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Inside the Actors’ Equity and Off-Broadway League New Collective Bargaining Agreement

New York, NY – Earlier this month, Actors’ Equity Association and the Off-Broadway league announced that they have entered into a three-year collective bargaining agreement. Actors’ Equity represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. The Off-Broadway League was founded in 1959 to foster theatrical productions produced in Off-Broadway theatres, to assist in the voluntary exchange of information among its members, and to serve as the collective voice of its membership in pursuit of these goals.

Calandra Hackney, assistant executive director for discrimination and harassment prevention/eastern regional director,

The agreement begins retroactively on August 1, 2021 and expires on July 28, 2024.

Key provisions of the contract include:

  • Pay increases for actors and stage managers that provide long-term financial security
  • Updated language around Diverse and Inclusive Casting and Hiring policies and practices
  • Creation of new work schedules during rehearsal workweeks and tech time that provide actors, stage managers and producers with continued flexibility
  • Removal of gender binary-based distinctions wherever possible in audition, hiring, rehearsal and production processes
  • Enhanced language and policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment, along with clarified procedures to address complaints
  • An option for producers to make their Off-Broadway productions available to a broader audience base through streaming platforms

LaborPress reached out to an Equity spokesperson to find out more.

LP: What COVID-19 protocols and other safety requirements are now in place?

ES: Throughout the pandemic, the union has continuously updated our COVID safety protocols, studying the science under the supervision of Dr. David Michaels, former head of OSHA under President Obama. The Off-Broadway protocols in particular account for issues like proper ventilation, COVID testing, distance from audiences and more.

LP: How will this agreement increase diversity and inclusion? What are the new hiring policies and practices as they relate to these issues?

ES: Calandra Hackey, assistant executive director for discrimination and harassment prevention/eastern regional director, says: “This agreement allows both Equity, its members and the Off-Broadway League to collaborate on initiatives that include intersectional training around such topics as anti-racism, racial justice and cultural competence, ensuring diverse and inclusive employment submissions for stage managers and continued work towards dismantling implicit bias and addressing the overall lack of representation in hiring and casting processes in our industry.

We were also able to achieve comprehensive EDI language that recognizes harassment, discrimination and bullying as safety issues, clear definitions of those terms and most importantly the extension of time that a member has to report any instance of harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace. These gains allow Equity to feel confident about our members returning to work with partners providing safe, inclusive, and diverse workplaces.”

LP: How will the new work schedules increase flexibility for actors, stage managers, and producers?

ES: This new agreement creates additional flexibility by moving to a five-day rehearsal week and shortening tech days to 9½ hours, requiring producers to pay extra if they wish to work on the sixth day or extend the tech rehearsals. Historically, a stage manager or actor’s work schedule has been built around a six-day, eight-performance work week, often including rehearsal periods. Leading up to performances, many often forego their one day off in tech rehearsals that last up to 11 ½ hours with minimal rest.

Both sides expect the longer workweek and longer rehearsals will become the exception, not the rule, affording actors, stage managers and producers greater work-life balance.

LP: What percentage of actors and stage managers are currently employed, that were not previously employed due to COVID-19?

ES: COVID shut down most live theatre for over 16 months. We are thrilled to see theatres reopen across the country and more of our members actively employed. Off-Broadway alone will bring hundreds more of our members back to work.

“This agreement puts everyone on the path to recovery after an unprecedented period of uncertainty for our industry,” said Casey York, president of the Off-Broadway League. “Our goal heading into these sessions was always to secure a long-term deal that would provide members with clarity and stability coming out of the pandemic, and we have achieved that with a new three-year agreement. I am also incredibly proud that this agreement will also help increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the Off-Broadway community through new hiring practices, while also strengthening industry policies to address harassment and discrimination. I want to thank our incredible co-chairs for their hard work over these past few months. They have shown a tireless commitment to achieving a fair and equitable deal. We look forward to bringing artists and audiences back to our venues with the guidelines necessary to do so safely and equitably.”

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