Questioning whether nonunion-tour producers are diverting work covered by its Production Contract, Actors' Equity Association has filed federal complaints against Clear Channel Entertainment, the Nederlander Producing Company of America, Inc., and Dodger Stage Holding Theatricals, Inc.
Equity has complained to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which regulates union-management activities, that the three companies have engaged in unfair labor practices (ULP) by failing to disclose requested information about their ties to non-Equity producers.
The federal filings against producers take Equity's battle against nonunion tours to a new level. The union has stressed that, while union actors worked 44,000 weeks on tour five years ago, that figure fell to 21,000 weeks this past year, reflecting the growth in non-Equity tours. Previously the actors-and-stage-managers union has voiced its disapproval via rallies and leafleting at theatres. But Equity recently has dedicated over $1 million in funds plus manpower to up the ante in the nonunion-tour fight as the union approaches negotiations on a new Production Contract this spring. The pact with the League of American Theatres and Producers expires on June 27.
"At the center of the ULPs is the question of whether Clear Channel Entertainment has diverted work covered by the Production Contract to the non-Equity producer NETworks, the Nederlander Organization has done the same with Troika, and Dodger Stage Holding Theatricals, Inc. to Big League Theatricals," Equity said in a press release issued last week. NETworks, Troika, and Big League are major producers of nonunion tours.
Over the last month, Equity has filed an individual complaint against each of the three corporations with the NLRB, with the first registered on Jan. 6 and the last on Feb. 2. Each complaint consisted of only a paragraph stating that, since Dec. 19, 2003, each producer had "failed and refused" to provide information that would allow Equity "to fulfill its obligations as bargaining representative for actors and stage managers under the employ" of each company.
Though the complaint wording proved minimal, Equity said in its release that, in separate letters, it had requested from each firm "any and all documents that demonstrate a general partnership, limited partnership or other financial interest, ownership interest or option in non-Equity companies, among other information."
Explaining the reasoning for the complaints, Alan Eisenberg, Equity's executive director, said, "None of the three firms has been willing to cooperate with Actors' Equity and we feel it necessary to determine what relationship these three companies have with producers who send out non-Equity tours. This failure to provide the information we requested begs the question -- what are they hiding?"
Equity noted that Clear Channel Entertainment produces a number of Broadway shows and has licensed "Seussical" and "Fosse" to NETworks. The Nederlander organization, a theatre owner in addition to producing on Broadway, has licensed "Saturday Night Fever" to Troika.
Dodger Stage Holding Theatricals, Inc. produces "42nd Street" on Broadway and the current Equity tour. Dodger has licensed the non-Equity rights of "42nd Street" to Big League Theatricals, which, according to the union, has not responded to Equity's request to negotiate a contract. Dodger also produced "The Music Man" and licensed the tour to Big League.
Nederlander, while a member of the league, bargains directly with Equity on productions. Dodger withdrew from the league in 2001, but is bound by the Production Contract through its expiration this year. Clear Channel is not a league member.
"We know Clear Channel and the Nederlanders have direct ties to non-Equity producers and strongly believe that Dodgers has had a direct tie to Big League in the past," stated Eisenberg. "These types of relationships are the worst kind of bad faith when it relates to the contract we have with the league."
Back Stage called Jean Gonsoulin, Clear Channel Entertainment's vice president of corporate communications; James M. Nederlander, chairman of the Nederlander Producing Company of America; and Michael David, a partner of Dodger Stage Holding. Neither Gonsoulin nor Nederlander had returned calls by press time. David's office suggested calling Dodger press representative Boneau Bryan-Brown in New York City. Adrian Bryan-Brown said Dodger would have no response.
On Wed., Feb. 11, Equity dramatized its case in the nation's capital, where at 1 pm Equity members performed "The Jobless Chronicles" at the AFL-CIO headquarters. The rousing one-act musical protests the plight of workers nationwide. That evening, the actors took their performance to the Rayburn House Office Building, where AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) hosted a celebration of the 90th anniversary of Equity's founding. Co-hosts included Kate Burton, Kathleen Chalfant, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Estelle Parsons, and Tony Roberts.