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December 02, 2003

Actors' Equity Wins Arbitration Against League of American Theatres and Producers For Contributions to the Equity-League Health Trust Fund During Musicians' Strike

Arbitrator Upholds Equity's Position - Health Fund Receives Retroactive Contributions On Behalf of 650 Actors and Stage Managers

Actors' Equity has won an important arbitration against the League of American Theatres and Producers, stemming from AFM Local 802's Broadway strike in March 2003. The arbitrator's decision upheld Equity's claim that Producers' contributions to the Equity-League Health Trust Fund on behalf of Actors and Stage Managers cannot be prorated or reduced because of lost performances due to Equity's support for the strike.

"This is an important victory for Equity that respects the past practices and current requirements of the Production Contract," said Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg. "It signifies Equity's commitment to solidarity with our fellow Unions and helps to maintain our Health Fund. The League's erroneous decision to prorate health payments cost the Fund over $20,000 at a time of great need. We are delighted with the Arbitrator's decision in this case."

Equity filed a grievance last spring, protesting the League's decision to pro-rate Health Fund contributions during the period from March 7 to March 10, 2003, when Equity honored the four-day strike. The League argued that because the Producers prorated Actors' salaries for the lost performances, they had the right to prorate health contributions. Equity Senior Business Representative Ken Greenwood oversaw the initial grievance, which moved to binding arbitration when the parties could not resolve the dispute over the summer.

Greenwood explained the Union's position: "Under Rule 31 of the Production Contract, health contributions are made "per actor, per week," which we argued, has been the industry's universal past practice. Without specific language authorizing pro-ration or non-payment of a portion of the weekly contribution amount, all Health Fund contributions must be made at the full weekly contractual rate."

During the proceedings, Equity Business Representative Louise Foisy testified during that, to her knowledge, the League had never prorated contributions, citing numerous circumstances where Actors have worked a partial week due to illness, leaves of absence, vacations and personal leave, but received full health benefits. "The League, has never, in 40 years, made a prorated contribution to the Health Fund, even under circumstances in which Actors have only worked one day during a week, " she emphasized.

The musicians reached a settlement with the League on Tuesday, March 11, 2003. During the four-day strike, seventeen Broadway musicals, and three musicals in rehearsal were shut down. Equity's Council unanimously endorsed the strike and ordered 650 Broadway actors and stage managers to honor the musicians' picket lines.

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