On Monday, June 22, 2020, Actors’ Equity Association’s Diversity and Inclusion department and Membership Education Committee presented a first-ever Workplace Inclusion Lab. The three-hour Zoom webinar identified resources and steps that each member can take to ensure their workplaces are safe and inclusive. The event examined the roles of the deputy, stage manager, Equity business rep and employer – as well as the role of every cast member -- in ensuring that discrimination and bias are appropriately addressed.
Moderated by Bliss Griffin, Equity’s Diversity & Inclusion Strategist, the Workplace Inclusion Lab featured the speakers Andrea Hoeschen, Equity’s Central Regional Director; Keith Sklar, Equity’s Director of Membership Safety; Josephine Kearns, Gender Consultant; and Kaja Dunn, Assistant Professor of Theatre, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and Race Consultant. ASL translation was provided by Nicole Cartagna and Perrine Julianna via Sign Language Resources, Inc.
First, Hoeschen outlined the responsibilities of the different roles around a production in creating a safe workplace. “Everybody has a role,” she said, “in supporting people’s individual rights to be free from harassment and discrimination.” Hoeschen went on to describe the two workplace frameworks at play. The first is legal framework applicable to every workplace. The second is the collective bargaining framework available only in a unionized workspace. She then went on to describe how those frameworks intersect. Finally, Hoeschen identified the differences in the roles of the deputy and stage manager, and their various responsibilities as defined by Equity’s collective bargaining agreement. Hoeschen also answered several member questions, including a detailing of the protection from employer retaliation that Equity provides its members.
"Racism is a workplace safety issue. It needs to be addressed the same way we talk about the safest way to get on-or-off-stage.”
Next, Sklar addressed the functions of Equity’s Business Representatives and outside Field Representatives, and how the process of bringing a complaint forward moves through Equity’s structures. Recently, Equity introduced Field Representatives, whom Sklar described as, “charged with going around the country, nationwide, to be in person, and not only with the theatres, but with our members.” He also mentioned that Equity is unique among unions in that it has “a union meeting at the top of employment.” Sklar noted that many members wait to ask for help with a workplace safety issue until after their contract ends, and emphasized that Equity is available for its members during members’ entire contract period. Sklar also answered member questions, including clarifying procedures for reporting harassment or discrimination and how Equity investigates those issues.
Kearns provided a brief overview of the information in Equity’s two-hour Gender webinar, last presented as part of EEOC Dialogue series on Wednesday, April 15. Kearns, who works as both a dramaturg and gender consultant, shared strategies on how to make a workplace gender inclusive for trans and nonbinary actors prior to first rehearsal; addressing the misgendering of an actor by another member of the cast or crew; and how to respectfully manage dressing room spaces. Says Kearns that, in general, in order to make the workplace more gender inclusive, “we want to remove gendered language whenever we can.”
Finally, race consultant Kaja Dunn, concluded the Lab with a robust discussion on race and how the topic arises in our workplaces. Dunn offered a summary of the information in Equity’s two-hour Race webinar, last presented in detail as part of Equity’s EEOC Dialogue series on Thursday, April 30. She shed light on the construction of race and its function in white supremacy; how racism affects the health of Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Asian communities; and strategies for white allies to help make a more inclusive workplace. She took care to specify the differences and relationship between general racism and anti-Blackness. In a spirited question-and-answer session with Lab attendees, she asserted that "Racism is a workplace safety issue. It needs to be addressed the same way we talk about the safest way to get on-or-off-stage.”
Interested Equity members may view the video Workplace Inclusion Lab as well as handouts from the event in the member portal.