Actors’ Equity and the minimum wage debate

Written by
Anthony Byrnes, host of “Opening the Curtain” on KCRW

National leaders of Actors’ Equity have rejected a recent vote by rank-and-file union members in Los Angeles’ stage acting community.

They will impose a $9 hourly minimum wage for members who perform in Los Angeles County theaters, unless they perform in theaters of 49 seats or fewer, or if it’s a membership company, or if the show is self-produced.

The issue has pitted the national stage actors’ union against many of its own members.

Los Angeles members of Actors Equity voted last week two-to-one against their union’s plan to require the city’s 99-seat theatres to start paying performers a $9 hourly minimum wage.

Most actors at those theatres currently work for far less, or nothing. Supporters of the plan say actors should be paid for their time. But many oppose the minimum wage plan because they fear it will force cash-strapped theatres to close, resulting in fewer opportunities for actors to hone their craft.

About 3,100 Actors Equity members in LA voted in the election, in a turnout of about 44 percent.

It’s a complicated decision with seven different parts, so we asked Anthony Byrnes, host of Opening the Curtain on KCRW, to tell us what the Actors’ Equity vote means for Los Angeles.