Author Topic: AEA membership rights violated, now what?  (Read 2444 times)

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Culpepperf

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AEA membership rights violated, now what?
« on: Jul 01, 2007, 12:05 pm »
Ok, so I'm in a showcase in NY right now (from Dallas). I am Equity (just joined granted, but have been employeed under an equity contract since February) and had to pay for all of my travel expenses and such, and have in my usual above-and-beyond manner rolled with the punches.
However, as I've been here, almost every duty of the technical director and house manager (both of whom are here seeing shows and sites daily) have fallen to me and my crew.
This has awoken an urge to review my rights as set forth by Equity. I have realized that since being employeed under contract by Equity, so many of my rights have been violated. I run lights and sound, am janitor and custodian, am unpaid and never reimbursed for several extracarricular duties imposed but not contracted.
My basic question is this: What now? Do I file a report (I have yet to receive a SM packet)? Should I go to the Equity office tomorrow while I'm here.?
He wants me to accept the position of PSM which I feel is his way of taking advantage of someone who has put forth too much effort and too little resistance.

For those who would like more specifics:
First, the Producer is technical director and often director (and is the founder as well) of my theatre in Dallas. I began working with said theatre as an actor and was asked to try a hand at SMing, was put on as an "ASM" though I was not given an Equity contract and the Equity SM (coincidentally the Producer) never attended rehearsals.
So, the first infraction is: the Producer intentionally hired someone with no training or experience stage managing. I now believe this is because I am a hard worker who never complains. No biggie, maybe.
But, here are some of the violations I have had set upon me as listed in the Equity handbook :

(1) It is agreed and understood that the function of the Stage Manager and Assistant
Stage Manager is a full time one.  As such, the Stage Manager and Assistant Stage
Manager shall not be required to perform the following, unless they are contracted
and compensated separately from the Equity contract; a separate written contract
shall be made, a copy of which shall be forwarded to Equity.

...
(b) Perform the duties, which are properly those of stagehands, house
management staff or box office personnel. (I've done a great deal of all of this things, though mostly voluntarily)
(c) Design, build, hang, operate or shop for lights, sound, scenery, props or
wardrobe, etc. (I operate both light and sound and have had to purchase more than a few props)
(d) Be responsible for any aspect of laundry or dry cleaning. (one of my "weekly duties")

(2) Members of the Stage Management staff are prohibited from:
...
(d) Doing janitorial, custodial or building maintenance work including, but not
limited to, securing and locking any part of the theatre or backstage areas.  (I am the janitor, for all intents and purposes)

Lastly, I have been reading up on the showcase information and now realize I was greatly misled. I was under the impression that somehow not only was I obligated to pay for this trip and perform the duties, but also that this was far from optional.
I love theatre and hold AEA in the highest regard; and so I want to keep it pure by restricting abuse, especially when it is inflicted on me and MY CREW (who have been greatly unnappreciated and underpaid [or not at all]).

VSM

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Re: AEA membership rights violated, now what?
« Reply #1 on: Jul 01, 2007, 12:54 pm »
I'm glad you have had the opportunity to gather your thoughts and vent your feelings. Besides being a wealth of information, this site is a wonderful place to share experiences, both good and bad.

It seems you are in a situation that has gotten seriously out of hand. Have you had a conversation with the Producer/Employer/Technical Director/Director/Founder as to the specifics of your concerns? Before you take it to the Union, I suggest you try and resolve the issues in a nice, polite conversation stressing that there seems to be some kind of misunderstanding and you would love to clear it up before it goes any further. Depending on the outcome of your conversation you can either make a call to the Union to see if there are any other options, chalk it up to experience, or leave the production.

Welcome to the Union. All Producers are NOT like this and I applaud your morals, convictions and fortitude and would welcome a personal message should the need arise. We all wish you the best...
Ordo ab chao

Culpepperf

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Re: AEA membership rights violated, now what?
« Reply #2 on: Jul 01, 2007, 05:22 pm »
Thank you both for your replies. I realize that I did not specify that the majority of my concerns were regarding the typical working environment at our "home" theatre in Dallas.

I discovered the "hazy (great description, btw)" nature of showcase agreement only recently. I understand this exercise is one from which I will gain a valuable experience in the "If you have questions, ask." side of the business.

Mostly, I am inquiring about all of this because I am expected to accept the position of Production Stage Manager (which I now feel I will be unable to accept, for the good of the theatre and my sense of self). However, I have verbally agreed to SM the first two shows of our 07-08 season. It is generally understood the producer intends me to finish the season as SM.

With the danger of my intentions and concerns seeming to be more shallow than is the case, I have to concede, I feel cheated that I have acted as SM, light/sound operator, riser crew (we have break-down risers), janitor, and jack-of-all-trades all for the Equity minimum SM salary.

I have gently touched on some of these topics with my producer (though I haven't directly pointed to the Equity handbook), and he has typically regarded the subject with "It's all part of the job." I realize now that I should have been more proactive in researching my expectations and rights, but was provided with minimal information; I didn't receive an Equity Handbook until after the read-thru in my third show as SM.

The long and short of it is: I don't want to burn a bridge and the producer has never been very receptive of ideas conflicting with his. I don't want to sound greedy, but I feel like I'm owed payment for the extra positions I've had. When I received my final paycheck for SMing the most recent show (prior to the showcase), I was told that I would not receive any other payment because all of the duties I was performig were part of being an Equity stage manager. I know this was untrue, and yes, I am tentative about directly bringing this to his attention; though I'm not totally sure why. I feel I owe him a bit of loyalty, but as such I should receive the same loyalty and respect.

Culpepperf

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Re: AEA membership rights violated, now what?
« Reply #3 on: Jul 03, 2007, 12:48 am »
Thanks again, to all replies. I've breached the subject (as did one of my crew members who was standing up for me; ain't crew sweet!) and the producer wasn't so receptive, and began mentioning "grey areas," not only in showcases but with the Equity Handbook as it pertains to typical procedure for an ordinary run. As I posted previously, I've all but totally decided to cut my losses regarding the showcase and just pretend I blew a ton of money on a neat vacation in NY.

However, as for the situation I am PRIMARILY concerned with: I am going to inquire with an Equity representative as to how to handle the situation. I realize I should have negotiated separate contracts (again this was a regular, non-showcase run) for my lighting and sound and plethora of other jobs. I did not and will ask a rep whether I effectively "volunteered" by omission and if not, whether I am entitled some payment. I certainly don't want to cause a great rift or occupy time Equity could be more appropriately using when I can resolve the issue by cutting my losses and moving on, or by simply telling the producer of my findings with Equity.

Again, thanks to all of you who responded. I'm not sure if I will choose to return to the other side of the curtain or pursue SMing elsewhere, but I certainly have a newfound respect for what is possibly the most thankless job one can have in the entertainment biz. You guys are awesome and you deserve more thanks than you get for sure!

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