CHICAGO: The advocacy group On Our Team has developed a tool designed to help theatre companies establish pay equity within their organizations and to provide public recognition for equitably paid theatre.
On Our Team was founded in 2020 by Bob Kuhn, Christine Pascual, Elsa Hiltner, and Theresa Ham to help build support for pay and labor equity in the theatre industry. Its Pay Equity Standards were developed out of hundreds of hours of interviews with producers and theatre company executives, along with feedback from artists, staff, and leaders of theatre companies of all sizes across the country. Designed as a checklist, the Pay Equity Standards lay out a path to establishing equitable pay using a three-pronged approach to pay equity: transparency, working conditions, and accountability.
In a model inspired by organic and fair-trade food labels, the Pay Equity Standards badge will be available for theatre companies that opt in and meet all certification requirements. The badge is intended to allow audience members to make informed consumption choices and support art made in a way that aligns with their values. Likewise, theatre workers can make decisions on where to seek employment based on which organizations have become certified. Certification may also be used by foundations to ensure that their funds are going to organizations that center equity.
Any theatre company based in the United States may submit information to be certified for the Pay Equity Standards. Certification must be renewed for each calendar year. The submission portal is now open for 2022 certification through Aug. 31; certification for 2023 will begin on Sept. 1.
According to the group’s co-founders, theatre workers often are not protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act as contract workers or freelance artists, and the current precarity of arts workers is not conducive to a thriving arts sector.
“The Pay Equity Standards, as a pathway to both establish and recognize equitable pay, is a step towards livable wages, removing the economic barrier to a career in the arts, and a thriving arts community,” said co-founder Theresa Ham in a statement.
Added co-founder Christine Pascual in a statement, “Pay equity in theatre will help recognize that all skills and artistic contributions are valuable in collaboratively made art. It will strengthen the artistic process, and through certification by the Pay Equity Standards, organizations can truly show their community that they value the work they create.”
Pay transparency is the first step in a larger multifaceted plan by On Our Team to work toward the end of gender- and race-based pay disparity and to build pay equity in the theatre and entertainment industry. On Our Team has worked to increase pay transparency within the theatre industry, including on job sites. After On Our Team gained pay transparency on the job site of the League of Chicago Theatres in 2020, the organization partnered with Costume Professionals for Wage Equity in 2021 to successfully advocate for pay transparency on the job sites of Playbill, BroadwayWorld, Southeastern Theatre Conference, and Minnesota Playlist. The two organizations are currently campaigning for pay transparency on the Backstage.com job site.
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