Wage Battle by L.A. Actors: A Poem & Reader Poll
[News Item: In Los Angeles, some Actors’ Equity Association actors filed a lawsuit against a new union rule dictating a $10/hour minimum wage in smaller, 99-seat theatres. Opponents claim the change will destroy the city’s unique theatre culture; the union says the raise is necessary to help actors make a living.]
With minimum-wage rallies across the U.S.,
You might think this new rule would be lauded.
But in L.A., instead, some actors see red,
And this contract is decried – not applauded.
The City of Angels has a long history
Of small venues less than 100 seats.
Aspiring performers came, like moths to a flame,
Willing to act almost for free.
The Actors’ Equity ruling, recently reversed,
Had let L.A. actors work as “volunteers”.
If the theatre was small, a tiny stipend was all,
Performers earned for the past 40 years.
Many aspiring stars of stage and screen,
Chase their “big break” while working for love.
Moonlighting by day, at real jobs with real pay,
They think 99-seat theaters pay them enough.
If minimum wage goes up, demand for actors will fall,
The ruling’s opponents and economists say.
If labor budgets balloon, many small venues will be ruined,
Since they cannot afford all that pay.
When membership was polled,
Two-thirds voted against the union’s plan.
Naysayers frame the question as freedom of expression:
Why can’t leadership understand?
Self-expression, these actors say,
Is a priceless, precious gift.
The need for creation provides liberation,
Giving their souls a lift.
But one-third of members disagreed,
As did union leaders in command:
“Cultural vibrancy and financial solvency.
Must always go hand in hand.”
A federal judge dismissed the suit,
Upholding the union’s decree.
The “99-Seaters” vow to fight it somehow,
Who knows what the outcome will be.
Perhaps a compromise can be reached,
And the opposing factions become allied.
But if neither will budge, it’ll be up to a judge
To weigh arguments and finally decide.
Poll Question: How would you rule?