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The Broadway League and Actors' Equity Association Negotiate New Production Contract

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In late September, The Broadway League and Actors' Equity Association kicked negotiations into high gear for the next Broadway and sit-down production contract. The last contract expired, but was extended while the two groups worked through various pandemic-related issues. Equity, ever the fan of a social media hashtag campaign, this week asked its members to share the hashtag #ItsAboutTimeBroadway along with their support for the union.

When negotiations began, Equity asked members to sign a Production Contract Bargaining Support Statement, which stated in part: "[N]o business model should require sacrificing the needs of its workers." In recent materials to its members, the union stated it is focusing on the "core issues of coverage, safety and scheduling" in the negotiations and the League isn't listening. Of course, raises are also on the table.

"Everyone has different thoughts with regard to the roles they play in our industry," said Jessica Rush, a veteran of six Broadway shows and co-host of the Mamas Talkin' Loud podcast. Rush said that age has a lot to do with what issues are most important to a member at any given time.

As a swing and understudy, THE MUSIC MAN's Maria Rose Briggs, stressed the importance of coverage. This involves both getting more people hired to cover and also how those covers are rehearsed. Briggs talked about the dangers of the "split track." In theory, swings go on for one missing cast member and follow that ensemble cast member's track. However, when there are more ensemble members out than there are covers, swings need to perform a "split track," meaning they perform multiple tracks during the same performance.

"[For THE MUSIC MAN], I have done a total of 44 different split tracks," Briggs said, noting that some involved performing for five people at a time. "Our company has four offstage swings for a cast of 41 on stage. We continuously do split tracks. And I think that that's the frustrating part -- we knew that we didn't have the appropriate coverage from the beginning."

Safety is a more all-encompassing issue. It includes things like covering multiple tracks because that can lead to safety issues backstage. But it also includes things like complaints about ventilation and black mold in theaters.

Then there is scheduling. This includes things like an end to "10 out of 12s," which Equity has been pushing in negotiations for at least two decades. (Some theaters and productions have eliminated these -- which allow for technical rehearsals to take place over a 12-hour per day period -- but the Broadway contract still allows for the possibility of them.) It also includes a push for additional personal and vacation days.

"My biggest issue is the personal day situation because it is at the producers' discretion to give you additional personal days," Rush stated. She explained that you are allowed four personal days (in addition to accrued vacation time) under the contract but that some shows are lenient in allowing extra personal days, whereas others are not.

"[Producers] always go back to the contract," she said. "But is it more important to have a cast that feels respected and seen and taken care of physically, mentally and emotionally or hold fast to these four days?"

The Broadway League declined to comment for this story. A source in the organization stated, unsurprisingly, their side was more likely to fold on extra days off than anything that would involve huge expenditures.


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