Reopening Discussions Between Actors’ Equity and the Public Move Forward

By Courtnie Mercer

On September 4th, The Public Theater of San Antonio informed the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) that it will continue to produce work that will provide employment opportunities for non-union performers while the union continues to evaluate the timeline of reopening for its members. Since the Spring of 2020, TPTSA has been diligent in adhering to the AEA safety protocols. We were informed before our September 4th decision that AEA did not approve our production of Buyer and Cellar nor the 2020-202ONE Season due to the Bexar County COVID-19 fluctuations as well as our intent to proactively produce art during the approval process. We were commended for our protocols, procedures, and testing.

Union members may see TPTSA on the upcoming ‘Do Not Work List’ that informs its members of theaters that are not in compliance with AEA standards.

Recent, documented, and transparent communication with AEA leadership has been positive and both parties have assured one-another that each entity’s objective is to continue its partnership with the other. While both AEA and TPTSA have expressed their disappointment in negotiations and situations, both have provided assurances that we intend to create AEA work-weeks in the future within Bexar County and its surrounding regions. As of Aug. 31st, 2020, The Public Theater of San Antonio’s term agreements expired with AEA. Additionally, there was no long-term collective bargaining agreement in place.

“While not nearly to the scale of the Disney labor matter, there is a common phenomenon occurring. Many local AEA members have expressed their frustrations and want to return to work citing that their leadership is infringing upon their civil liberties,” stated George Green, the theater’s CEO. He goes on to say, “The Public Theater supports union members that are standing in solidarity with their upper management and are championing their position. We feel we have created an extremely safe environment for union workers to return to our facility. It is a confusing negotiation… Florida’s cases are all over the place and yet AEA approved their members to go back to work while making testing non-mandatory and at the potential expense of the member. We are willing to cover all the testing costs and are enforcing strict testing protocols. If not for the local area’s lack of consistent COVID-19 trends, this would most likely be a non-issue. I am pleased with the recent progress we have made in our exchanges with AEA.”

The staff and Board of Trustees believe that we are here to serve our entire community. During this time of hurting as well as a need for escape, education, exploration, and entertainment, The Public Theater of San Antonio is here for all artists and all patrons. We are meant to serve, and we will do so. While the conclusion of our union discussions is yet to be determined, we anticipate a positive result. Regardless of the outcome, this theater will continue to actively navigate the pandemic while planning for the challenge of fully reopening… as a professional theater

For the theater’s protocols for reopening that includes production team members, click here.

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