Costume Designers Call for "Pay Equity Now" at Guild Awards

Ari Perilstein/Getty Images
Salvador Perez

"Time is up," Guild president Salvador Perez declared at the annual awards ceremony on Tuesday, which provided guests with paddles emblazoned with the words "Pay Equity Now" in pink lettering.

Costume designers are no strangers to making a statement, which they accomplished once more in their calls for pay parity at the Costume Designers Guild Awards on Tuesday night.

Attendees at the 22nd annual ceremony were greeted, upon entry, with paddles on their seats calling for "Pay Equity Now." In a speech during the ceremony, Guild president Salvador Perez added, "The issue of pay equality is something we know everyone in this room supports. Last year I was so happy to see you raising your fans so I ask you to raise your fans again this year. Time is up. Pay equity now." As the lights came up, the entire room waved their fans. Also during the ceremony, director Adam McKay (The Big Short) said "to pay equity, let's do it," at the end of his acceptance speech.

This is the second consecutive ceremony that the CDG has equipped attendees with the signs, which were reminiscent of auction paddles: In 2019, guild vice president Catherine Adair addressed pay inequality in a speech: "Tonight is indeed about celebration, but it is also about the hard work we do, and in particular the issue of pay inequality as compared to our closest creative peers," Adair said. "I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the CDG is 85 percent women. I don’t know about you, and I don’t know about your watch, but mine says ‘Time’s up.'" Award winner Betty Pecha Madden, who was honored with the Distinguished Service Award, also called for pay parity in her time at the podium.

The Costume Designers Guild is gearing up to renegotiate its contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) in 2021, when the union plans on arguing that the minimum rates of workers it represents are low compared with those of unionized industry artists working in mediums not dominated by women, as costume design is. The CDG will argue production designers (unionized with the Art Directors Guild) produce similar work to that of costume designers and yet have higher rates, and will argue that the setup is illegal under California's Fair Pay Act.

Negotiations for the 2021 AMPTP contract will take place in Feb. 2021. The CDG's current contract expires in June 2021.

Gender pay parity, an issue that flared when salaries were revealed during the 2014 Sony Pictures hack and again during the start of the #MeToo movement, has reentered the news cycle as the result of the hashtag #NotWorthLess, sparked by Crazy Rich Asians writer Adele Lim's decision last year to leave the film's sequel due to unequal pay.

Local 871 from the craft union IATSE, too, is campaigning for pay parity with its #ReelEquity initiative calling for the industry to end the gender wage gap. A study released by Local 871 in 2018 found that workers in majority-female crafts, including production coordinators, assistant production coordinators, art department coordinators and script supervisors "are paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars per week less than counterparts in comparable male-dominated crafts, even though California’s Fair Pay Act generally requires equal pay for men and women performing substantially similar work and federal law bars gender discrimination in pay."