ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION'S NON-MEMBER AGENCY FEE NOTICE AND POLICY
1) In most states, unions are permitted to enter into collective bargaining agreements with employers that require employees, as a condition of employment, either to join the union (and thereby enjoy the full rights and benefits of membership) or to pay fees to the union (and thereby satisfy a financial obligation to the union without enjoying the full rights and benefits of Equity membership). This requirement, set forth in a union security clause, serves the legitimate purpose of ensuring that each employee who benefits from union representation pays a fair share of the cost of that representation. The goal of a union security provision is to eliminate "free riders" who benefit from the Equity contract without contributing to Equity's costs of negotiating, administering and enforcing the contract. If you are working under an Equity contract that contains a union security clause, you have the right to join and support Actors' Equity Association. You also have the right to choose not to become a member of the union.
2) Actors' Equity Association, in its role as a collective bargaining agent, has negotiated many hundreds of agreements since 1913 with theatrical employers on behalf of professional performers and stage managers. Equity has worked hard and successfully to negotiate improved minimum salaries and progressively more favorable wages and other terms and conditions of employment such as health insurance, pension benefits, overtime pay, vacation time, and programs to insure a safe workplace. All performers covered by an Equity contract enjoy these contractual benefits. Your membership strengthens Equity and helps the union achieve better results in its negotiations with theatrical employers.
3) Members of Actors' Equity enjoy valuable rights and benefits flowing from membership (as distinguished from the employment rights under collective bargaining agreements). Among the many rights only available to members are the right to attend Equity membership meetings, to speak freely and openly debate issues affecting all members at those meetings; to participate in formulating Equity policies, to influence the nature of Equity's activities and the direction of its future; to nominate and vote for candidates for office in Equity; to run for office; to fully participate in development of contract negotiating proposals; to vote to accept or reject proposed contracts – thereby ensuring your active participation on issues central to your life as a working member of the theatrical profession.
4) Under the law, you also have the right to choose not to be a member of Actors' Equity. In that circumstance, you will not enjoy the rights and benefits of membership described in the paragraph above, including the right to attend membership meetings, to run for office, to vote in union elections, to participate in the formulation of bargaining proposals, or to ratify contracts.
5) A non-member has the right to object to paying any portion of union dues or fees – referred to as “agency fees” for non-members – that are expended on activities unrelated to collective bargaining, contract administration, or grievance adjustment, or for activities which do not implement or effectuate the Union’s duties as a representative.
6) Equity will treat a request for "financial core" status as a request to resign from, or remain a non-member of, Actors' Equity Association, as well as an objection to paying any portion of agency fees which are used for expenditures not devoted to representational activities. Upon such a request, you will have no membership rights in Actors' Equity.
Equity’s current agency fees objection policy works as follows:
a. To become an objector, a non-member who is represented by Actors’ Equity shall notify the National Director of Membership in writing (by mail or email) of their objection.
b. Agency fees payable by non-member objectors will be based on Equity’s expenditures for those activities undertaken by Equity to advance the employment-related interests of the employees it represents. These "chargeable" expenditures include but are not limited to expenses related to the following: negotiations with employers; enforcing collective bargaining agreements; meetings and communications with employer representatives; meetings and communications with employees represented by and/or members of Equity and staff related to employment practices, collective bargaining provisions, and other matters affecting work-related interests of employees represented by and/or members of Equity; discussion of work-related issues with employers; handling employees' work-related problems through grievance and arbitration procedures, administrative agencies or meetings; governing board meetings, Equity business meetings, and other Equity internal governance and related expenses; union administration, litigation and publications relating to any of the above; and education and training of members, officers and staff to better perform chargeable activities or otherwise related to chargeable activities; overhead and administration related to or reflective of chargeable activities.
Among the expenditures currently treated as "non-chargeable," which non-member objectors arguably are not required to support, are those spent for community services; lobbying; cost of affiliation with organizations other than Equity; recruitment of members to the Union; organizing; publications, litigation and for overhead and administration to the extent related to arguably non-chargeable activities; and members-only benefits. The most recent Audit Report indicated that approximately 86% of Equity’s expenditures were devoted to representational activities.
c. The reduced agency fees of non-member objectors who pay fees directly and not via checkoff will be calculated and will be reflected in their respective agency fee bills.
d. Non-members and new employees will be given an explanation of the basis for the reduced agency fees charged to them. That explanation will include a list of the major categories of expenditures deemed to be "chargeable" and those deemed to be arguably "non-chargeable" and an accountant's report verifying the breakdown of "chargeable" and arguably "non-chargeable" expenditures. Non-member objectors will have the option of challenging the calculation of the reduced agency fees before an impartial arbitrator appointed by the American Arbitration Association, provided they provide written notice to the National Membership Department postmarked no later than thirty (30) days after they have been provided the above information. Moreover, any objecting non-member is permitted to challenge the calculation during the thirty (30) day period starting the first day in the month after this Policy is (annually) published in Equity News.
e. If an objecting non-member presents such a timely challenge, Equity shall place an amount equal to at least the fair share percentage of agency fees received from the non-member or employer on behalf of the non-member in an interest-bearing, separate escrow account. If the arbitration decision does not require any payments by Equity, the amounts that have been held in escrow related to the challenges that were the subject of the arbitration may be returned to Equity. Equity will consolidate all objections that have been received in any given year in one arbitration proceeding, which will be held in or about February of the next year. Equity will provide an impartial arbitration proceeding through the American Arbitration Association and will pay the administrative costs and the arbitrator’s fees. The challenger will be responsible for any fees associated with their representation in the hearing.
f. If you elect to be a non-member, and subsequently decide that you wish to join (or re-join) Actors' Equity Association, you will be required to apply for membership. Actors' Equity, however, retains the sole discretion to determine whether or not you will be admitted into its membership. Should such a membership application be approved, you will be required to pay an initiation fee at the then current rate and union dues uniformly imposed on all members.
7) In so called "right to work states," employers and unions may not enter into contracts containing union security clauses. As such, this notice is not applicable to performers who are not required to pay union fees under a collective bargaining agreement.
8) Equity reserves the right to change the policy set forth above.