LOS ANGELES—The Actor’s Equity Association, the national labor union for theatrical performances, attempted to impose a $9 hourly minimum wage on Tuesday, April 21 for Los Angeles theaters. This minimum wage would go into effect for all small theaters that house 99 seats or less and replace the current $7 to $15 system.
The Los Angeles 99-Seat Theater Plan which began in 1989, was enacted from local actors who opposed union rules being enforced on small theaters. Where the plan currently stands, actors are only paid for performances and not rehearsals. The national AEA union began the proposal after Los Angeles actors contacted them saying they were unable to afford unpaid rehearsals while working other jobs also.
The initial vote for the minimum wage was 2,046 to 1,075, with the local AEA opposing the proposed hourly minimum. The local union believes the wages will have a negative effect on small theaters, forcing producers to solely focus on box-office sales and forgoing the long tradition of creativity that has kept these small theaters alive, while maintaining the small theater identity.
Later in the day the national AEA union overrode the local vote, enforcing the $9 minimum. This will help Los Angeles’ small theaters focus on growth and expansion. They have offered to help with funding to initiate the growth of small-theaters in the area after opening a regional Headquarters in North Hollywood.
Los Angeles’ small theaters work on a yearly budget of $100,000 for multiple productions. The mandated minimum wage will cut a large portion of the budget and give it to actors, who would see their pay nearly quadruple. The allure of the small theater for many local union leaders has been viewing these 99-seat houses as a place to learn and develop in a business actors are passionate about.
Local AEA opponents may consider legal action to overturn the decision.