

Pamela Gaye Walker is an American actress, writer, director, and producer for film and theatre. She is a member of Actors' Equity Association (AEA), and Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (SAG-AFTRA). She is the founder and President of Ghost Ranch Productions. She is known for Shakti's Retreat (2013) and Trifles (2009).

The 2016–17 video game voice actor strike was a strike started in October 2016 by the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union against 11 American video game developers and publishers over failed contract renegotiation terms that had been in discussion since February 2015. Principally, the union sought to have actors and voice and motion capture artists that contribute to video games be better compensated with residuals based on video game sales atop their existing recording payments, while the industry companies asserted that the industry as a whole eschews the use of residuals, and by giving the actors these, they would trivialize the efforts of the programmers and artists that are most responsible for the development of the games. In exchange, the companies had offered a fixed increase in rates and a sliding-scale upfront bonus for multiple recording sessions, which the union had rejected. Other issues highlighted by the strike action include better transparency in what roles and conditions actors would perform, more safety precautions and oversight to avoid vocal stress for certain roles, and better safety assurances for actors while on set.

Michael Hodge was an American actor and labor union executive known for his recurring roles on Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where he often portrayed judges and detectives. Hodge was a longtime union activist and board member for the former Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and its successor, SAG-AFTRA, for more than sixteen years.

Jeffrey Omura American actor, activist, labor leader, and organizer

Jeffrey Omura is an American actor, politician, and labor organizer.