Why is MET on Equity's do not work list?
On the first day of rehearsal Aug 2018, MET was contacted by AEA to say that they expected MET to step fully into the SPT agreement, taking us to 14 required contracts from 6. We were given no option. We were to agree to this increase in our budget or we would be placed on the union’s do not work list. We reluctantly agreed. For the first two productions of MET’s 2018-19 season, 4 Equity actors and 2 Equity Stage Managers were contracted. Contracts were secured via funding primarily from the local NTDF fund.
Our tight budget was seriously challenged in November of 2019 when a major funder had to suspend their funding. For MET, this loss was $25-$35,000 in operational support. Over the next two months, MET contacted Equity on 3 occasions asking for help and advice on how to weather the budget crisis. On each occasion, the union’s response was “fulfill the contract”.
MET staff made an appearance at an Equity Central Regional Board Meeting to share our financial situation and ask for help. Again, our requests were dismissed.
Left with no other option, the MET Board of Directors voted to pause the relationship with AEA for the balance of the year. In doing so, MET defaulted on the 2018-19 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Actors’ Equity Association. This resulted in the company being placed on the union’s do not work list, barring union actors and stage managers from working with MET. That agreement has now expired and currently, MET has no signed contract with the union.
MET was placed on the do not work list on August 29, 2019. The recent development expanding the warning to all non-AEA members with occurred on Oct 29, 2019, 61 days later.
Does MET have an agreement with AEA now?
No. The current rider expired on June 2, 2019. A rider applicable for the 2019-2020 Season was not signed.
Why are Non-Equity actors and SM’s being added to the AEA Do Not Work list?
We do not know. This is a contractual dispute between MET and AEA. MET believes non-union professionals should be free to work and to earn a living and make art however and with whomever they choose. It is most inappropriate to involve others in this issue. We learned about this development through Social Media. No communication had been received from AEA prior to that time or since.
Why didn’t MET respond to inquiries from the press this past year?
MET was advised by our attorney not to respond to inquiries from the press and we did not receive any. An online publication recently stated they had tried to contact us several times for comment. No phone or email messages ever came to our office. On the day that the Non-Equity Ban was announced, we received a phone call from a different publication at 3:30 p.m. requesting comment for an article that was published online at 4 p.m.
How many Non Union artists does MET hire on average each year?
This affects a great many people. The numbers of people MET casts varies year to year depending on the productions of the season, but we generally employ between 55-110 non-union actors and stage managers annually.
Does this situation disproportionately affect artists of color?
Yes. MET has consistently practiced inclusive casting. This season was programmed as New Voices in the Warwick, specifically casting several traditionally white plays in new ways and bringing urban relevance to older classic plays, particularly Oliver. With that in mind, we are seeking to expand and diversify our talent pool even more. Our internal goal stated for this year was to cast 20 actors of color in this season and re-calibrating our casting from this point forward to more consistently reflect our community.
What is the net loss to the Non AEA community financially?
The potential loss of income to the Non-Equity community approaches or exceeds $110,000-$125,000 annually.
What portion of MET’s budget is used to pay artists?
We estimate that over 25% of our budget goes to performing artist salaries.
MET pays every adult artist who works with us. (note: children are also provided small stipends for their contribution to our work). As independent contractors, project stipends range from $450-$1500 on average depending on the size of the role, the actor’s level of experience and training and the length of the run. Most projects are 6-7 weeks long with a few exceptions.
How much do Equity contracts cost?
AEA contracts vary in expense and include tax, insurance and pension costs.
An SPT 4 Actor Contract per week: Salary $381, Health $162, Pension and Dues $30.48 = $573.48/week
(plus $75 per week for payroll services=$648.48) X 6 weeks run = $3,890.00
An SPT SM Contract per week: Salary $460, Health $162.00, Pension and Dues $36.80= $658.80/week
(plus $75 per week for payroll services= $733.80) X 7 weeks + tech week pay bump of $276 = $5,411.00
The cost for 2 contracts per production to $9,301.00.
(Over a 6 show season this cost would begin to approach $60K when additional rehearsal weeks were added for musicals.)
What steps did MET take to address this issue and try to avoid it?
MET offered several compromises but the conversations between AEA and MET from Nov to Jan of last season were not successful. We honored our contractual requirement for 4 productions until we simply ran out of funds. With our bank account drained, the MET Board concluded that continuing as an AEA SPT was not an option. To continue to work with Equity, MET would need to cut our Non Equity payroll, increase ticket prices, cut rehearsal weeks, mount fewer productions with shorter runs and smaller casts. This is not MET’s aesthetic.
Does MET owe any money to AEA now?
Not to MET’s knowledge, despite weekly requests for confirmation. Last spring, an agreement was reached with the Equity League Pension and Benefits office regarding insurance and pension payments that would have been paid had MET been able to finance the contracts. A payment plan was worked out and has been paid in full.
How is the Warwick renovation affecting MET’s finances?
Renovating the historic building is challenging to say the least. However there is progress on the 100 year old building upgrade. The estimated project budget is $1.4 million dollars. Renovations are approximately 50% completed at this time. Fundraising independent of the annual budget is also contributing to offset the cost of the renovations.
What is going to happen next with MET? With AEA? With the DNW?
We are open to continuing discussions with AEA and actively working to find a mutually sustainable resolution to this issue. With all due respect, we held auditions for Proof on Nov 24 and will cast the show from those attending.
We believe that every artist has a right to choose their own path and creative endeavors. Choosing to join a union is a career choice and can be a great one for some. That door should be open to everyone if they choose, regardless of where they work.
We will continue to update FAQ’s and keep you updated as the situation progresses. Should you have additional questions or wish to communicate with MET leadership, please email email@example.com,