Lawsuit Against AEA Filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division
Update: October 19:
Actors Equity Association Responds to the Lawsuit Filing:
Actors’ Equity Association Statement Regarding the Minimum Wage Lawsuit
Actors’ Equity Association (“Equity”) issued the following statement regarding the minimum wage lawsuit:
Actors’ Equity Association is a labor union that exists primarily to advocate for better wages and working conditions for its artist members.
After dedicating months of staff time, conducting surveys and membership meetings–and considering the results of the advisory referendum, which prompted AEA’s Council to carve out even more exemptions to its original proposals–the governing body created a system that would allow for some members to be paid minimum wage for rehearsals and performances, while those who chose to would still be able to volunteer their time to a) self-produce, b) perform with membership companies under the new internal membership rules, and c) appear in 50-seat showcases. Only non-member-driven producing organizations are subject to the new minimum wage requirements, which are certainly not a radical concept in any case.
It is disappointing that this prolonged process has now resulted in what will surely be a very expensive litigation for Equity. Unfortunately, the real victims here are the members all over the country who understand that when a single community files costly lawsuits and buys full page ads in major newspapers to insist that they should not be paid, it has an inevitable and deleterious effect on the union’s bargaining power for the rest of its members.
Equity is fully prepared to defend both the process and the substance of Council’s actions.
National Director of Communications
The Original Post:
On Saturday, October 17, plaintiffs representing L.A.’s intimate 99-seat theater community, and consisting of members of the actors’/stage managers’ Union, Actors Equity Association, along with some plaintiffs from the 1989 lawsuit against AEA that resulted in a Settlement Agreement, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, for breaching that Settlement Agreement (among other complaints). The lawsuit has not yet been served to the Union, in the hopes of bringing AEA back to the negotiating table with the Review Committee that the Union unilaterally dubbed extinct after its promulgated elimination of the 99-Seat Plan.
Plaintiffs include Ed Asner, Tom Bower, Gregg Daniel, John Flynn, Maria Gobetti, Gary Grossman, Ed Harris, Salome Jens, Veralyn Jones, Karen Kandazian, Simon Levy, Amy Madigan, Tom Ormeny, Lawrence Pressman, Michael A. Shepperd, Joseph Stern, French Stewart and Vanessa Stewart. The complaints are for damages and equitable relief for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, andbreach of the duty of fair representation.
The defendants named are Actors Equity Association (an organization) and its Executive Director, Mary McColl.
For a non-binding April, 2015 Referendum, the Union is alleged to have failed to post pro and con statements on its online ballot, as required by the Settlement Agreement, for the first three days of balloting, thereby depriving some Union members of equal access to information about the Referendum.
Among the State law claims, the complaint alleges that Equity’s Executive Director Mary McColl “breached her common law fiduciary duties by expending union funds in initiating and executing the scheme to breach the Settlement Agreement.”
Here is the Complaint in its entirety.