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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

The Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) is an American labor union that represents theatre performers and stage management. They are responsible for protecting their members by providing them with health and pension benefits, proper working conditions and fair salaries. Recently, they have begun preparing for a possible strike on the Broadway League. This organization is representative of theatre owners and producers. The reason for Equity’s current threat is Broadway national touring contracts. 

According to AEA’s Instagram, actors and stage managers are under an expired touring contract which ended Feb. 5. Additionally, these contracts do not adequately reflect or provide for the needs of those in the industry. The salaries being signed off on are not being adjusted correctly in response to inflation and the rising cost of living. Housing is also an issue on the table. Equity hopes contracts will begin having hotels offered by employers unless clients opt out of their housing. They also require updating the acceptable housing conditions for artists. Lastly, Equity plans to discuss coverage for stage managers and actors in the event they must be out sick or in some other emergency. 

Actors’ Equity’s “Unite The Road” campaign is calling for others to stand in support of these contract changes. Many of their actors and stage managers who are on tour have spoken out about the touring issues. Big Equity touring productions like HamiltonAladdin, Come From Away and Jagged Little Pill have all created videos in support of negotiations and change. An employee of the Equity touring company of Come From Away explained, “Our housing per diem is $84 a night, currently. That was the average of a hotel room 20 years ago. In 2023, the average hotel room cost per night is $151.” It is appalling that these workers are being paid an allowance for housing and food less than what they can live off. Workers should be paid an adequate housing stipend on tour. 

Many of these issues appear to have been augmented in connection to the COVID-19 pandemic. Live theatre was one of the many industries greatly impacted by this global event. It was detrimental. It forcibly caused productions to shut down or close indefinitely. It led to many actors losing jobs and worrying about their livelihoods. It has also led to the discussion of a need for coverage. Theatre workers should not be risking anyone’s health and safety to keep a show going. There needs to be someone who can substitute in the event of an emergency. This is just as important for stage managers who make sure productions go smoothly and safely each night. Accountability should be taken by the Broadway League to provide for these concerns. Asking for proper housing, wages and coverage is entirely reasonable and necessary for all workers.

The Actors’ Equity Association has been working to fight these issues between them and the Broadway League since January. Still, no agreement has been reached. Because of this, Equity has started the process of readying a strike. An overwhelming majority of its working members on national tours have officially accepted the initiative. Going through with this action will likely depend on negotiations that will take place around April 11 and 12. 

Performers and stage managers are just like everyone else. They earn a living through their craft. They do not deserve to be exploited simply because they are artists. Some people take artists for granted. However, without them, communities would be missing out on new experiences and art forms. The labor done by such individuals should be given the proper compensation. Whether AEA ends up striking or not, the important thing is that these artists gain the benefits they rightfully deserve.

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Anastasia Haro is a freshman at Florida State University. If not writing, you can find her watching a movie, taking a walk, or petting the campus cats.