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Theatrical Unions Announce Push to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • February 11, 2021

February 11, 2021—The arts, entertainment, and media unions—including IATSE and Actors’ Equity Association—affiliated with the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) announced their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policy agenda during a digital press conference with union leaders, staff, and members. The DEI policy agenda details the legislative action the unions will urge members of Congress to support to help make their industries more representative.

“Diversity is a strength,” said DPE President Jennifer Dorning. “Creative professionals and their unions know this and continue to prioritize making their industries more accessible to underrepresented people. Advocating for policy changes at the national level is a natural continuation of the work arts, entertainment, and media unions have been doing to advance DEI in their creative industries.”

The DEI policy agenda seeks to support middle class careers, through passing legislation like the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the AM-FM Act, and reforming Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The policy agenda also centers on increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting to support the opportunities needed to create wide and diverse talent pipelines. With states like Illinois, New Jersey, and New York leading the way on enacting tax incentives to encourage diverse hiring, the policy agenda lifts up these states as examples to create federal tax incentives that will spur more inclusive hiring in film, television, and live entertainment.

Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association commented on some of the areas that affect AEAs members. “From hair and costuming to casting and job access, issues of racism and white supremacy touch every facet of creating art. Our only path to true equity and inclusion is to champion it with a unified voice,” she said “As unions, we have committed with this new policy agenda to work together to effect change in our industry. It is long overdue.” Also joining Equity on the call was Broadway actor and President of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition Britton Smith, who spoke to the need to increase diversity backstage and put words into action..

Last June, AEAs council adopted a Black Lives Matter resolution, committing to re-examining Actors’ Equity Association from the ground up. In the months since, AEA has worked to develop staff, established working groups of members, developed guidance for employers and more.

Some of the specific policy requests of these unions include:

  • Passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act
  • Passage of the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act
  • Increased federal arts funding
  • Federal tax incentives to encourage diverse hiring

“We look forward to working with members of Congress and their offices to make these smart policy solutions a reality,” said Dorning.

The unions putting forth this DEI policy agenda include:

  • Actors’ Equity Association
  • American Federation of Musicians
  • American Guild of Musical Artists
  • American Guild of Variety Artists
  • Directors Guild of America
  • Guild of Italian American Actors
  • International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • Office and Professional Employees International Union
  • Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
  • Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
  • Writers Guild of America, East

Read the PDF of the full Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Policy Agenda Feb 2021


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