IT'S EASIER THAN EVER TO JOIN EQUITY!
And it’s more important than ever for actors and stage managers to stand together in solidarity to make theatre a safer, more equitable industry. Are you ready to become a union member? Begin the process by completing a joining questionnaire here.
WHAT IS OPEN ACCESS?
Put simply, Equity membership is now open to any stage manager or actor who has worked professionally on a theatre production in the United States. We’ve also made it easier for former Equity members to rejoin the union.
WHY IS EQUITY OPENING ACCESS?
For many years, eligibility to join Actors’ Equity Association has been limited to those who are working for an Equity employer – either by direct contract offer or through the Equity Membership Candidate program – or to members of a sibling union.
But Equity theatres, like all entertainment industry employers, are disproportionately run by white people, and their programming and hiring decisions show that they often hold biases in favor of people from similar demographics. In fact, recent hiring studies demonstrate that Equity contracts are disproportionately offered to white people, and the majority of new members join via a contract. Because our membership rules until now have left access to membership in employers’ hands, they have implicitly created a disproportionately high barrier to access for actors and stage managers of marginalized identities. We have inadvertently contributed to the systemic exclusion of people of color and people of other marginalized identities from the benefits of union membership.
We are taking steps to change that. Open Access is one major step.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
If you are an EMC or a former member, or if you have previously worked in an Equity theater, we may already have the information needed to confirm your eligibility to join Equity. Otherwise, if you have worked professionally as a stage manager or actor in the United States, you will need to provide proof of that work and proof of payment for that work (e.g. pay stub, W2, 1099, etc.). Your application and a $600 down payment toward the initiation fee are required by May 1, 2023. Learn more about Dues & Fees.
Former members and former applicants to Equity membership can have previous initiation fee payments credited towards the amount owed for joining or rejoining. All members now have three years to pay off their initiation fee.
Open Access is currently in effect until May 1, 2023. In the meantime, Equity will be developing a permanent gateway to membership that addresses racial inequities in accessing membership in the union.
Why should I become a member of Equity?
Actors and stage managers are workers, and unions like Equity provide important workplace protections for workers. As a union member, you will have the strength of more than 51,000 fellow members standing beside you, as well as a professional staff enforcing your contracts. This means fair pay, safer workplaces and the opportunity to make a real living in the theatre. Equity also provides a wide range of benefits that enhance both the professional and personal lives of members, from negotiated minimum salaries to a pension plan and supplemental workers’ compensation. Learn more.
How much does it cost to join the union?
Initiation fees are currently $1800, which can be paid over the three years following application. Once you become a member, you will pay annual dues in May and November, as well as working dues (a percentage of your paycheck) that help Equity function and serve its members. Learn more about Dues & Fees.
I’m an EMC. Do I need to finish my candidacy to join the union?
EMCs are welcome to continue along their path to Equity membership. However, they can also become members immediately, and any fees they have paid to the union will go towards the initiation fee.
I'd love to join, but I have a non-union job booked. Can I still join?
You must complete any non-union theatrical acting or stage managing jobs before joining the union, but once your gig is over, you can join!
I used to be a member, and my membership lapsed. Can I rejoin under this program?
Any former member can rejoin through Open Access, with the exception of those who left Equity and then worked on a non-union production. Former members and former applicants to Equity membership can have previous initiation fee payments credited towards the amount owed for joining or rejoining.
What if I am not a citizen, or currently living abroad?
As long as you have worked professionally as an actor or stage manager in a theatrical production the United States, you are eligible for membership, regardless of residence, country of origin or citizenship status.
How is Equity going to organize more work to handle an influx of union members?
It's an important question, given that there is always going to be a larger number of actors and stage managers than available theatre jobs. Equity's vehicle to address this is through organizing, one of the core functions of the union.
Equity continually organizes new employment by offering a variety of agreements for theatres of all sizes, and Equity's Organizing Committee recommends organizing strategies. Every year, more theatres become "Equity theaters" - even during the pandemic! A main reason theatres make that commitment is in order to hire Equity actors and stage managers. So every new member is another incentive for theatres to sign on to an Equity agreement. And you can help: many members continue to work at non-union theatres on union contracts such as Special Appearance and Guest Artist Agreements. Equity has tools available in the member portal to help members introduce theatre companies to these agreements.
How exactly does this address racial inequality?
Equity theatres, and indeed all entertainment industry employers, are disproportionately led by and populated by white people. Our membership rule has created a disproportionately high barrier to access for actors and stage managers of marginalized identities. Open Access is one of the pillars of our Diversity & Inclusion Retrofit, and there is still plenty of work to be done to transform Equity into an anti-racist organization. There is more to be done to ensure that all stage managers and actors – whether longstanding Equity members or newly eligible – can expect safe working environments free of bias and prejudice. But opening membership can't wait until we’ve finished the Diversity & Inclusion Retrofit. Every stage manager and actor deserves access to the protections of union membership immediately.
I understand this is about removing barriers to access for people with marginalized identities. If I don't believe that applies to me, can I still enroll under Open Access?
Yes! This is about increasing access to the all the union has to offer, and building solidarity with fellow theatre workers of all backgrounds. The union needs everyone who wants to be a part of building a better industry— the labor movement means we are all stronger together. The time has come for Equity, not employers, to invite workers into the union.
How will this affect auditions held exclusively for Equity members?
Auditions may get more crowded. During the transition from one model of union membership eligibility to the other, new and unpredictable concerns will arise. And still: stage managers and actors deserve access to the protections of union membership immediately.
How did Open Access happen?
The union is the members, and the members made their voices heard!
Members began serious conversations about changing this policy prior to the pandemic. A working group was formed under our Diversity & Inclusion Retrofit, where the details were hammered out. While this work was ongoing, elected delegates crafted a resolution in support of broadening access to membership, which convention passed enthusiastically. Council overwhelming voted in favor of the new policy.
And now here we are, putting these members’ visions into action.
What else is Equity doing to address inequality in the union and the theatre industry?
Equity is currently undertaking the Diversity & Inclusion Retrofit, a process aimed at remaking our union from the ground up as an antiracist organization. Open Access is just one important piece of the Retrofit; you can learn more on the website, along with other diversity and inclusion initiatives.
What if I have other questions that aren’t listed here?
If you have any other questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can join our webinar on August 31st (registration and more information coming soon).