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January 14, 2003

AEA Brokers Deal with AFTRA On Initiation Fees For Members Working Under Equity Contracts

Staggered Payment Plan Eases Financial Burden for Working Actors

Actors' Equity (AEA) has reached an agreement with American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) on a payment plan for AFTRA initiation fees for Equity members working under Equity contracts. The agreement immediately impacts cast members in Broadway shows who perform work in AFTRA's jurisdiction as a result of their Equity employment, such as cast album recordings, the Tony Awards broadcast, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and other paid promotional appearances.

Until recently, Equity Actors were sent AFTRA membership applications when they reach a "must-join" status, and AFTRA was accepting an initial payment of $600 towards the $1200 initiation fee at the time of application, with the balance due at the next AFTRA engagement. "The problem arose because in many cases, AFTRA's initiation fees exceeded the actors' net salaries, causing financial strain," said Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg. "After hearing from cast members in OKLAHOMA! and other Broadway shows, we immediately contacted AFTRA to try to find a solution."

Under the new agreement, AFTRA has changed its policy for Actors employed under AFTRA contracts as a direct consequence of their employment in an Equity show. AFTRA will now accept $400 when Actors reach "must-join" status and submit their membership application. AFTRA will consider an adjustment if he or she is able to demonstrate significant financial need. In subsequent engagements that are in done in conjunction with their Equity show, AFTRA will accept installments of $400 or 50% of net salary, whichever is less. The deal was brokered by Eisenberg and Senior Business Representative Ken Greenwood.

"Once AFTRA was made aware of the problem, they were very responsive. We would like to thank Greg Hessinger, AFTRA's National Executive Director, and Stephen Burrow, AFTRA New York Local Executive Director, for their cooperation," said Eisenberg and Greenwood. "And we would also like to thank cast members from OKLAHOMA for bringing this problem to our attention."

Actors with questions about initiation fees and membership should contact AFTRA membership directly at 212-532-0800.

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