Actors’ Equity Formally Terminates 99-Seat Plan

This is an email that went out to Equity members April 21, 2015:

There has been an important conversation going on regarding the future of theater in L.A. Today, after receiving and considering months of feedback from members on all sides of the debate, Equity’s Council has taken several important steps to address many of the concerns expressed by members in Los Angeles. They have acted in a manner consistent with Equity’s long history of advocating for wages, working conditions, collaboration, fairness and respect for professional actors and stage managers. Their actions have national implications, impacting all 50,000 Equity members – in L.A. and around the country.

The Council voted to make substantial changes to the 99-Seat Theatre Plan that will eliminate the availability of the Plan. They have adopted new, internal union membership rules that contain several important changes to the original proposal – including a Showcase Code and changes to the Los Angeles Membership Company Rule. They have allowed for the use of the Small Professional Theater Agreement, which up until this point has not been available in Los Angeles, and they have provided for a 13-month implementation period so that theaters have time to adjust.

In the coming months, Equity will be reaching out to members to have small group discussions about these important changes. Equity will also hold meetings with independent producers and multi-employer groups to discuss how they can utilize these contracts and hire our members.

This broad set of options is a nuanced, tiered approach in response to the serious concerns expressed by members about the particular needs of the L.A. theater community.

Equity will make available for members and producers in L.A. County the following stepping stones:

Los Angeles Transitional 99-Seat Code. This code, with many of the same terms as the existing 99-Seat Theatre Plan, will be in effect from April 22, 2015 to May 31, 2016, and will be available to existing 99-Seat Theatre Plan producers, so they may have time to transition to the newly-available options.

Los Angeles Self-Produced Project Code. This is an internal union membership rule allowing Equity members to collaborate as a group to self-produce theater without the requirement of an Equity contract.

New:  Los Angeles 50-Seat Showcase Code. The Council has adopted an internal union membership rule, which allows members to work without the requirement of an Equity contract in theaters with 50 seats or fewer, where the budget for the production does not exceed $20,000, for up to 16 performances. For use up to three times per season, this Code puts L.A. in alignment with other areas of the country. The Showcase Code provides for reimbursement of actual expenses, favored nations compensation, and future rights for actors in subsequent productions.

New:  Los Angeles Membership Company Rule. In the Council’s original proposal, membership companies would have been limited to their current membership. Council amended this new internal union membership rule to allow any Equity member to participate with any membership company as long as that company was in existence prior to Feb. 6, 2015, had registered their company by April 1, 2015, and had previously produced under the prior 99-Seat Theatre Plan. This new internal union membership rule allows Equity members to participate in their membership companies without the requirement of an Equity contract. Members may negotiate their own compensation, expense reimbursement and other working conditions.

Los Angeles 99-Seat Agreement. A collective bargaining agreement to be negotiated with producers for productions in theaters of 99 seats or fewer. The Agreement provides no restrictions on budget, length of the rehearsal period, ticket price, or the length of the performance run. The Agreement would provide for salary payments based on the legally-mandated minimum wage in Los Angeles County (currently $9 per hour) with minimum call requirements, but with no pension or health benefit payments required. The Agreement would require future rights based on the terms of the subsequent Equity collective bargaining agreement and would also require basic workplace standards.

New:  Small Professional Theatre Agreement (“SPT”). The SPT Agreement, which has long been available in other parts of the country, would now be permitted for productions in Los Angeles County in venues with a capacity up to 349 seats. There is no budget cap per production, no limitation on the length of the rehearsal period, and no restriction on the length of the performance run. The Agreement provides for salary payments ranging from $229 to $664 per week, based on the maximum number of weekly performances, with pension and health contributions required. The Agreement requires future rights based on the producer’s future involvement with any subsequent production and would also require basic workplace standards.

Hollywood Area Theatre Agreement (“HAT”). The HAT is an existing collective bargaining agreement for use in Los Angeles Theatres of 349-499 seats. There is no budget cap per production, and no restriction on the length of a performance run. Productions may rehearse for no fewer than 2 ½ weeks. The Agreement provides for salaries between $229 to $582 per week and based on a 5-performance week (up to three additional performances may be purchased), with salary increases every 20th week of employment. The Agreement requires pension and health benefit payments, future rights based on the producer’s future involvement with any subsequent production and would also require basic workplace standards. The HAT Agreement is an all-Equity agreement.

Equity’s Council believes that these rules and agreements balance concerns raised by L.A. members about the original proposals, while doing what’s needed to represent the interests of the membership in L.A. and around the country. To read more details about the full set of the new membership rules and the new 99-Seat Agreement, please visit: https://members.actorsequity.org/99SeatDecision/

This is an important moment in our history – one in which we can work together to build upon the foundation of these internal membership rules and agreements. We are proud of the members in Los Angeles who shared their insightful views and spoke with passion about the importance of intimate theater. We are proud to continue with Equity’s long-standing principle of valuing the work of actors and stage managers. In customizing efforts to grow the L.A. theater scene, Equity believes it is being responsive to the needs of members and advocating for the lives and livelihoods of working artists. Growth and sustainability of the intimate theater scene in Los Angeles is going to be key.

Sincerely,

Mary McColl
Executive Director

About Peter Finlayson

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Peter Finlayson is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-chief of FootLights magazine and footlight.click. While working on a prelaw program at the University of Michigan, he happily got involved with the theatre program. Much to his mother’s chagrin, law school never happened, but in a career spanning more than 4 decades, Peter has performed, directed or designed more than 150 productions. In his spare time, he is working on a new play. You can follow him on Twitter @Thtrdog .

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