A Place at the Table: Actors' Equity Now Affiliated With AFL-CIO
By Kenneth Jones
Actors' Equity Association, the labor union representing more than 49,000 professional stage actors and stage managers in the U.S., received a national charter from the AFL-CIO on Feb. 26, giving AEA direct association with a wider community of labor leaders.
The charter — given at the morning session of the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting — means that Equity has direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO, giving the actors' union a seat at the labor table alongside major international unions like IATSE, top entertainment unions like SAG-AFTRA and many other labor unions in various industries across the country. The affiliation means Equity will be part of AFL-CIO's annual conferences, executive meetings and discussions concerning various issues — health, pension, wages, safe working conditions and more.
The "direct charter" makes AEA the 57th labor organization to receive the honor of formal association with the national federation of American unions.
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka presented the charter to AEA first vice president Paige Price and executive director Mary McColl at the AFL-CIO's annual executive council meeting.
"For nearly 100 years, Actors' Equity has stood for excellence in the American theatre, and for dignity, fairness and respect for stage actors and managers," AFL-CIO president Trumka said in a statement. "Today Equity has affirmed those values as well as its affiliation with all of American labor, and we are happy to be presenting this great union with a new AFL-CIO charter."
"As actors and stage managers one wouldn’t think of us as union members but Actors' Equity Association has a long and proud history of being part of the labor movement," said Equity president Nick Wyman in a statement addressed to the assembly. "It is a cornerstone of Equity's foundation and we are pleased to receive this direct charter in this, our 100th year. To quote our first president Francis Wilson, 'Our trail is out of the wilderness and that trail is affiliation with organized labor.'"
"This is an important milestone in Equity's history and we are proud to receive this direct charter," said AEA executive director Mary McColl. "Equity works to ensure fair compensation, benefits and safe working conditions for its members. By doing that, this Union joins our sister unions in the fight to maintain the dignity and rights for all working Americans."
Founded in 1913 by 112 actors, the Union received its first charter, signed by Samuel Gompers, in July 1919 through its membership in the Associated Actors and Artists of America (4As). In addition to protecting its members by ensuring fair compensation and a safe working environment, AEA is also an advocate of the arts and social equality. Last June, the Union was presented with the Special Tony Award to mark its centennial milestone.
Equity is governed by its own members through an elected Council, representing principal actors, chorus actors and stage managers living in three regions: Eastern, Central and Western. Members at large participate in Equity's governance through a system of regional Boards and Committees. Equity has 24 designated area liaison cities with over 100 members each.
The AFL-CIO is the federation of America's unions, with 57 unions representing more than 12 million working men and women.
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