The following amendment to the Equity By-Laws was submitted to the Council by 30 members in good standing:
"Once the Production Contract has been negotiated and approved by a majority of those members eligible to vote for or against the terms of said contract, the Production Contract shall obtain for all Broadway shows, First National Tours, and other tours deemed by the National Council to be 'First Class.' Furthermore, no waivers regarding the salary and per diem for the above listed venues can be permitted by AEA Council or Staff or anyone else without an affirmative majority vote for said waiver(s) by those members who have worked under the Production Contract within the previous five years of such a waiver consideration."
At its meeting of April 15, 2003 the Council, after careful discussion, voted against the proposed amendment. Below are some of the reasons behind the Council's decision.
The required referendum of the members who have worked under the Production Contract would take four to six weeks to prepare, distribute, and receive responses. Almost all concessions require a reply within one/two weeks; to provide an answer in four to six weeks is unrealistic and would probably cause some shows to close prematurely (e.g., a layoff request) under this time frame.
What would you do when there is an emergency, such as September 11, 2001, when an immediate response is required?
Many members do not update their addresses on file at Equity in a timely fashion. Even when the addresses are accurate, many Actors are away on work assignments (including SAG and AFTRA work) and may not receive and return the ballot within the prescribed time.
The proposal is exceptionally costly: more than 6,000 members have worked under the Production Contract in the last five-year period, and the costs for each referendum would be at least $5,000.
The phrase "no waivers regarding the salary and per diem" is very ambiguous. Concession requests for layoffs and settlements, when disputes arise over salary or increments, would fall within this proposal, as both of these involve per diem and salary. For example, a settlement of one Actor's salary claim could trigger a referendum.
The proposal does not address how concession requests for a "pre-Broadway" tour that originates under another contract, such as LORT, would be handled.
The proposal ignores the function of the Production Contract Committee, the Advisory Committee for Chorus Affairs (ACCA) and the Stage Managers' Committee. These committees are made up of working members and are charged with the responsibility of deciding all concession requests. Members who live in office cities are constantly encouraged to join these and other committees.
The whole issue of concessions to the Production Contract (e.g., a reduced salary for certain Production Contract shows) will undoubtedly be a subject of next year's negotiations. The results of that negotiation will then be sent to members who have worked under the Production Contract to be ratified.
That vote will be the real referendum on this issue, rather than this proposal.
Members May Decide
In accordance with the Constitution, Article VI, Section (b) the National Council must certify the rejection of the proposed amendment to a membership meeting. The members in good standing shall consider said rejection and shall have the authority to adopt or amend and adopt the proposed amendment by a two-thirds vote of the members in good standing voting at said membership meeting. This will occur at the Membership Meeting on October 3, 2003 at 2:45 p.m. At that time, the three regions will be connected by telephonic hook-up.