OVERVIEW OF MINIMUM WAGE

Many of you—in Los Angeles and elsewhere—survive by working day jobs. The difference, however, is that in most cities actors are paid for their work on stage and a day job provides supplemental income. In LA, some members are fortunate enough to work in film and television and can afford to work for nominal stipends. But that is just not true for every actor, nor is it okay for a union to benefit only its wealthier members. When you join a union, it is reasonable to have the expectation that your union will fight for wages. Equity’s new agreements are meant to ensure that our members aren’t scraping by, but are compensated for doing the jobs that enable every single producing entity to sell tickets to their shows.

California has been a leader in the movement to raise minimum wage for workers. In fact, the state’s minimum legal wage is $10 per hour.

In an article in The Economist last year, the Los Angeles vote to raise the minimum wage was cited as an avenue to address poverty and inequality. When Washington State voted in 1998 to raise the minimum wage and link it to cost of living, the naysayers claimed it would be a job killer – and were proven wrong. A Goldman Sachs report showed that states that raised the minimum wage on January 1, 2014, had faster rates of employment growth compared to states that didn’t make changes.

The most recent Otis Report (released in March 2016) shows that Los Angeles continues to make steady progress economically, and that through 2019 wage and salary employment is expected to grow. In fact, employment in the creative industry is expected to increase by 7% in Los Angeles County to 385,400 wage and salary jobs in 2018.

There has been significant pushback from some who object to actors and stage managers being classified as employees in situations where producers have traditionally considered them volunteers, especially in theaters that have been granted 501c3 not-for-profit status. Misclassification of employees is a larger discussion, one that primarily takes place between the employers and the state and federal government. It is, though, noteworthy that many of Equity’s valued bargaining partners nationwide also operate on a not-for-profit model, and still manage to budget for actor wages. Additionally, Deadline reported in 2015 that “Kathleen Hennessy, a spokesperson for the California State Labor Commissioner, told Deadline that stage actors are not exempt from the state’s minimum wage laws. ‘There is no such exemption for actors at non-profit theaters.’” While this conversation will likely continue, and while employers are certainly free to push for legislative change, the union believes that actors working under its contracts should be paid in compliance with state and federal laws.

THE LA WAIVER – A HISTORY

For Equity members working in Los Angeles County, an internal union membership rule came into being in the early 1970’s (first known as the Waiver and later, after 1989, as the 99-Seat Theatre Plan) that eventually allowed productions in theaters with 99 seats or fewer to avoid paying performers. Instead, members were given a very small stipend, could rehearse up to eight weeks without any compensation and perform up to 80 performances before going on to a contract. Because most 99-seat productions perform only four to five times per week, these members could work for months without the possibility of being paid any wages. This code was only available in LA County. Its stipend system and extensive rehearsal and performance allowance did not exist in any other Equity code.

THE 99-SEAT THEATRE AGREEMENT

Under the 99-Seat Theatre Agreement, which was created by Actors’ Equity in April 2015 (and will, like other contracts, be negotiated with producers), pay for Equity members will be increased to at least the minimum hourly wage for all work, including rehearsals and performances.

It’s not a radical decision or change. Nor is it a requirement for the entire Los Angeles theatrical community; only 14% of the 180 producing entities we currently have on record are projected to be affected by this contract. The agreement accomplishes two objectives: First, there will now be some opportunities for members who expect to be paid a wage for their stage work. And second, Equity’s contracts with these employers will ensure the employers’ compliance with state and federal minimum wage laws.

At the same time, Council was mindful of members’ desire to perform in between paying jobs, so Equity created membership rules to make that possible. You can self-produce and determine your own pay. You can perform in 50-seat Showcases, which offer reimbursement for expenses, but do not require wages. And finally, you can perform with one of the more than 60 membership companies in Los Angeles that have been approved by Equity.

It is also important to note that Equity recognizes that a move to contract requires planning. In response to requests for more time, the union created the LA Transitional 99-Seat Code (available until December 14, 2016), allowing theaters to fundraise and adjust their budgets to include actor and stage manager salaries.



Los Angeles Theatres by Category:

Click to expand any of the following lists:

Membership Companies Approved by Equity

Here is a list of the 61 Membership Companies Equity has approved in LA County:

24th Street Theatre
2Cents Theatre
68 Cent Crew Theatre Company/Theatre 68
Actors Co-op
Actors’ Gang, The
Alliance Repertory Company
Antaeus Company, The
Brimmer Street Theatre Company
Burglars of Hamm
Buzzworks Theater Company
Celebration Theatre
Circle X Theatre Co.
City Garage
Classical Theatre Lab
Coeurage Theatre Company
Color and Light Theatre Ensemble
Company of Angels
Critical Mass Performance Group
Downtown Repertory Theater Company
Echo Theater Company
Eclectic Company Theatre
Elephant Theatre Company
Ensemble Studio Theatre – Los Angeles
Evidence Room
Fierce Backbone
Four Clowns
Ghost Road Company
Hero Theatre
IAMA Theatre
Little Fish Theatre
Loft Ensemble
Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre
Los Angeles New Court Theatre
Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble
Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble
Moving Arts
Neo Ensemble Theatre
New American Theatre
Next Arena, The
NoHo Arts Center Ensemble
Open Fist Theatre Company
Orgasmico Theatre Company
Other Side of The Hill Prods. Inc., The (DBA The Road Theatre Company)
Pacific Resident Theater
Porters of Hellsgate
Production Company, The
Rogue Artists Ensemble
Rogue Machine Theatre*
Sacred Fools Theater Company*
Santa Monica Repertory Theater
Savage Players
SkyPilot Theatre Company
Son of Semele
Southern California Shakespeare Festival
Theatre 40
Theatre Banshee
Theatre of NOTE
Theatre Unleashed
Theatre West
Unknown Artists, The
Vagrancy, The

Companies Producing in Theaters of 50 Seats or Fewer

Here is a list of companies that have, in the past, produced in theaters of 50 seats or fewer, and thus can most likely use the new LA Showcase Code:

6-8-10 Productions
A Theatre Connection
Artists At Play
Candace Kelley, Audrey Kelley & Gilda Rogers
Children’s Theatre Group of Southern California
Divergent Theatre
Drive Theatre Company
Fresh Produce’d Los Angeles
Georgetown Productions LLC
Lange Productions/Rogue Machine
Leap in the Dark Productions
Lucid Dramatics
Magnum Opus Players
Mine is Yours Theatre Company
Morris Productions
Oddbird Theatricals
Queer Classics
Solange Castro
Spirited Hands Productions, LLC
Stone Soup Productions
Teatro De La O
The Others Theater @ Sons of Semele CC Festival
The Others Theater Company
Theater Om
Theatre Theater/Sparkling City Entertainment
Vagabond (or Vagabond Players)
Visceral Company
VS. Theatre Company
Young Actors Ensemble

Seasonal or Regularly Producing Theaters of 99 Seats or Fewer

Finally, this list comprises the 26 seasonal or regularly-producing entities that used the old 99-Seat Theatre Plan and are now outside the purview of any membership rule/waiver/code:

Academy for New Musical Theatre
Blank Theatre Company, The
Bootleg Theater
Casa 0101 Theater
Crown City Theatre
DOMA Theatre Company (n/a; moving to a larger space)
Fountain Theatre*
Good People Theater Company
Greenway Arts Alliance Inc
Harold Clurman Lab Theater @ The Stella Adler Studio
Independent Shakespeare Company (has already moved to contract )
Kelrik Productions
Latino Theatre Company
Long Beach Playhouse (in 2015, immediately announced plans to go non-union)
Jewish Women’s Theatre (has already moved to contract )
Malibu Playhouse/Malibu Stage Company
Matrix Theatre*
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Playwrights’ Arena
Repertory East Playhouse
Santa Monica Playhouse
Sierra Madre Playhouse
Skylight Theatre Company*
The Theatre @ Boston Court
Theatre Planners
Victory Theatre Bare Bones*

*Principals of these organizations are also plaintiffs in the Asner v Equity litigation