For the first time in its 103-year history, Actors' Equity Association, the union for stage actors and stage managers, has endorsed a candidate for President of the United States. The union's National Council voted at its August meeting to endorse Democrat Hillary Clinton for Commander-in-Chief.
Equity president Kate Shindle issued a statement saying, “Our union has historically chosen to remain nonpartisan and above the fray. But at such a critical time in our country’s history, this union does not have that luxury if we hope to protect our members. We have to fight with everything we have for our survival. God forbid we stand passively on the sidelines and watch as some of these people get elected, people who aggressively want to dismantle unions. We will look back at this moment knowing that we could have said something and we chose not to because we were afraid people wouldn’t like it. I don’t think that’s the way a union in 2016 America can afford to operate.”
Councillor Francis Jue said, “This election is about whether people can carry guns into theatres, about whether or not people can take adolescent gay and lesbian teens and torture them into believing that they are straight. It’s about whether or not we are going to have a Department of Education. This election is about so many of the values we believe in and policies that we put into practice. I think it is incumbent upon us to lead.”
Addressing the membership, Equity’s executive director Mary McColl added: “If you look back at your [union’s] history, you have taken political stands on many occasions. You have been leaders and staked out political positions opposing blacklisting and segregation; you have marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You have stood up and led the charge at key moments when society had tears in the fabric. I think this is one of those moments in time when you must stand again.”
Equity has long-standing policies that promote arts funding and education, affordable housing, single-payer health care and marriage equality. Equity continues to advocate for human rights, on behalf of those with HIV/AIDS and for voting rights for all Americans. Most recently, the Council authorized the union to support responsible gun law reform.
Clinton has been a regular theatregoer since the days when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was in the White House. Her campaign bought out the July 12 performance of Hamilton as a fundraiser. She had seen that show when it was Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre, and she has quoted from the show in speeches.