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Actors' Equity Implements $9 Minimum Wage For LA's Small Theaters

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Actors' Equity, the union for stage actors, has decided to require small theaters in Los Angeles to pay performers minimum wage. That is despite a vote last week by stage actors urging the union not to take the action. NPR's Mandalit Del Barco has this update.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: On Friday, LA actors voted overwhelmingly against their own union's proposal that theaters with 99 seats or fewer pay them $9 an hour, California's current minimum wage, to perform and rehearse. But this week, the union's national council adopted a plan anyway.

JEFF MARLOW: We're frustrated and disappointed. They made minor changes to a proposal that was resoundingly defeated.

DEL BARCO: Actor Jeff Marlow is among those who voted 2 to 1 against the plan they say is unaffordable for small theaters. For decades, actors have willingly worked for little more than car fare for the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience. Marlow says the union's new rules are confusing and more restrictive.

MARLOW: They are not doing a very good job of listening to their membership, who are very proud of the theater scene that we've worked very hard to create that's generating some of the most exciting work being done in the country right now.

MARY MCCOLL: They absolutely did not ignore it.

DEL BARCO: Actors' Equity Executive Director Mary McColl says the national council did listen to the advisory vote, then they modified the original plan.

MCCOLL: What we heard from members was that they were very concerned about the idea that we were just going to squash the micro-budget theaters, the little tiny theaters that have fewer than 50 seats and are working on a very small budget.

DEL BARCO: But the new plan means starting next year, those micro-theaters can only mount three productions a year with union actors. Theaters with more than 50 seats will have to pay them minimum wage. Some small theaters may just go non-union. And for others, it might be curtains. Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.