February 11, 2004
Actors’ Equity Gears Up for Production Contract Negotiations
Quinn, Eisenberg Predict “Tough Road” Ahead, Urge Members To Get Involved and Stay Informed Non-Equity Tours, Health Contributions Are “Front Burner” Issues
Contract Expires June 27, 2004
With the expiration of the Production Contract Negotiations only five months away, preparations have gone into high gear across the country and at all administrative and political levels of the Association for what Equity President Patrick Quinn calls “the most important contract negotiation in our 90-year history: the 2004 Production Contract Negotiations.”
Echoing President Quinn’s remarks, Alan Eisenberg, who will be Equity’s Chief Negotiator, coined the upcoming negotiations “seminal - certainly the most important negotiations in my 22 years as Executive Director.”
The Production Contract is Equity’s “flagship” agreement, born out of the historic 1919 strike. In 2002-2003, total earnings topped $127 million, generating 65,864 workweeks for actors and stage managers on Broadway and the Road.
Equity’s leadership is predicting tough times at the bargaining table, intensified by the crisis on the road and escalating heath insurance costs. “Many unions nationwide are facing obstinate employers, who are demanding wage cuts and high health insurance contributions from their employees. In California, for example, 70,000 supermarket workers are striking to hold the line on health care. Every industry has been hit by the health care crisis, and now we’re on the front line,” said Quinn.
Meanwhile, Equity workweeks on the road have dropped by 44% in the past six seasons, due to the incursion of non-Equity tours. Fewer jobs mean that contributions to the Equity-League Health Funds have decreased, exacerbating the current health crisis. In response, Equity’s Council authorized a $1.6 million road campaign last fall, targeting the non-Equity tours including MISS SAIGON, produced by Big League Theatricals. The Union has recently expanded its protest activities to two other shows, OLIVER! and OKLAHOMA!
“It is crucial that the entire membership, not just the Broadway community, but actors and stage managers around the country, get involved and stay informed as the negotiations begin,” said Quinn and Eisenberg. “The outcome of these negotiations will affect everyone, regardless of where they live. You must, absolutely must, talk to your fellow actors, stage managers, musicians, stage hands, family and friends about the importance of supporting Equity’s Negotiating Team.”
To spread the word, Quinn presided over a star-studded 90th Anniversary gala in Los Angeles, and received support from SAG President Melissa Gilbert and AFTRA President John P. Connolly. Eisenberg has already visited Los Angeles, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Orlando, meeting with members-at-large, liaison committee members and the Central and Western Regional Boards. Equity Internal Organizer John V. Fahey is continuing to meet with Broadway casts as well as road companies and members in liaison cities. More meetings will be announced.
The ABC’s of Negotiations - How Does It Work
The bulk and most important part of negotiations – the organization, involvement and mobilization of the membership – takes place away from the bargaining table. “The unity and determination of the membership is the most important factor in winning a satisfactory contract,” said Equity First VP Mark Zimmermanm, who will chair the Negotiating Team. “Our duty is to negotiate the best possible contract for our members.”
Equity Senior Business Representative Ken Greenwood, who oversees the Production Contract Department, has been working with staff members to lay the groundwork for the Committee’s review process. “We keep files going back over the entire course of the contract - suggestions, arbitrations, complaints - all of which are brought to the Committee as the process begins. They look at every rule in the book.”
In October, letters requesting suggestions were sent out to every member who has worked under the contract since 2000. “We have read hundreds of individual letters and e-mails, as well as talking to actors and stage managers working on Broadway and the road right now,” added Greenwood.
The Production Contract Committee began meeting in early January in all three regions to formulate its recommendations to Equity’s Council, the national governing body of the Association, comprised of 83 elected members representing principals, chorus and stage management. The Stage Managers Committee, the Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs and other standing Committees of the Association also participated in the process. At its recent January meeting, the Council streamlined its procedures so that any individual Councillor can bring changes and suggestions to the Council right up to the last minute.
At its meeting this coming March, the Council will approve the final proposals for the Production Contract Negotiating Team, and designate the members of the team – as well as alternates – who will attend the negotiations. Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg will be Equity’s Chief Negotiator.
A schedule of negotiating sessions will be announced and posted on Equity’s website. “We particularly encourage members who are currently working (or have recently worked) under the Production Contract - or any paid up member - to observe negotiations,” said Alan Eisenberg. To attend, please contact Equity at 212-869-8530, extension 354.
Pursuant to the Rules of Equity, the Council has the authority to extend the contract beyond the expiration date, and if deemed necessary, it may also seek a strike authorization. Once the parties have reached a tentative agreement, Council will review the terms and recommend it for ratification or rejection.
What can you do?
Quinn, Zimmerman and Eisenberg reiterated, “The effectiveness of Equity’s negotiating team will be determined by the degree to which its demands at the table are supported by a determined, unified membership. The ultimate welfare and self-interest of each member is best served by one voice at the negotiating table.”
For more information about the upcoming Production Contract negotiations, call or e-mail Ken Greenwood, Senior Business Representative, 212-869-8530.