When Unions Strike

Dear AFL-CIO,

union cuffsYou sent out a press release on the current situation where Mary McColl and her Council from the Actors’ Equity Association have foisted a new plan on its LA membership that is being roundly rejected by its own members.

I wrote a lot about that plan and its presentation.  I understand, however, that in your rush to get your press release out, you may have not done your research any more carefully than taking AEA’s word for things.  I understand. We live in busy times.

I’d like to help out.  Here are a few points where I would edit your press release to make it less a polemic and more reality-based.

You say that “small theater is booming in Los Angeles today.”

Someone must have forgot to tell the houses on Hollywood Theater Row which are closing about this boom. “Booming” is used to describe business and cash.  There is no cash in intimate theater.  Perhaps you meant to say “vibrant”?  Los Angeles has a very diverse and exciting artistic community putting out some of the finest theater in the country.  Unfortunately, the houses, though 99 seats or less, don’t sell out very often.

If you really wanted to support the local actors, you could encourage your local membership to go to an intimate theater show.

You’ve described Tim Robbins as “leading the charge against the fair pay plan.”  I would have preferred an illustration to make your point clearer.  So here is Tim, in a photo from 2011, also leading that charge against fair pay:

Tim Robbins Union Man

Finally, you quote Charlayne Woodard but neglect to mention that her entire career was enabled by the 99-Seat Theater plan. Apparently, she wants to deny the next generation of the same opportunity she had.  That’s not fair, is it?

I think the biggest messaging issue you have, AFL-CIO, is that it’s problematic for you to write that the loudest voices against the AEA plan are its own member actors. Yes, Mary McColl and her Council are fighting their own members. That’s the reason it is always the same few actors who get quoted in the pro-AEA plan material, yours included.  That should prove that the AEA is in trouble.  That’s the reason they are trying to enlist your help in securing hearts and minds.

Do you feel used?

And one last very important point you probably didn’t hear from Mary McColl.  The AEA member actors aren’t even fighting to keep the old plan. They indeed want the 99-Seat Theater Plan to evolve. They want it to change.  But they don’t want the change that the Union is forcing on them.  And why would they?  They know it will hurt their artistic lives.

Are you really going to put yourself in a position to tell the Union members that you know best?

McColl didn’t engage her membership to any degree except to hear that the actors wanted to be paid more.  The actors offered other ideas about how  to get paid more but none of that is reflected in the Union plan.  The Union leadership simply heard what it wanted to hear and used it to generate a unilateral action.

That doesn’t sound like Union behavior to me at all.   Sounds more like bad Management, doesn’t it?

<signed>

Someone who thought the Unions were about truly representing the Little Guy

 

Other thoughts about Actors’ Equity actions:
9 + 1 Questions that AEA has Yet to Answer
Even 9 + 1 More Musings after AEA Votes to End the “99-Seat Plan”
L’audace, L’audace, Toujours L’audace
Deceit by Statistics
9 + 1 More Musings during the Los Angeles Vote on the New AEA Plan
Union Names and Actual Values
9+1 Musings Since the Release of the New AEA Waiver Plan
Show Me The Money

Originally published March 19, 2015 in Bitter Lemons.

About Kevin Delin

monsterid
Kevin Delin took a few writing courses (among other things) at MIT from playwright A.R. Gurney and author Frank Conroy. In addition to writing a monthly column for Footlights, he uses his extensive tech background, including a PhD in Physics, and work experience in both Silicon Valley and NASA to advise those who want to ground their entertainment in science. He's also contributed pieces about art and culture to American Theatre, LA Weekly, Script Magazine, and Stage Raw. You can follow him on Twitter @kdelin and find his other writings at kevindelin.com.

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