Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: Actors' Equity

This is the first post in our new series that will take a deeper look at each of our affiliates. The series will run weekly until we've covered all 55 of our affiliates. First up is Actors' Equity (AEA).

Name of Union: Actors' Equity Association

Mission: To foster the art of live theater as an essential component of society. To advance the careers of members through negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits, including health and pension plans.

Current Leadership of Union: The current president of Equity is Kate Shindle. Shindle was elected in 2015 and is the youngest person to ever hold the Equity presidency (and only the third woman). She originally joined in 1999 and was first elected to Equity's national council in 2008 before starting a three-year term as eastern regional vice president the next year. As an actor, she made her Broadway debut in "Jekyll & Hyde" before appearing in "Cabaret," "Legally Blonde" and numerous other shows. She was an associate producer on the Broadway premiere of the Tony-nominated "A Christmas Story: The Musical." Before joining Equity, she earned the title of Miss America in 1998 and used her platform to advocate for HIV prevention and education, work she continued as a member of Equity. She is a board member of the Actors’ Equity Foundation, the Actors Fund, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and has been a vocal supporter of marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws for the LGBTQ community. Mary McColl currently serves as the executive director for Equity.

Current Number of Members: More than 51,000.

Members Work As: Actors, stage managers, dancers and singers.

Industries Represented: Equity has more than 40 contracts in the theater industry, from Broadway to dinner theater.

History: In the early 1900s, theater acting was alluded to with the phrase "life upon the wicked stage," as actors and stage managers were forced to rehearse without pay, left stranded throughout the country when shows closed on the road, required to pay for their own costumes and worse. In 1913, 112 actors in New York decided they'd had enough. They formed a union that day and adopted the name suggested by William Courtleigh, Actors' Equity. In 1919, the new union was recognized by the American Federation of Labor and shortly thereafter Equity launched the first actors' strike in American theater history. During the strike, chorus and ensemble members also went on strike and formed Chorus Equity, which would later formally merge with Actors' Equity in 1955. At the conclusion of the strike, the theater producers signed a five-year deal that met most of Equity's demands.

Equity has long fought for civil rights. In 1947, Equity resolved that its members would not play at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., when the theater banned black audience members. This was an early bold stance that not only worked (the theater closed and re-opened with a nondiscrimination policy), it set the tone that Equity would follow to this day, fighting against discrimination in the theater, both on stage and off, and increasing employment opportunities for actors and stage managers of color, women, seniors and those with disabilities. The union has consistently fought to raise wages, expand benefits and protections, preserve historic and advance other reforms that benefit actors and stage managers in the theater and working people broadly.

Current CampaignsEquity's Annual Report gathers and collates data about employment, finances and membership. Equity’s Regional Theatre Report examines annually the density of work opportunities for Equity members across the country. Equity's annual awards recognize the contributions of Equity members to the theater industry. The Actors' Equity Foundation provides grants to nonprofit theaters and institutions serving the arts community. The #ChangeTheStage campaign fights for inclusive hiring across the entertainment industry. Ask if it's Equity! helps fight back against nonunion productions in areas covered by collective bargaining agreements. The Everyone On Stage petition is focused on getting chorus and ensemble performers the Tony Award recognition they deserve. The Not A Lab Rat campaign looks to win better wages and profit participation for Equity members working in the early stages of developing new Broadway shows.

Community Efforts: Equity supports many service organizations, including The Actors Fund,the Career CenterActors Federal Credit UnionArtists Health Insurance Resource CenterBroadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDSCareer Transition For Dancers, the Conrad Cantzen Shoe FundPhyllis Newman Women’s Health InitiativeThe Actors Fund Home and The Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts.

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Reposted from the AFL-CIO

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work