re: Actors’ Equity Association Announces ‘Open Access,’ Expanding Eligibility for Union Membership
Posted by: Revned 03:20 am EDT 07/22/21
In reply to: Actors’ Equity Association Announces ‘Open Access,’ Expanding Eligibility for Union Membership - Official_Press_Release 10:20 am EDT 07/21/21

This was a terrible idea for a lot of reasons, and it's disgraceful that it was allowed to be passed without a full vote of the union's membership.
Membership in AEA should be earned. It has always been a distinction and signifier that a performer had reached a certain level of professional skill and accomplishment. Sure, there are always some bad actors who squeak by and get in, and many worthy talents who don't catch a break and never join, but on the whole union status provides a valuable, if necessarily imperfect, gauge of credibility, and thus is an important factor in who gets seen at auditions. (When a show would benefit from opening up auditions to nonunion talent or having an open call, casting directors know this and plan accordingly.) It's hard enough even for established AEA actors to get the very limited slots at competitive auditions, and now there will be hundreds more, many of them underqualified, with the same access. By passing this plan, AEA is just making it even harder for their qualified professional members to audition and get jobs.
More access to the union will not create more union jobs, so Equity's unemployment rate will go up from 90 percent to over 99 percent. Sure, some theatres may want to hire more Equity actors than they used to, but they still won't be able to afford it--especially now, when audiences and ticket sales will be down and budgets reduced due to the lack of income over the past year and continuing effects of the pandemic. Anybody who thinks small nonunion houses and community theatres will start hiring AEA actors as a result of this change has no understanding of the economics involved.
AEA already cancelled the health insurance of nearly all its members since nobody worked enough weeks to keep it last year. They need to be looking after their members rather than indiscriminately adding more. To add insult to injury by creating more competition for jobs at this time makes no sense.
Young actors with minimal experience will jump at the chance to join the union. Many of them will not be getting union work, and now they won't be allowed to audition for nonunion jobs either, so they will find themselves not able to work anywhere.
Also, the idea that somehow this change will especially benefit BIPOC performers is unfounded and makes no sense. There is already a dramatically increased interest in plays by writers of color and in diverse casting--almost every theatre is focusing on this type of work, which would naturally have led to more Non-Equity BIPOC performers getting their chance to join the union in order to fill the increased demand. The fact that EDI language was used to support the initiative, even though there's no real correlation, was probably the reason they were able to push this through, as everybody is so afraid of sounding less woke than anybody else that the verbiage itself made it effectively impossible to object.

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