Actors Equity on Strike for Share of Record Broadway Profits

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The Do Not Work order targets the development process used by new shows, especially musicals.

Actors Equity declared a strike Monday against the lab process used to develop new Broadway shows, particularly musicals. The union, which represents performers on stage, said it had been trying for two years to negotiate a new contract with the Broadway League, which represents theater owners, producers and others.

Weekly salaries on the Lab Agreement have been frozen since 2007, the union said. Equity wants developmental performers to share in profits, which the union said some shows, such as Frozen and Mean Girls, do offer but which the Broadway League has refused to agree to as part of the new contract. Last year, 2018, was the Great White Way’s highest-grossing year on record.

“It’s unconscionable that Equity members who go to work developing some of the biggest hits on Broadway have gone more than a decade without a raise, especially when we regularly read about many of those same shows smashing box office records and generating billions of dollars in revenue,” said Equity president Kate Shindle.

With the strike, Equity has placed its Lab Agreement, Workshop Agreement and Staged Reading Contract and Stage Reading guidelines with the Broadway League on its Do Not Work list and says any Equity member who is offered work on any of those agreements, produced by a Broadway League member producer, should contact NotALabRat@ActorsEquity.org.

Equity described its Lab Agreement as a key part of how commercial theater (mostly musicals) is developed and offered some statistics: one in four Broadway shows have used a Lab Agreement before opening on Broadway, the Agreement has been used 75 times since 2016, and 51 percent of those Labs went on to further production.

The union launched its #NotALabRat campaign in November, adding that over 2,000 Equity members – most of them actively working in Broadway shows – have signed commitment cards to support the effort, and that members have volunteered and made more than 9,000 calls to fellow members to support the campaign.

“An unprecedented number of Equity members have already volunteered to support our campaign for a better Lab Agreement,” said Equity executive director Mary McColl. “We will continue our fight to make sure that Equity members can share in the success when a show becomes a hit and recoups.”

The Broadway League did not immediately respond to a request for comment.