Actors' Equity Association, the union that represents performers and stage managers on professional stages on Broadway and beyond, has filed with the National Labor Relations Board to represent the actors and stage managers of the current non-union tour of Waitress.
The filing was triggered by a card campaign—the first for Actors' Equity in more than a decade—in which a "critical mass" of company members expressed their desire to be represented by the theatrical union. In the coming days, a more formal election will be held among company members that, if successful, would clear Equity to begin bargaining on the company's behalf with the tour's presenter, NETworks.
A response from NETworks was not available at the time of publication, but Playbill will update this story if that changes.
With a book by Jessie Nelson and a score by Sara Bareilles, Waitress has been in the unusual situation of having concurrently running union and non-union tours, which has led to the current unionizing effort. Non-union company members cited the union production's dramatically higher pay—the non-union performers are reportedly being paid a third of what their union counterparts receive—and comparatively less stringent safety protocols as the reasoning behind their decision to unionize.
“We are proud of the work we are doing bringing this wonderful show to audiences across the country, [b]ut the work we do is the same work our friends in the Equity tour do, so we are asking our employers why we can’t be treated with the same respect,” says the company in a statement. "We have tried to work with management to improve our conditions on multiple fronts and have come to the conclusion that we need a union to work on our behalf. We now appreciate Equity helping us come together as a company and showing us a clear pathway to fair treatment.”
Actors' Equity has also alleged that videos of the non-union actors have been used to train performers with the Equity tour. "Clearly, the workers in both productions are equally talented and hardworking, doing the exact same job for different audiences. For equal work, they should receive equal protections and equal pay," shares Actors' Equity Executive Director Al Vincent, Jr.
Led by Jisel Soleil Ayon as Jenna, the non-union tour cast of Waitress also includes Dominique Kent as Becky, Gabriella Marzetta as Dawn, David Socolar as Dr. Pomatter, Brian Lundy as Ogie, Shawn W. Smith as Earl, Jake Mills as Cal, and Michael R. Douglass as Joe. The ensemble comprises Elvie Ellis, Stephanie Feeback, Olivia London, Jake McCready, Dayna Marie Quincy, Zoë Brooke Reed, and Woody White, with swings Nicole Clemetson, Justin Forward, Justin Glass, Andrew Burton Kelley, and Julia Rippon.
The tour is set to play the Appell Center in York, Pennsylvania, April 13, with future stops planned in New Brunswick, New Jersey; Binghamton, New York; Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and Waterbury, Connecticut. For a full touring schedule, visit WaitressTour.com.