Actors’ Equity Goes on Strike Against Developmental Work

Actors’ Equity will stop issuing contracts for work on projects in development, effective immediately, as negotiations for a new contract have stalled.

The union of actors and stage managers began negotiations with the Broadway League on Jan. 22, and the current agreement expired Feb. 11. Equity Negotiating Team chair Stephen Bogardus said in a statement that the decision came as a result of an unsatisfactory wage package put forward by the League. The League said in a statement that it had utilized federal mediation services as part of the negotiating process and argued it had been negotiating in good faith.

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This is the second time Actors’ Equity has gone on strike in regards to developmental work. In 2019, the union went on a 33-day strike over this contract, which pertains to workshops and readings of shows held before potential full productions on Broadway or elsewhere. In the end, union members who take part in the development of certain productions gained a share in 1 percent of the show’s profits, once the show goes on to a full production and recoups, as well as a salary increase.

The union had voted to authorize this strike in February. The strike pertains to upcoming work, as there are currently no projects with open or ongoing development contracts with Broadway League producers.

“We never wanted it to come to this, but the wage package put across the table by The Broadway League was just plain unacceptable. Our members cannot afford to work on this contract at the proposed compensation levels over the next five years,” Bogardus said. “Five years ago, we ceased development work to get The Broadway League to acknowledge the work our members provide in the development of new work for the Broadway arena. Five years later, we are forced to do it again. We look forward to the day we can return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair wage on this agreement that meets our stage managers’ and actors’ needs. We are ready whenever The League is.”

The strike comes as Brooke Shields took over leadership as president of Actors’ Equity in late May, marking her first big test in the job, and one day after the Tony Awards, Broadway’s biggest event of the year.

Asked for comment on the strike, the League said that while it remained hopeful for a deal, the strike would not impact touring or Broadway productions.

“The Broadway League and our bargaining partners have engaged in good faith negotiations with Actors’ Equity on new terms for our development work contract, including agreeing to the Union’s request to utilize the federal mediation services to help facilitate this process.  Our Development Agreement is specific to developing new works, and these negotiations have no impact on current Broadway and Touring productions or those opening this season. We remain hopeful that ultimately we can reach a deal that works for all parties,” the League said in a statement.

Equity noted that several of the nominated musicals, including Tony winners The Outsiders and Suffs, as well as Water for Elephants, The Notebook and more had done developmental work using this contract, which applies to labs, workshops and stage reading agreements.

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