AEA President Issues Statement on Touring Contracts After Town Hall Meeting

AEA President Issues Statement on Touring Contracts After Town Hall Meeting

As previously reported, Actors Equity recently held a town hall meeting for members to discuss salaries for touring productions. It was recently announced that the upcoming tours for Kinky Boots and Newsies willl offer its actors tiered contracts- with weekly salaries around $1,000, instead of the usual $1,800. The issue sparked much discussion on Twitter and Facebook, and now, AEA President Nick Wyman has released a new letter to all 50,000 equity members, including a summation of the town hall meeting, and what they can expect with touring productions in the years to come.

Read the full letter from Wyman below:

"Dear fellow Equity member,

As you may well be aware (depending perhaps upon your distance from New York), casting notices several weeks ago for the prospective Tier C and Tier D Production Contract tours of a couple successful Broadway musicals generated impassioned concern and social media discussion. Equity's leadership and staff have been very responsive, holding a Special Town Hall Membership Meeting to lay out the origins of the tiered touring contracts, break down the allocation of road box office receipts, discuss the current situation, and solicit ideas for the future.

The Special Town Hall Membership Meeting, held Monday, was a well-attended, Equity-only forum that enabled over 400 members not only to hear how these Production Contract tiers came to be and hear about the nuts and bolts of Touring economics but also to have an extensive question and answer period and a robust discussion of current practices and suggestions for the future. (As always, there will be many opportunities for members in NY and elsewhere to give their input and participate when preparations begin for the 2015 Production Contract negotiations.)

As an actor with a wife, three children and a mortgage, I not only understand members' concerns about the loss of Equity jobs -- particularly full Production contract jobs -- I share those concerns. Like most of you, I don't work 52 weeks a year, so I need good-paying jobs to make up for modest-paying jobs or the lack of a job.

Actors' Equity works for all 50,000 members to achieve contracts providing the best possible working conditions and the greatest possible compensation. The plain truth is that there currently aren't enough jobs -- let alone good-paying jobs -- for all 50,000 of us. And that phrase "good-paying jobs" means different things to different people: what is a good-paying job to me might be unacceptable to you and vice versa. I also have a different definition for "good-paying job" when I'm feeling flush than when I haven't worked in ages.

It was just this loss of good-paying jobs that brought about the tiers in the Production Contract. Between 2000 and 2004, 40% of the one-week touring market went non-Equity; and membership resoundingly told Equity leadership and staff to win back those jobs. And we did. The vast majority of that one-week touring market is now Equity, bringing in $35 million (up from a low of $18 million ten years ago) in Equity salaries last season alone.

Some members feel that we never should have changed, that we should have insisted that producers wishing to tour with Equity actors use the full Production contract. I well understand this point of view, because fifteen years ago, it was MY point of view. Losing 40% of the market changed my mind.

Now, hypothetical situations and alternative histories are not conducive to empirical testing, but I am absolutely convinced that had we not taken action in 2004, the 40% chunk of the market that had already gone non-union would have continued to metastasize, driving down wages for everyone. The overwhelming majority of the shows that have subsequently gone out on tiers or on the SET Agreement would have been non-Equity, and we would have created the monster of a thriving, dominant non-Equity touring model. Tiers and SET Agreement tours are not lost Production Contract work; they are work that has been saved from being non-Equity.

To better understand the economics of the Road, I refer you to my " Touring 101" and "Touring 102" Equity News columns, but let me make a couple points.

Recapturing this work required adapting to the different economic model of the road. As many of you know, touring productions are separate from their Broadway counterparts: different backers, different budgets and expenses, possibly different management, different audiences, etc. One difference is that prospective producers of tiers or SET Agreement tours must submit detailed financial information to Equity in order to qualify for these tours and must submit a signed box office statement every week that they are on the road. Equity monitors these sworn box office statements to ensure that each Equity member gets a percentage of the "overage" whenever the Producer makes more than his guarantee. Should the tour recoup its investment, the Actors' salaries are automatically increased 17% and the percentage participation in the overage is also increased. And while we're talking percentages, with each successive negotiation, your Production Contract Committee has worked to push up compensation on these tours. Wages and per diem on the tiers and SET Agreement have risen about 20% since they were created.

I strongly feel that the tiers were a creative response to 2004's critical problem of losing workweeks on the road. They were a good and necessary solution, and I believe that by working together we can continue to make them better. That is why I am pleased that the Special Town Hall Membership Meeting gave us the chance to hear from both staff and membership on this issue.

Our next opportunity to improve things will be in the Production Contract negotiations in the summer of 2015. We welcome your ideas or suggestions. Indeed, if you have worked the Production Contract recently, look for the membership survey coming later this year. It is the passion, participation, and commitment of Equity members -- the same passion, participation, and commitment that were on display at the Town Hall meeting -- that makes it possible to achieve all that we have achieved.

I have great faith in my fellow members, and I know that by working together, we will get the best possible contract and achieve the greatest good for the greatest number.

In solidarity,

Nick Wyman

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