Equity Sues Broadway Producers Over Non-Equity Tours

News   Equity Sues Broadway Producers Over Non-Equity Tours
In its latest salvo against the increased use of non-union national touring companies, Actors' Equity Association has filed unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board against Clear Channel Entertainment, the Nederlander Organization, and Dodger Stage Holdings Theatricals, Inc., according to Crain's New York Business.

The three targeted companies are among the biggest and most prolific producers on Broadway and the road. Equity charged that each had violated the Production Contract—the pact that rules Equity's work in Broadway and touring shows—by engaging the services of NETworks, Troika and Big League Theatricals, all of which produce non-Equity producers.

According to Crain's, the suit against Clear Channel was filed Jan. 7; the one against the Dodgers Jan. 16; and the Nederlander action Feb. 3.

"People who sign production contracts are required not to sign with non-Equity producers," a spokeswoman for the Equity told Crain's. "All have or have had interests with these non-Equity producers and we need the paperwork to prove it." The union said the three producers failed to provide said paperwork.

Equity has rung in the new year by ratcheting up its battle against non-union tours, a phenomenon which threatens to slowly siphon off Equity jobs beyond Manhattan. Recently, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSDC) backed up Equity's stand by passing a resolution that it "would stand behind Actors' Equity that there should be no non-Equity tours." The society also decreed it would no longer do business with Big League Theatricals on its non-Equity tours of Aida and 42nd Street, unless Big League signed contracts with Equity.

The show of solidarity has arguably already had repercussions. Big League and Equity had been in talks for two months about a tour of Aida. Those discussions have now been abandoned and Big League is not pursuing the tour at this time. However, Dan Sher, executive producer of Big League, told Playbill On-Line that the cancellation was not contingent on SSDC's resolution. "That's false," he said. "Our decision came on Jan. 8 or 9." He characterized the Aida talks with Equity as productive and having been conducted in "good faith." To ensure that SSDC members would not lose non-union tour jobs to Equity member stage mangers and dance captains—a circumstance common in the past, with those Equity rank-and-file then applying for SSDC membership—the Equity Council passed its own resolution "instructing AEA members (who have always been restricted from non-union employment as actors and stage managers) that they can no longer accept employment in any production capacity (such as directors, choreographers, production supervisors etc) in Big League Theatrical productions." The Council also ruled that members must not accept jobs in non-Equity shows produced by Troika and NETworks.

The agreement between the two guilds, as well as the new suits, will no doubt influence the upcoming Production Contract talks between Equity and the League of American Theatres and Producers. Non-Equity tours are expected to be a, if not the, major issue on the table. The current Production Contract is due to expire June 27. Initial negotiations dates have not yet been determined.

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