“I drink to the general joy of the whole table.” (Macbeth III.iv)
Chicago – The actors, stage managers, bartenders and servers of Chicago’s Drunk Shakespeare have unanimously decided to form a union and seek voluntary recognition from their employer, naming Actors’ Equity Association as their bargaining representative. The workers of Drunk Shakespeare United, as they have dubbed their unit, informed their employers yesterday they have filed a petition for recognition with the National Labor Relations Board. Should their employers refuse voluntary recognition, the workers are confident their signed union commitment cards will lead to certification by the NLRB.
Drunk Shakespeare first opened in Chicago in 2019 and has been running continuously in the Loop since reopening in October, 2021. The show offers classic theatre with a twist – each night, a different member of the cast drinks a number of shots of whisky at the top of the show, adding a different kind of challenge to the job of performing. There are four other productions currently running in Houston, New York, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.
The workers of Chicago’s Drunk Shakespeare are enthusiastic about their workplace and see a union as a tool for maintaining the high quality of the production. “Drunk Shakespeare is a fantastic place to work,” said Ella Fent, a bartender and server who’s been with the show since November, 2021. “But there are problems happening outside the walls of our theater and day to day operations that we want our employers to fix. A union will improve the communication and trust between management and the workers, which in turn will help solve issues we’re facing with staffing and administration.”
“We’re hoping that a union will help the company implement easy solutions to problems that come up repeatedly,” said Diego F. Salinas, an actor/stage manager with Drunk Shakespeare since August, 2021. “Those of us in the theatre need a clear pathway to getting management to see recurring problems and consider the solutions those of us closest to the work suggest. We are excited to move the company forward to a place that works for everyone.”
“It’s thrilling to be a labor leader at this moment in which arts workers across the country, like our colleagues in other industries, are claiming their power. That’s exactly what the members of Drunk Shakespeare United are doing,” said Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle. “These actors and stage managers, servers and bartenders have banded together to unionize in order to achieve a fairer, safer workplace, and Equity is eager to support their efforts. I hope that companies of other shows – who might not have realized that they too can have a unionized workplace – will be inspired by Drunk Shakespeare United’s decision to stand together and say ‘we deserve better.’”
Actors’ Equity Association is a national labor union representing more than 51,000 actors and stage managers in live entertainment that last week celebrated its 110th anniversary. Equity actors and stage managers can be seen on stages around Chicago from the Goodman to Second City. The union drew headlines recently during a contract battle for national touring productions. The unionization effort at Drunk Shakespeare comes on the heels of successfully organizing both planetarium lecturers and strippers in Los Angeles. Equity encourages all workers in live performance who feel they would benefit from a union contract to contact the union’s organizing department at actorsequity.org/organize.
ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. www.actorsequity.org #EquityWorks
May 31, 2023