Thursday, April 23, 2015

Actors' Equity Implements $9 Minimum Wage For LA's Small Theaters

From NPR's All Things Considered:

Less than a week after union members in LA overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to make small theaters pay their performers minimum wage, Actors' Equity decided to go ahead and implement it anyway. Many say the move could force many 99-seat theaters in LA to close.

Read or listen to the rest here.

As many of you know, I am an incredibly strong supporter of organized labor. After all, collective bargaining is just about the only kind of leverage that workers have when dealing with capitalists who generally hold all the cards and dictate the rules of the game. But I'm also a pragmatist. I don't believe it's a good idea to try to squeeze blood from a stone. It's an even worse idea for a union to escalate the death throes of an already dying industry.

That is, Actors' Equity has long performed a vital service for professional stage actors, representing them, making sure they can make a fair and decent living working in the theater. But they seem to be stuck in the nineteenth century, too, seemingly in deep denial about the fact that theater, for the vast majority of American cities, for several decades now, is no longer a viable economic venture. All that squeezing small theaters does is to finish off the smoldering remains of this once thriving art form.

How does this benefit actors?

I mean, okay sure, Equity is still doing good work for the ever shrinking group of people who are blessed enough to actually get some employment as actors. But this is like making sure the wealthiest passengers on the Titanic are comfortable, happy, and well fed while the ship is going down.

Why isn't this organization doing anything about the fact that the industry in which it functions is probably going to disappear almost completely in the next fifty years or so? That's the real crisis. And putting theaters out of business only makes it worse.