Actors Equity intends to change the name to reflect its full membership

Actors’ Equity Association is looking to change its name to be more reflective of its entire membership.

Founded in 1913, the 51,000-member union represents only actors and stage managers who work in live theater but has recently organized strip club dancers, planetarium lecturers and others who work in live arts and entertainment.

The union said today that it is now accepting proposals “to guide stakeholders through the process of determining a potential new name for the union, as well as implementing potential name changes and rebranding.”

According to the union, a “selected vendor will work with Equity member-leaders and staff in two phases. In the first phase of work, the agency will assess readiness for a name change, conduct market and stakeholder research, develop new name options and select a new name, to provide members and the broader will advise the Change the Name Working Group when conducting communications about the industry. In the second step of the process, if the Union decides to move forward with a new name, the Agency will assist in developing brand assets associated with the new name, including a new logo and/or logotype; but not limited to tagline, visual identity etc.

The deadline for questions is March 1, and answers are March 15, with an award expected by the end of April. Work on the project will begin in May and is expected to continue through 2024. The request for proposals is open to all organizations. Read the full RFP here.

The process of changing its name was initiated by a resolution passed at the 2021 Convention on Equity, but it is rooted in the Union’s history. Here’s the background:

“To understand the desire for a new name and identity for the union, it is important to understand some of the history of equity, which stretches back to the founding of the union in 1913,” the union said. “The Actors’ Equity Association was officially recognized by the American Federation of Labor (later to become the AFL-CIO) in 1919, as Equity launched its historic first strike.

“This was the first strike in American theater history, demanding recognition as performers’ representatives and bargaining agents. The strike lasted 30 days, spread to eight cities, closed 37 plays, prevented the opening of 16 others, and cost millions of dollars. Chorus performers along with actors Joins the fight Five days after the strike began, the Corus Equity Association was formed.

“In the early days of the theater in America, the functions that stage managers perform today were often taken over by actors. But by the 1920s, stage managing equity was recognized as a distinct job category in contracts, and stage managers have been valued members of the Actors’ Equity Association ever since.

“Actors’ Equity and Chorus Equity merged in 1955. Today, Equity consists of three primary job categories: lead actors, chorus actors, and stage managers. However, only two of these categories are represented by the name Actors’ Equity Association.

“After several years of organizing within the forum management community, Equity’s inaugural convention in 2021 passed a resolution entitled “In solidarity, rename our union”. That resolution stated:

WHEREAS Actors’ Equity Association is a union representing thousands of stage managers and actors nationwide; And

Since the present name of our union, the Actors’ Equity Association, excludes a portion of our membership, particularly the stage managers; And

Because the current name creates a widespread misunderstanding that stage managers are not members of our union; And

where stage managers pay the same dues as actors, but are still often referred to in contract language as “actors” with a capital A; And

Whereas the Union will have the flexibility to accommodate future growth under their jurisdiction, and most importantly include all of its current dues-paying membership; and,

Where employers maintain power by dividing workers, and we are strongest as a union when we actively employ our full solidarity to reclaim our power as united workers; And

Whereas stage managers were always members of the Actors’ Equity Association; And

Where we have waited for 108 years;

That is why the settled convention believes that we should change the name of the Union; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Union will stand by its mission of solidarity and support a name change to include all its members; and,

BE IT INALLY RESOLVED The Convention recommends that within three years of the conclusion of the 2021 Convention, the National Council develops a comprehensive plan to facilitate this name change.

This resolution was later confirmed by the Equities Council in June 2021 with the following principles:

Re: Convention Resolution 3-02 Solidarity, Change the Name of Our Union to:

Decided to change the name of our union; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Union will stand by its mission of solidarity and support a name change to include all its members; and,

It was finally resolved that within three years of the conclusion of the 2021 Convention, the National Council submit a complete plan to facilitate this name change and that a working group be created to initiate this process.

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