Actors' Equity Association has filed with the National Labor Relations Board to recognize them as the bargaining representative of the newly unionized Broadway production assistants after failing to receive voluntary recognition from The Broadway League, which represents producers and theatre owners on the Main Stem. The government board will determine a schedule to hold a formal unionization vote among the production assistants. The PAs announced their intention to unionize with AEA last month.
"We had high hopes for a swift and collaborative process with The Broadway League, and are disappointed to hear they've chosen the more contentious path," says union 3rd Vice President Erin Maureen Koster, who represents stage managers. "That said, these workers are giving a master class in solidarity and it’s honestly our honor to witness that and to continue to support them through every step of the organizing process. One way or another, at the end of this process is the fair contract PAs have long deserved."
"These PAs are such essential members of the stage management team that when the employer hands out company contact sheets on the first day of rehearsal, they're listed alongside the PSM and ASMs," adds AEA President Kate Shindle. "Does anybody really think it's a coincidence that the vast majority of Broadway PAs are already Equity stage managers? This work clearly belongs on an Equity contract. If the Broadway League's going to make us run an election, we'll run an election, and we'll see them at the bargaining table after the votes are counted."
A statement from The Broadway League characterizes the move more congenially, saying that an NLRB election is the "proper forum" for the unionization effort. "The Broadway League and our members value the work of the Production Assistants that Actors’ Equity Association is seeking to represent," reads a statement provided to Playbill from League representatives. "We believe that the National Labor Relations Board is the proper forum for determining whether an election is appropriate and we have encouraged the Union to seek a determination from the Board."
Equity represents professional actors and stage managers, so that, among other reasons, stage managers can help act as on-site union rule enforcement. The union also represented choreographers until they split into their own separate union in 1959.
PAs fulfill a varied list of tasks on Broadway productions, from preparing rehearsal materials to running errands. Those working as PAs are often working towards careers in stage management, hence the group's unionizing with AEA. Equity says that PAs are among the only Broadway workers working without current union representation, and that this unionization move includes PAs currently working on 10 Broadway productions along with 100 more individuals who have worked on Broadway in the last two years.