Actors’ Equity and Broadway League Reach Settlement Over Non-Union ‘Waitress’ Tour

The Broadway League and Actors’ Equity have reached an agreement over the grievance filed related to the non-union touring production of Waitress. 

The agreement sees the 22 actors and stage managers who were part of the tour, which ended in June 2022, receive a monetary settlement. In exchange, Actors’ Equity withdrew the double-breasting grievance filed against NAMCO, the producers behind the Broadway production, according to a communication sent to members. Waitress, based on the 2007 film and featuring a score by Sara Bareilles, ran on Broadway from 2016 through 2020 and from September to December 2021.

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Actors’ Equity and the Broadway League declined to comment on the specifics of the deal beyond issuing a joint statement.

“Actors’ Equity Association and The Broadway League are pleased that the parties were able to reach a settlement of the grievance filed by Actors’ Equity Association in May, 2022 in connection with the most recent tour of the musical Waitress. The settlement is an amicable resolution acknowledging the interests of all parties, including the producers, actors and stage managers, given the unique circumstances regarding this production,” the statement reads.

The union for actors and stage managers had filed the grievance in May 2022 against NAMCO, the production company behind Waitress on Broadway, in May 2022. The double-breasted grievance took aim at the fact that a union tour and a non-union tour of the same musical were out on the road at the same time, with the union arguing that there was no difference between the two versions.

The two versions can happen because NAMCO, or the rights holder, can license non-Equity rights to a non-Equity touring producer such as NETworks Presentations. The producers behind NAMCO, Barry and Fran Weissler, who are members of the Broadway League, would only be able to produce the Equity touring production.

In May, Actors’ Equity said it believed it would enter into arbitration over this and would argue for retroactive pay, pension and 401K payments for members of the non-union Waitress tour, which paid about a third less per week and did not offer the same benefits as a union tour.

The union had originally sought to represent the stage members and actors on the non-union tour. However, Actor’s Equity ran into issues with timing, as there was a possibility the union election could happen after the tour ended in June.

Gabriella Marzetta, who played one of the lead roles, Dawn, on the non-union tour, said she’s grateful for the settlement, which she says “wasn’t a large amount” but “also wasn’t a tiny, tiny amount,” but added that she feels that it could have been larger, given the gap between non-Equity and Equity salaries.

The non-union tour, which she also argued was the same show as the Equity tour, faced several unique challenges, she said, which included seeing members leave to join union production, and make more money and benefits. Additionally, tour members had been contending with the rise in the Omicron variant on the road, as well as moving cities more frequently and working on downsized sets.

Elvie Ellis, who played a swing on the tour, said the news of the settlement came as a “bit of a surprise,” given the amount of time that had passed, but that he saw it as an acknowledgement of the hardships that were faced.

“I’m happy some kind of conclusion was reached,” he said.

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