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  • Totem Pole Playhouse 02/14/2018  6:34pm

    So my Friday callback for them just got cancelled. And yesterday they just didn't show up to the second half of their EPA after lunch? What is going on?


    Letter went out to equity members this evening. Equity recently opened negotiations with Totem Pole Playhouse for a new Agreement for this summer's season. When they tried to negotiate with them, they refused, and walked out of their scheduled auditions.

    bridgetunnel 02/14/2018  6:54pm

    Salary negotiations with Equity went insane. There was a whole long email. The crux of it is, apparently Totem Pole is trying to decrease salary even though their box take went up last year. Equity countered with a modest increase, they countered back with an even more dramatic decrease, then walked out entirely, threatening to just go completely nonunion (which they apparently can't legally do, due to the agreements they made).

    I could paste the whole email, but it's a LOT, and that's the gist I got from it.

    Brakes 02/14/2018  6:55pm

    .... I want to see the email. This is crazy.

    moosevmouse 02/14/2018  7:01pm

    Totem Pole has 300 something seats and pays higher than a Lort D contract, higher than Gateway, Barrington, Surflight, Theatre By The Sea. They can't afford the increase. If an agreement is not made, we will lose an Equity theatre.

    tinabelcher 02/14/2018  7:33pm

    ^ Apparently they can afford the increase as Brakes said their box take went up. Either way you slice it, this is...something. WOW...

    Showbizdreamer 02/14/2018  7:41pm

    Going up doesn't mean that they can afford it. They almost went bankrupt 5 years ago. Doing better doesn't mean doing ok.

    tinabelcher 02/14/2018  7:42pm

    I wasn’t aware of that, so that’s fair. But trying to decrease pay isn’t ideal either. Ugh...this world we live in sucks y’all.

    Showbizdreamer 02/14/2018  7:54pm

    The email:

    We've been fielding questions about why some auditions for the upcoming season were cancelled by Totem Pole Playhouse with short notice.

    Equity recently opened negotiations with Totem Pole Playhouse for a new Agreement for this summer's season. Totem Pole's initial proposal to Equity called for a 26 percent rollback in minimum salary, compared to last season's minimums. Our initial proposal to them sought a modest 2 percent increase in salary.

    Stand with Equity: Click here and tell us that you will support your Equity negotiating team.

    Rather than negotiate in good faith, Totem Pole's second proposal called for salaries to roll back even further -- proposing to pay you 40 percent less than last year's minimum salary. When we tried to negotiate with them, they refused, and walked out of their scheduled auditions, leaving hundreds of Equity members without any opportunity to be seen.

    Today, Equity scheduled a telephone call with Totem Pole to get negotiations back on track. Totem Pole initially confirmed and then decided not to participate, sending along a written message afterward that they were refusing to negotiate with us.

    This is unconscionable behavior from a producer that just a few months ago touted new box office sales records, saying, "Numbers don’t lie."

    Stand with your negotiating team. Click here and add your name to those demanding that Totem Pole should negotiate and support fair compensation and work rules that allow you to give your all, every performance.

    Totem Pole is now making even more outrageous suggestions that they want to produce without any Equity contracts at all, even though it's very clear under the law that employers can't unilaterally decide to "go non-union."

    We fully intend to pursue this matter further, which is why we are asking for your support today as we work to hold Totem Pole Playhouse accountable for their bad faith bargaining.

    famousamadeus 02/14/2018  8:38pm

    Yeah, I've been hearing/reading about this too today and, apparently, AEA is also at fault. Hope it gets fixed. We CANNOT lose a good Equity theatre!!!!

    ImissCarl 02/14/2018  9:45pm

    Nope. Not Equity's fault when an employer refuses to negotiate.

    Sid Solomon, AEA Eastern Regional Vice President - #SIDforAEA 02/14/2018  9:52pm

    Again Equity messing things up. We are going to lose another theater. Thanks a Equity

    CalltheBitchOut 02/14/2018  10:41pm

    Equity's demanding that an employer pay a fair wage, and is unwilling accept enormous rollbacks.

    This is what unions do. You can't complain about how much stage managers and actors make and then fault Equity for demanding fair wages.

    I'm not interested in a race to the bottom. Totem Pole should come back to to the table and bargain with the union.

    Sid Solomon, AEA Eastern Regional Vice President - #SIDforAEA 02/14/2018  10:45pm

    Sid you keep saying “I”, you’re not Equity nor your represent all Equity members. Sorry.

    CalltheBitchOut 02/14/2018  10:53pm

    I'm more shocked that Gateway and Barrington don't pay their actors more? I mean, Barrington has Broadway talent/creatives, and a Broadway transfer. WTF.

    Smactor 02/14/2018  11:00pm

    @Gagainsider nor does your jumping to blame Equity on this represent any sort of "truth." Equity has both been very transparent and very quick to explain the situation. I'm not sure how Equity defending a fair wage despite a theatre being unwilling to negotiate means it's Equity's fault, but it seems to me you're just looking for any excuse to blame the union.

    vaboy27 02/15/2018  12:00am

    Sadly, Tina Belcher is telling the TRUTH which our union is NOT... I know this for a fact, I worked at Totem Pole a couple summers ago. But why should we be surprised, these are the same union reps that allowed hundreds EMCs to now "buy into" our union for half the required weeks by paying double the initiation fee. DID WE GET A VOTE IN THIS??? NO!!!! And where is all that money going to, clearly NOT our new LOUSY prescription drug plan. I guess it's for the new glossy magazine that replaced the perfectly fine newsletter... which really should be a friggin' mass email... OUR MANAGEMENT IS SCREWING US... AGAIN and not nearly bankrupt theaters like Totem Pole. Yeah "stand with your negotiating team" SCREW YOU, YOU LYING CROOKS... by the way nice offices you have... travel junkets too. You may fool the "newbies" and the thousands of new EMC (unqualified members) but not us longtimers who have watched you morons screw up our touring contracts (GONE!!!!) and run more theaters (CAROUSEL, CANDLELIGHT, WAYSIDE, and on and on) OUT of business while trumpeting another fucking SPT LOA for $35 a show. Yeah, I think I believe Totem Pole and not the weasels who are running our union into the ground. WAKE UP FOLKS, we need to take our union back and fire these bums!

    Sassy Suzi 02/15/2018  1:59am

    Sid and the old farts at Equity keep romanticizing the union way to much. There’s flaws and nobody is saying anything. **sigh**

    CalltheBitchOut 02/15/2018  2:31am

    Why aren’t the heads of equity lawyers instead of actors? It would help lots for negotiation purposes....oy vey

    Popsoplc77 02/15/2018  4:44am

    Slight diversion from the main thread but - hey, I'm an Equity member, who do I have to sleep with to get these e-mails? I certainly get my dues notices in a timely fashion. Or was this a memo sent only to staff and/or Council?

    hmm 02/15/2018  5:00am

    So let me get this straight... y'all are willing to capitulate out of fear? Do you really want to be working for a company who, in response to a TINY increase request, counters with a MASSIVE cut? Do you value yourself and your work that little? This what unions do.

    What law says it's illegal for a theatre to go completely non-union just like that?

    If the numbers don't lie, I would like to see the numbers. And quite frankly, I'm more willing to believe someone I can put a name and a face to than a random internet stranger I've never seen posting on here before - that would be you two, tinabelcher and Circus Fat. It's super easy for Totem people to sign up and sow dissent.

    Now, Sid, Equity should be more transparent with what's going on. The members should know a fight is going on on there behalf. But for the members, this is what Unions DO. Everyone gets all pissy when teachers unions negotiate on their employers behalf but don't they deserve a little more money for all the hard work they do. Hell, they practically help raise some kids. Don't we deserve a little bit more for performing 8 shows a week and bringing in the money with our talent?

    I realize the potential loss of an Equity theatre is difficult to swallow but LOOK AT HOW THEY VALUE US - they don't. It's a shitty situation but we need to stick together for once, if anything is going to get better. I know that and I'm not even IN Equity yet.

    Justgottasay 02/15/2018  7:22am

    I agree with Sid and Justgottasay. If you're willing to work for peanuts, and are fine with employers who aren't even willing to negotiate or try to come to a fair agreement, then why did you join the union? You could have stayed non-union and had more opportunities to work without caring about pay or benefits. The whole point of HAVING a union is to negotiate fair pay and benefits.

    actorsmom 02/15/2018  7:54am

    Also, for those saying that Totem can't afford it...if that were the case, they could still negotiate in good faith by saying "Look at our books - we're losing money. We want to cut pay by 20 percent. If that's not acceptable, how about 10 percent, or at least not raising the pay?"

    Instead, they first said they wanted to cut 20%, and when Equity said they wanted a small raise of 2%, Totem came back with a WORSE offer of cutting pay 40%! How can you see that as anything other than totally obnoxious and nasty? Then they left the table and refused to negotiate at ALL. That's awful. There's simply no excuse for that behavior.

    actorsmom 02/15/2018  7:57am

    Again-if you have a problem with Equity-GET INVOLVED. Equity is not "them" it is US! Join a committee, come to a meeting, see how and why we negotiate certain things.

    And to reiterate above-WHY would you want to work for a theater that wants to cut your pay by 40%???!!! I am all for the quality of theater and contracts not quantity. If you are looking to work for $200/week and hate the union, it's really easy to just drop that card. ;)

    SATB7 02/15/2018  8:14am

    @gaga , I said "I" because I was speaking for myself. I don't want a race to the bottom, because I'd like to have a change to make a living doing this work. If you disagree, and would like Equity to accept any salary an employer wants, no matter how unreasonable then that's fine. Just don't vote for me in the coming Council election.

    @Circus, your post is filled with so many inaccuracies I don't even know where to begin. If you'd like to get a better understanding of how the union works, feel free to shoot me an email. I'm happy to talk about it.

    @popsopic, the Executive Director of Equity is not an actor. Neither is our General Counsel. Neither is the Senior Business Rep heading these negotiations. They're all labor professionals on Equity's staff. The National Council, on the other hand is made up of stage managers and actors. The Council is the Board of Directors of the union, not the staff. It's a big difference.

    @hmm, this email was sent to those who had audition appointments for Totem Pole, and I believe those living in the nearest liaison areas to Totem Pole (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.) There should be something posted in the Member Portal today.

    @justgottasay, Equity is being deeply transparent. The union let everyone know exactly what happened in the negotiating room. Totem Pole came in with proposal for massive rollbacks, Equity countered with a modest wage increase, Totem Pole came back with BIGGER rollbacks, and then walked out. If anyone here understands the concept of bargaining in good faith, you'll understand why Totem Pole's behavior is so reprehensible.

    If anyone would like to follow up on this further, email me at I'm happy to point you in the right direction.

    If you're simply enjoying being an ignorant, union-bashing, anonymous troll, you can email me too. But then you wouldn't be anonymous anymore, would you?

    Sid Solomon, AEA Eastern Regional Vice President - #SIDforAEA 02/15/2018  8:36am

    @Sid - Dude... I'm on your side and all about negotiating in good faith. I'm sure I'm not the only one unaware of a law that says theatres can't just go on-union all of a sudden. Please take another look at my post. The transparency I'm referring to is the fact that members shouldn't be getting their news from a 3rd party site, especially one that is notorious for whipping up rumors. If anything, Equity should be touting the fact that it's working on this FOR US. Sometimes it pays off to be more on top of things.

    Justgottasay 02/15/2018  8:51am

    Right, I'm with you. And Equity sent this very detailed email out last night, first targeting the members whose EPA appointments were cancelled, and those who live closest to Totem Pole.

    There should be a post in the Member Portal made available to the entire membership very soon. Nobody should be getting their Equity information from this site, I'm just making sure that DISinformation isn't allowed to be spread by the others here who seem intent on making a labor union the bad guy no matter what.

    Sid Solomon, AEA Eastern Regional Vice President - #SIDforAEA 02/15/2018  8:59am

    A 40% decrease brings salaries down to near Guest Artist minimum. That's a huge decrease, and seriously changes the parameters for a LOT of members, especially those who traditionally choose to work for Totem pole. Also, f you haven't sat on committee, or been party to how the negotiating teams operate, having a strong opinion against the union is a fairly misguided position to take.
    As for "race to the bottom"-There are A LOT of members who are frustrated at the union for this very reason! Some (not me) view Equity's recent push for expanding workweeks and as a choice to prioritize for Quantity of weeks over the Quality.
    The simple fact (a fact that I have learned by actually serving on a committee BTW) is that each negotiation is both specific and Comprehensive. The Union doesn't just pull salary numbers out of the sky. Management "opens up its books" so to speak and Equity uses this information along with many other variables to make an assessment. And then the negotiations start.
    Never forget- Equity wants its membership to work, but only when both the quality of the workweeks (rights/salaries/benefits) are EQUITABLE.
    As an Actor who works in the regions all the time, I've had my fair share of eyebrow raising while reading LOA's attached to my contracts, and as a perennial deputy I've contacted many commiittee members after a gig to give them an on the ground assessment of what actually happens on a contract both good and bad. I don't always agree with the union. I don't always agree with management. But if the statements in the email from Equity are based in fact, I'm tending to agree with the Association on this one.
    And one more point-ANYONE who has seen Sid in action, either at a membership meeting, on the Equity facebook groups, or in face to face discourse, could not honestly think that he out of touch with either the work that is done by the members in the trenches, or completely unaware of the challenges that management faces in creating work for those members. Also, when challenged, I've seen him publicly admit on many occasions that he is either wrong, or that he simply doesn't possess all the facts. THAT is the essence of transparency, and, for me, it makes me trust what he says so much more.
    As a member for over 15 years I can assure you that the union giving out this kind of information is extremely rare, and I think that a lot of weight needs to be given to the reasoning for the Staff to have given out that information to the membership.

    Neverandy6127 02/15/2018  10:12am

    Why is Sid even on this site? Like don't you have auditions or equity paperwork to file? Someone who thinks they are "really big" at the union often has lots of time on their hands.

    02/15/2018  10:17am

    Tommy Wisseau-you would prefer that a member of Equity Council be LESS available to the members (and since it's on here-future members)?????? Is it because it's the bitching post and you just want to bitch? Why bury your head in the sand and not listen to someone who has, at the very least, provided insight into the perspective of one of the two sides of this debate? In a thread that has demanded transparency, it's funny that some people are trying to stifle a voice.

    Neverandy6127 02/15/2018  10:24am

    Note to Sid:
    If this email notification was sent to the liaison regions closest to Totem Pole, then somebody at AEA should read a map. The DC/Baltimore region is 50 miles CLOSER to Totem Pole than Philadelphia, and 70 miles closer than Pittsburgh. I applaud Equity's efforts to keep those actors most affected "in the loop," but those actors live in DC, not Pennsylvania. Perhaps these actors can be sent some information...?

    Bardboy18 02/15/2018  10:27am

    rewind...did someone say race to the bottom? #MyNewDatingShowTitle #WebSeries #AskIfItsASAGBottom #SaggyBottom

    Fatniss_Neverlean 02/15/2018  10:28am

    Anything for my princess!

    02/15/2018  10:32am

    Fattniss: correction, we need more bottoms on the negotiation team! They love to please #SaggyBottomsEquityWorks

    Mimimarquez 02/15/2018  10:51am

    What contract is Totem Pole under right now? Cost?

    Pam Poovey 02/15/2018  11:33am

    Totem Pole has been operating under an LOA referenced to COST.

    Sid Solomon, AEA Eastern Regional Vice President - #SIDforAEA 02/15/2018  11:49am

    Damn our friggin' lyin' union reps, screwing up yet another negotiation... thanks for all the NON-UNION tours you jaxasses now gave us. I never worked at Totem Pole so I don’t have a dog in this fight but let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself… most of the union places I worked are gone now but New London Barn, Mac Hayden, Circa ’21, Derby, Pratherland, they’re ALL still around and NON-union who can blame Totem Pole for wanting to go non-pro before going bankrupt. Of course, as we all know, if they do go bankrupt our genius union reps will be right there offering them $300 a week contracts… Yo, reps, TRUTH!!!! Go fuck yourselves instead of us for a change!

    Claude Hooper Bukowski 02/15/2018  12:17pm


    If Totem wants to screw its actors and not adhere to the agreement set forth by the union it chose to join- let them go.

    SteveRogers. 02/15/2018  12:23pm

    Steve Rogers-You get angry at the union for standing their ground and fighting for higher wages and then you get angry at them for offering you 300 dollar contracts. Your ignorance is showing.

    Neverandy6127 02/15/2018  12:54pm

    Sorry STEVE ROGERS. That was for Claude.

    Neverandy6127 02/15/2018  12:59pm

    No worries!

    You nailed it though. People whine when they aren't getting offered enough and then when a theatre threatens to cut their pay even more- breaking the agreement made with the union- they whine the union is losing them money.

    I'm practical. Let Totem go. No one forced them to become a union theatre. They knew what they were getting in to and now they want to break that agreement and threaten to take it out on the actors. So go. It's clearly no great loss.

    SteveRogers. 02/15/2018  1:13pm

    ^is it too late to ask you to be my valentine?

    Fatniss_Neverlean 02/15/2018  1:33pm

    its been a cold, lonely, winter

    SteveRogers. 02/15/2018  1:58pm

    Agreed! the issue with equity isn't the council or the higher ups it is the membership that doesn't know what it wants. Ya'll bitched that tours were going out Non-eq, then equity came up with SETA to bring back some of those tours and Ya'll bitched that it wasn't a production contract. Trust me I've had my issues with the way equity has handled things in the past but they are trying to protect you and bring jobs back to the union. If you don't like it drop your card and go work at Totem as a non-equity and come on here and bitch about being non-equity.

    Pam Poovey 02/15/2018  3:05pm

    I am the first one to bash the union when deserved, but I have to ask what in the fucking world do you want them to do in this situation.

    A 20% decrease was proposed, to which the negotiating team countered with a 2% increase.. which was then countered with a 40% DECREASE!!!! Not only is that is not negotiating in good faith, it is just a plain slap in the face.
    The union then reached out to the theatre to resume negotiations and was told basically to fuck off by the theatre. There is no fault to the union here in this instance. None.

    I am also a NYC Fireman, and if the mayor pulled this kind of shit in our contract negotiations, we'd be picketing at city hall the next day. If you think the union is at all at fault here, you are lost.

    FDNYactor 02/15/2018  7:25pm

    Totem Pole is a dumb-ass name for a theater. You people need to get a grip getting that up in arms about a theater named after an object. Repeat: GET A GRIP.

    EilisFiorello 02/16/2018  6:59pm