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    Posted February 27, 2007

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Great Turn Out for South Florida Membership Meeting

By Doug Truelsen, Southeast Traveling Rep

Equity members in South Florida held their annual meeting at the Gable Stage theatre in January, attended by 38 members. Liaison chair Irene Adjan introduced the committee and then recognized new members, as well as first time attendees.

Adjan introduced Erinn Dearth, the Executive Director of the Theatre League of South Florida. After a "massive retreat" last summer, TLSF has come up with a new mission statement and brand in an effort to reinvigorate the organization. Erinn shared information about member benefits, the South Florida Unified Auditions, and announced the formation of the South Florida Theatre Festival, to be held from March through May of this year.

Irene then introduced Carl Calabro, a representative from Union Privilege. He spent 15 to 20 minutes describing the various discounts and programs available to Equity members through Union Plus. A little later, Manny Falcone of JP Morgan Chase Bank, who was delayed by traffic, spoke specifically about the mortgage program. Members asked several questions and were quite happy to receive this information about a program that many of them knew nothing about.

The committee handed out laminated "Benefits Cards" to those in attendance. This was a project headed up by committee member Dave Corey who felt that union members are sometimes at a loss when posed with the question, "Why are you a member of Actors' Equity?" After polling a large number of area members, the committee came up with a wallet-sized card that simply states:

Why do I belong to Actors' Equity?

  1. For Protection - My union sets guidelines for standards of professionalism.
  2. Fair Wages - Collective bargaining guarantees a working wage.
  3. Health Insurance and Pension
  4. The theatres I want to work for hire Equity members.
  5. Personal Pride and Respect - "I'm proud to be a member of Actors' Equity. I am Equity; I am a professional!"

Irene then brought up the issue of National Voting. She had received a letter from the Chair of the Election Procedures Committee in New York about the low voter participation in the Equity elections, who wanted to know why so few members take the time to vote. People at the meeting seemed genuinely surprised that so few people bothered to either vote on-line or to return the ballot. The comment was made that the bios of the candidates running are very similar and don't really tell you much about the person running. Members would like the option to ask questions of the candidates, perhaps through email or blogs. It was also suggested that live interviews with the candidates be made available via webcams. A popular idea was to greatly increase the amount of information about each candidate on the website - perhaps a page for each candidate to answer members' questions. The suggestion was also made to include a more detailed explanation of what each position actually does so members know the types of things the people elected would actually help decide. (A similar discussion occurred at both Orlando meetings and the exact same items were brought up - lack of information and a feeling of disconnect. Central Florida members also thought more interactive questioning of candidates would improve participation.)

Irene reminded the group about the Members Project Code. It has been used very little in South Florida, but she relayed a recent usage that led to a contract for a member.

The Liaison committee is going to be participating in helping to build a home through Habitat for Humanity. Irene said she would send out the specific dates when the plans are finalized and hopes for a large Equity turnout.

There were two empty seats to fill on the Equity Liaison Committee. Angie Radosh, who has served for several years, decided it was time to take a break from the committee and did not run for re-selection. Also, earlier in the year, Michelle Wargacki moved to New York, so her seat was vacant. All members of the committee who were up for re-selection kept their seats on the committee and were joined by new committee member Barbara Sloan (I've emailed a liaison application form to Barbara).

The meeting broke up after about two hours, as the members rushed the swag table. All seemed quite pleased with the selection of pins, pens, water bottles and caps.

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