Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) has authorized a strike against the Broadway League. AEA is the national union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theater. On Feb. 10, members of the national council of AEA voted unanimously to authorize a strike against the Broadway League (the national trade association for theater owners and operators, presenters, and general managers in commercial theater across North American cities), for work on the development agreement.
A strike has not begun. The vote simply allows Equity to call for one if the union deems it necessary in this negotiation process.
The current development agreement expired on Feb. 11. Negotiations between AEA and the League on this contract have been taking place since Jan. 22, 2024.
AEA’s most recent strike took place in 2019 over negotiations for this same contract, then called the Lab Agreement. That 2019 strike lasted 33 days. The development agreement applies to the development of new work that is intended to, eventually, become an engagement under the production agreement.
“We know that show development is work,” said Equity executive director and lead negotiator Al Vincent, Jr. in a statement. “This development work hopefully leads to successful shows, some of which have long lives with many iterations that can make a lot of money for producers. We know there is no revenue from the development sessions themselves, but it’s still work, and that doesn’t change whether there’s revenue today or whether it’s an investment producers are making against future profits. And that work must be appropriately compensated.”
Equity members went on strike in 2019 over this contract, then called the Lab Agreement. It was the union’s first strike in 50 years, lasting a total of 33 days. If Equity and the Broadway League do not reach a deal and a strike is called, actors and stage managers would refuse to cross the picket line on projects to develop shows aimed at full-scale productions. At the time of publication, representatives for the Broadway League had not responded to a request for comment.
Update: Jason Laks, general counsel and executive vice president of labor relations at the Broadway League, said in a statement on Feb. 12: “We have been engaged in good faith negotiations with Actors’ Equity regarding development work. These negotiations have no impact on any Broadway or touring productions. The contract we are negotiating covers only short-term employment in the early stages of development work on projects that may or may not ever become fully realized productions. As the union itself has acknowledged, this work does not generate revenue for the producers. We look forward to returning to the bargaining table and continuing our efforts towards reaching an agreement.”