Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

Attempts to resolve a dispute between a group of Los Angeles-based theater professionals and the Actors’ Equity Association have failed, propelling the two sides toward a federal court showdown, the union announced today.

A lawsuit filed last October alleges that Equity’s 99-seat theater plan is detrimental to the local theater community because it imposes a minimum wage for union members who perform in Los Angeles venues with fewer than 100 seats.

The policy, which had been set to take effect June 1, would require many small-theater producers to pay their actors at least the current minimum wage of $10 an hour.

“While we are disappointed that this dispute will enter the courtroom, Equity intends to vigorously defend itself against the meritless lawsuit and will file an immediate motion to dismiss,” the New York-based union said in a statement.

Plaintiffs — including actors Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, French Stewart and former Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner — allege breach of contract, claiming that the minimum wage would be financially burdensome for many small theaters and could force them to close.

Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Martha Doty said statements in Equity’s press release were “false and misleading,” adding that the release appears to violate a confidentiality agreement in which the parties agreed not to discuss the suit in public.

The two sides began mediation negotiations in December, but talks subsequently collapsed, leading to what could be a courtroom showdown, the union said.

Equity represents more than 50,000 professional stage actors and stage managers nationwide.

–City News Service 

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