STAGE : Equity Waiver--A Chronology

Compiled by Don Shirley

Aug. 13, 1972: West Coast Actors’ Equity waives its rules but not its jurisdiction in theaters of fewer than 100 seats.

Nov. 19, 1980: In a report financed by the Department of Labor, consultant Carl Sautter concludes that the Waiver is working well and that a surprising number of actors are being compensated.

1982: San Francisco Equity members vote to eliminate the Waiver in that city in favor of expanded Letters of Agreement between Equity and San Francisco theaters.

1984/5: A new report by consultant Carl Sautter notes the increasing number of Waiver theaters, many of them on a “for profit” status in an era of declining government support. Sautter urges Equity to exert greater control over working conditions in Waiver theaters but also points out that opportunities for profits or substantial actor payments are minimal.


1985: Equity denies Waiver status to two new stages in the refurbished Tiffany Theater, on the grounds that the building formerly housed a 390-seat movie theater. The controversy triggers a lawsuit by Tiffany owner Paula Holt, who obtains a court injunction against Equity to get Waiver status--and wins her case.

Aug. 25, 1986: Equity announces its intent to modify the Waiver with a new 99-Seat Theater Plan.

Sept. 5, 1986: At a special Equity membership meeting, a show of hands endorses a resolution urging Equity’s leaders to meet with the Waiver operators before going ahead with a referendum. It is also resolved that opposing viewpoints from theater operators who are Equity members in good standing are to be included in any referendum on a new plan.

Nov. 12 and 19: Meetings take place between Equity and the Waiver theater operators.

Jan. 21, 1987: The theater operators present their working draft of a proposed 99-seat theater plan to Equity’s Western Advisory Board.

March 21, 1988: A referendum is mailed to Los Angeles Equity members, proposing a new Actors’ 99-Seat Theatre Plan with a cover letter recommending approval.

Equity calls a meeting later that day with the theater operators to brief them on the referendum--after the fact. This enrages the operators and a further dispute develops over whether opposing viewpoints are properly represented.

April 3, 1988: Members approve Equity plan, 1,684-1,023.


April 15, 1988: An advisory resolution, seeking to nullify the plan, passes at an Equity membership meeting attended by about 250 actors.

May 25, 1988: Attorneys representing 10 Equity members request a reversal of the new plan and allege violations of union resolutions and federal law.

June 27, 1988: ATLAS (Associated Theatres of Los Angeles), the newly rechristened organization of Waiver theater operators, releases a list of 62 member theaters or independent producers who have vowed not to recognize the new Actors’ Plan or negotiate individual concessions with Equity.

July 5, 1988: ATLAS announces the creation of an alternative 99-seat plan, which would pay actors a percentage of the gross instead of established fees.


July 15, 1988: At an Equity membership meeting, an advisory resolution that would reverse the Equity plan passes 341-138. But dissidents fail to turn out enough members for the resolution to carry official weight.

July 28, 1988: Equity’s national council, meeting in New York, votes to uphold the Actors’ 99-Seat Theatre Plan and to dismiss the charges filed by the 10 (now 11, with the coming aboard of actor Jon Voight) dissident Equity members.

Aug. 1, 1988: Equity announces that Waiver shows that open before Oct. 3 will be allowed to run as long as they like.

Aug. 22, 1988: ATLAS members meet and 31 theaters present unanimously ratify and adopt the new ATLAS 99-Seat Plan, effective Sept. 12.