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Following months of industry conversation around unlivable wages and working conditions for assistants, major talent agency CAA is raising its base pay for hourly employees.
The agency has raised its minimum wage for assistants from $15 to $18 an hour, and a higher minimum wage has been set for other hourly employees, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The change was announced at an all-staff meeting on Jan. 9.
CAA’s general office hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (though departments and locations can have more varied workdays), meaning the daily increase in pay might be around $30 for many base salary-level hourly assistants.
The Century City-based agency is additionally changing its process for providing raises: Instead of typically offering raises for hourly employees at the end of a year, CAA is moving to a “progressive wage model” that will reward employees with raises based on upward movement in the company. Employees can now receive raises throughout the year, rather than just at the end of the year. No other details were available.
CAA is also developing a student loan “wellness program” with the help of a third-party vendor that will be announced to employees soon. No other details were offered.
When reached about similar initiatives, ICM noted it has a student loan repayment program that offers employees $100 a month to help pay off student loans. At the end of 2019, the agency also held a “private equity event” where each assistant received an additional one month’s salary to add to their year-end bonuses. (THR has reached out to WME any similar initiatives.)
Three years ago, fellow agency UTA launched a four-year plan to raise its assistant pay by an average 12 percent each year through 2020. That annual wage increase has worked in combination with annual raises for assistants based on their time at the agency and experience. UTA also provides a monthly stipend for employees that have student loans to help pay them off, financial assistance for commuting employees, grants for employees facing financial hardships and year-end bonuses, among other benefits.
The change comes on the heels of the #PayUpHollywood movement, which has vocally advocated for higher wages and better working conditions for assistants in the industry since its creation in October.
“This is a great start. We’re now seeing that when people speak up and allies help lift their voices, long-overdue change can happen,” #PayUpHollywood co-founders Deirdre Mangan and Liz Alper said in a statement. “While there are still improvements to be made, we’re glad that CAA has joined Verve in being on the right side of this issue. We’ll be watching closely to see whether other agencies and studios take similar steps. In the meantime, we encourage all support staff and allies to continue speaking out on these issues.”
In response to the movement, the Verve talent and literary agency, which represents Alper and other #PayUpHollywood supporters, raised its assistant wages by 25 to 40 percent in early December to take effect this year. Mailroom assistants at Verve now make $17.50 an hour, assistants $18.50 an hour and “experienced assistants” $20 an hour.
CAA was recently in the news in connection to #PayUpHollywood, which is concerned with the access people of color have to the industry, when The New York Times published a story on the movement on Jan. 10. Former CAA “floater” (a position that fills in for absent assistants) Jerrica Long, who worked at the agency in 2014, said she quit after overhearing an alleged conversation among white assistants “about how if slavery existed today, they would own them,” she said. “That was the day that I turned in my notice.”
The agency said in a statement to the Times that the alleged comments were “abhorrent and entirely counter to our values.” It added, “There is no record during that time, nor in Ms. Long’s exit interview, of the alleged incident.”
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