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AEA & Plaintiffs in Asner vs. Actors' Equity Association Expected to Head to Court Following Failure to Reach Resolution

Actors' Equity Association and the plaintiffs in the Asner vs. Actors' Equity litigation confirmed today that the two parties have been unable to resolve their dispute following discussions in recent months, and are expected to take the matter to court.

AEA released the following statement today:

"Labor unions, including Actors' Equity Association (Equity), exist primarily to advocate for better wages and working conditions for theirmembers. For more than a century, Equity has fought for the basic principle that its members deserve to be paid for their work and to be treated fairly. In an effort to ensure that a percentage of actors who appear onstage in 99-seat productions are paid a wage, the National Council of Equity conducted surveys and membership meetings over the course of several months. The Council conducted an advisory referendum and, after carefully considering the results, created opportunities that would allow for some members to work under contractual agreements and be paid at least minimum wage. The Council also created 3 internal union membership rules that provided members the opportunity to volunteer their time: a) self-producing, b) performing with membership companies, or c) appearing in 50-seat showcases. This was and remains an essential step forward for fair pay in LA County, which was out of sync with the rest of the nation prior to the new rules being adopted.

The 99-Seat Transitional Code, which was created to give theaters and producers time to make the transition to one of the contractual agreements or membership rules and was extended while the facilitated discussions with the plaintiffs were underway, will no longer be available, effective December 14, 2016.

While we are disappointed that this dispute will enter the courtroom, Equity intends to vigorously defend itself against the meritless lawsuit and will file an immediate motion to dismiss. We are fully prepared to defend both the process and the substance of Council's actions."

The lawsuit was filed October 19th in the Los Angeles federal court. The plaintiffs are Los Angeles-based members of Equity, together with other theatrical artists and theater operators who had entered into a litigation Settlement Agreement with the Union in 1989 that established a system for regulating future changes to the Equity Waiver program.

The lawsuit alleges that the stage actors' union violated this Settlement Agreement by improperly interfering with the democratic and due process procedures established in the Agreement to prevent any unilateral Union decision to eliminate the world of intimate theater. The lawsuit complains that Equity's new rules, including a prohibition on volunteer acting at small theaters and a new wage compensation obligation on these theaters, will force theaters to close, reduce their production runs, or to hire non-union volunteer actors in place of Union actors.

Plaintiffs are represented by the Law Offices of Steven J. Kaplan and Martha Doty of Alston & Bird.

To read the full complaint, click here.

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