Musicians Union Declares Support for Actors Strike Over Share of Broadway Profits

Actors Equity #NotALabRat Campaign-Publicity-H 2019
Walter McBride

The Actors Equity strike, in its third day, targets the development process used by new shows, especially musicals.

The New York branch of the musicians' union threw its support behind a strike called Monday by Actors Equity, announcing Wednesday that it supported the performers' union action against the lab process used to develop new Broadway shows, particularly musicals.

Whether the strike will materially affect upcoming shows is as yet unclear, and may depend on its duration. The musicians, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, gave no indication that they would join the strike, and probably couldn’t do so even if they wished to until their current Broadway contract expires on March 3.

"The Local 802 Musicians' Union supports Actors' Equity in its effort to secure just compensation for its members," said the musicians' statement. "Broadway is booming. Grosses and attendance are at all-time highs. This is made possible by the creative and performing artists who do the hard work of developing and performing in these productions."

The statement added, "The work done in developmental labs is essential to the success of any Broadway production. This has been recognized by several producers such as Disney, Lorne Michaels, and the producers of Hamilton, who have decided to share profits with actors who play a role in the development of productions. It is time the Broadway League get in line with these producers and do the right thing."

"The Broadway League has been negotiating in good faith over multiple sessions and there are additional proposals to make," the League said Tuesday in a statement. "We look forward to continuing our respectful dialogue with [Actors’ Equity] and are confident that we will reach a fair agreement that will be beneficial to both sides."

Last year was Broadway’s highest-grossing year on record. As part of its #NotALabRat campaign, launched in November, Equity members hit the streets Tuesday asking Broadway patrons to wear a button in support of the strike.

Equity said previously that it had been trying for two years to negotiate a new contract with the Broadway League, which represents theatre owners, producers and others, and that weekly salaries under a key contract, the Lab Agreement, have been frozen since 2007. Equity wants developmental performers to share in profits.

Local 802, also known as the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, represents over 7,500 members who perform on Broadway; at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Radio City; and on late-night TV shows and in other televised bands, as well as in venues across the city.