Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - Thank you

Thank you.

Thank you for engaging and voting, however you voted.

Thank you for approving the due increase. It will allow Council and staff to plan and implement changes for improvement, instead of diminishment.

Thank you for your vote of confidence in the future of your association.

A day or so after the voting closed, a friend wrote me and said "I bet you're glad that that's all done, huh?" I understand what she meant, but I think she missed the bigger point - it isn't. The dues referendum may be over, but the purpose of the increase was to help us plan for the future – the future begins right now, and it goes on forever. First steps are clear enough: we have a deficit that we need to retire. But beyond that, we need to make good on the commitment to ongoing improvement and change.

In short, Council needs to earn the trust you have shown us through your vote. The real work of the dues referendum is just beginning, but we're up for it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - Vote!

If you haven't voted yet, what are you waiting for? As a member, you have a say in how this association operates, and your vote is your voice. Please don't waste this opportunity to weigh in on this important decision. Voting takes mere minutes, and is about as easy as easy gets.

(I'm on a mission to see if we can't crack a 50% return rate, and you, my friend, are a key part of that plan!)

Voting closes today.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why I voted 'yes'

I think the time has come to talk about why I voted 'yes'.

I know - you're thinking: "You're the Council President. You had to."

No, I didn't. This is not a Council vote; this is a member vote, and I vote as a member, just like you.

I am fortunate enough to have work most of the year. This proposal, which increases working dues as well, is going to cost me more than the 2011 proposal would have. I confess there is part of me that grates at that, but I voted 'yes' anyhow. The difference, for a whole year, is much less than one month of utility bills, or insurance payments, or my mortgage. It is less than I sometimes spend on a single trip to the grocery store, and I’ll admit to having coughed up far more cash on a whim for things more trivial and transient than my Equity membership.

There is perhaps 5% of our membership who, by virtue of personal status, are able to just wait for the phone to ring with their next job offer, or who are able to waltz into an engager's office and demand work terms equivalent to what Equity has negotiated. And then there are the remaining 95% of us. Including me. I recognise that Equity, by dint of long, hard work by members current and past, is responsible for most of what I have come to accept as a "given" in my career. I rely on that.

I voted 'yes' because I want Equity to be strong, not just for me, but also for the 6000 members who are not me, even if what would benefit them individually is different from what would benefit me personally. Yes, it will cost me a bit more, but I made a choice that will benefit everyone: me, members I know, and members I will never meet.

In the end, whatever you might want Equity do for you, it has to have the resources to do it, and to tackle ideas for future improvement, which will otherwise just keep gathering dust on the wish list shelf. Whom does voting 'no' benefit? Lack of resources going forward will only mean that Equity will be able to do less and less of what you want it to, and its ability to do anything meaningful will atrophy.

Nothing ever starved its way to strength. Vote for strength. I did.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - a personal note

I've been very fortunate in my career…

There was the week when all the paycheques were "locked in the office safe" and nobody knew the combination; the time when the engager forgot that it was payday, and could not be reached; and the show when paycheques were distributed unsigned.

There was the added performance we all found out about with only two hours notice; the day a debt-collection bailiff sealed the theatre and seized the contents, including all our personal belongings; and the GM who informed me that it was "company policy" not to pay contractually-required overtime to their stage managers.

There was the producer who fired me the week before I started work, because I had the audacity to stand up for the terms of my contract; the PM who told me that meal break requirements did not apply to stage managers; and the company that had still not reimbursed my petty cash expenses a full month after the contract ended.

What's so fortunate about all that? It only took a phone call to Equity solve the problem.

I and my fellow company members could have fought any of these battles as individuals, but I'm very grateful that we didn't have to. And I'm equally grateful for the good fortune of having the vast majority of things go right, week in and week out. I can thank Equity for both. I have done a heck of a lot better over the years with their help, than I ever would have without it. 

Even as Council President, I will tell you that Equity is not always perfect, and there is always room for improvement. The past three years have seen quite a few major "upgrades" in your association, and Council hope to bring in even more. But, further improvement takes resources. And that is where you come in…

Equity has always had my back, and it has yours. If you want to keep Equity strong, and see it continue to improve, please support the dues increase.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - guest post

Our organization is only as strong as we make it.

As one of 6000 members of Canadian Actors Equity who works hard on every contract I manage to get, and for every dollar I earn, I know I am not alone in wanting the best value for my money. I, too, will have a hard time budgeting to pay an additional $45 per year, and parting with an extra 0.25%, in dues, from the income I do earn. But, I also know that if we Equity members continue to pay only $135 in dues, we are wasting our money: that sum is simply no longer enough. We’ve already had cuts to professional development programs, and response time at Equity offices is lagging from a bare bones staff – what’s next on the chopping block? Equity negotiates annual increases to our minimum fees roughly in keeping inflation – the cost of living. I think it’s only fair that we respond in kind, to have our dues keep up with inflation – the cost of doing business. In particular given that the business in question is that of protecting our best interests – our careers. 

My vote since the last dues referendum hasn’t changed. Two years ago, just knowing that the cost of dues hadn’t increased in over a decade was enough justification for me. (Is there anything else that hasn’t increased in price since the mid-90’s?) Nonetheless, I have been very interested to see our council’s response to the results over the past two years – and it’s clear that they’ve been listening to us, and what we need from our organization. At the dues referendum info session I was able to attend, I heard several fantastic opportunities for Equity to invest in increasing the efficiency of resources – from online dues payment, to electronic contracts, to improved communication with not only existing, but also prospective, members. I also heard that streamlining and improving efficiency costs money. These opportunities, and many more, are ones that I would love to have available to me, and my colleagues – and I’m willing to invest the extra 12 cents a day to make them happen. The future of Equity depends on it – our Association is only as strong as we make it.

Melania Radelicki
Member, Stage Management

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - Burma-Shave (say what?!)

Yeah or nay,

Have your say…

Voting closes,

A week today!

(With a tip of the hat to Burma-Shave)

The only vote that doesn't count is the one you don't cast. If you haven't already done so, grab your ballot sheet and vote now - it'll take you about two minutes, tops.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - guest post

I've been a proud member of Equity for almost 50 years, including 20 years as an elected representative on both the West Coast Advisory and National Council. Thirteen years after I last stepped off Council, I ran again in the 2012 election because I wanted to work on improving communications. Since my re-election, many Council meetings have dealt with communication: what we’re doing, what we wish we were doing, how we could clarify, simplify, reach out. Staff and Councillors have many ideas for improvement – but implementing them will cost money. I can’t think of a thing that doesn’t cost more now than it did 14 years ago, but Equity hasn’t increased member dues since I left Council in 1999! 

Council and staff have spent countless hours reviewing what we do and how we do it. We’ve done everything we can to trim costs without cutting deeply into core services. We've listened to the message sent two years ago when the dues increase failed to pass. We’ve asked and answered tough questions. I am confident that the dues increase is necessary for Equity to become the organization we all want it to be. Even though I personally may not need all the services Equity provides, someone else in the association does; CAEA was created to give strength to the weakest of us, so that as a profession we are strengthened and able to create the best Canadian live performance we can. I hope this is a view that will be shared by two thirds of the voters in the dues referendum.

Last Monday, a lively group of members came out to the Vancouver Membership Forum despite the cold to discuss the dues increase with our Executive Director, Arden Ryshpan and Council President, Allan Teichman. The discussion was multi-faceted and revealing. Everyone was passionate and committed. We didn’t agree on everything, but the respect in the room was palpable, as was the quality of the listening and openness within the group. We were talking about something very important to us all, and we opened our hearts. I felt the same pride I had when I joined my professional association so many years ago.

At the Forum, we talked a lot about how to engage more of members in the discussion and the vote. I was saddened to learn that fewer than 50% of the membership voted in the last dues referendum – a lower turnout than the pitiful 61% of Canadians who voted in the last general election. I was inspired by the ideas and energy of the group around me – determined to get out the vote and engage more of us in improving our association. I hope that spirit of engagement spreads far and wide to those unable to attend an in-person discussion. Please take the time to read the materials, ask questions, give feedback, and VOTE! Let’s set a new standard for voter turnout and launch Equity into the next exciting stage in our journey.

Jane Heyman
Councillor, BC/Yukon

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Referendum Fast Fact - How many votes are needed?

In order for the referendum to pass, the proposal must be approved by a two-thirds majority of all votes cast. CAEA is the only organisation of its type that we know of with such a high approval threshold for changes to the dues. With that kind of bar to clear, your vote counts all the more.

It’s your association – please support Equity, so Equity can continue to support you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - guest post

When I started with CAEA in 2005, I never gave any thought to the privileges that had been earned by the hard work of our association. Things like fair contracts, scheduled breaks, safe working conditions and insurance, I assumed were simply deserved and therefore provided. I had to ask what an RRSP contribution was (though, I've never been on the infamous 'list').

In 2010, I decided that I wanted a better understanding of what Equity was all about. I joined the Council Policy Advisory Group and marveled at the commitment, talent, care and foresight with which our organisation was being governed.

This country is huge and the number of approaches to creating our art is limited only by our imaginations. Understanding that our association is, simply that, 'ours' was incredibly empowering. The Indie 2.0 Agreement and the new Collective Agreement are two of the many testaments to the fact that our opinions matter and can make a difference - from coast to coast to coast. 

These changes take time. Undoubtedly. Personally, I would rather see it done with care and consideration - correctly and with sensitivity to how disparate our theatre landscape can be. 

I would like to tip my toque to our members across the country who have gathered information, researched, polled and laboured to ensure that we can adapt, grow and flourish.

Aaron Hursh
Member, Saskatchewan

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - guest post

It is a century since a group of actors banded together to form Equity (the name suggested by a Canadian) in NYC. As we contemplate the upcoming CAEA dues referendum, I find myself thinking on how lucky I have been to enjoy the support, protection, working condition advances and artist solidarity that my membership in CAEA has offered me over my 40 years' involvement within it.

I have also have been fortunate to have served on Council and the Executive in the past. I know how much the staff and Council does on members' behalf with very sparse resources. Whenever Council and staff do a stand up job in engaging us in the governance of our association, as they are doing now with the upcoming dues referendum, they deserve our support and serious consideration.

As some of you may recall...I spoke against the last referendum because I felt we, the members, were not engaged in its design enough (I felt member communications from CAEA were not great) and because it only contemplated a raise in one aspect of dues income. I felt this was inherently unfair to some CAEA members.

I feel the opposite on both issues during this current referendum. It is clearly being well communicated...our input is being sought thoroughly, universally and constantly throughout the process. Dues increases are being sought in both basic and working dues. It is a balanced and well considered request.

There is no doubt that the increase is needed if that which was started in 1913 is to continue to serve us, the whole membership of CAEA, in 2014 and beyond. I will vote yes. Please consider doing so too.

David Ferry
Member, Ontario

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - guest post


I would like to speak in favour of the Dues increase. I know, I know, believe me, I know. I know all the arguments for and against… and I can’t afford it either. However, after more than 14 years, I think it is about time. I believe they should have been raised every year in conjunction with the cost of living. I believe that is how it should be from here on.

I want you to understand where I am coming from, so let me tell you about me over the past couple of years… I haven’t worked, much. Sometimes I am in arrears and don’t always know from where the money will come from to pay my dues. My wife and I have a seven year old. Alison works as a Designer, a Stage Manager, and a general all-around technician (she has, of course, a Masters in Acting). That’s our life. Day to day, week to week, and month to month. It’s a struggle… We aren’t alone, this is nothing new…for too many of us.

I am not whining or complaining. We chose this career path, and there was more than enough evidence that it would be, to put it mildly, Hard. Yet, my dues are the first thing I pay… when I get money. Here’s why: for all of us.

I want us to be strong, as individuals and as a group within our society.

To be strong we need a working organisation; and it costs money run an office, to lobby, to negotiate with producers, to administer an association with 6000 members and handle many thousands of contracts and other documents each year, to have a national presence. That means we need to spend money. It can’t be the same amount we were spending 14 years ago. Every year prices go up… for everyone, not just us. If we don’t raise dues what will be the cost?

Equity's responsibility is response-ability: the consistent capacity to act effectively on our behalf. They can't do that without our help; that's our responsibility. Please support your association.


John O’Keefe
Member, Atlantic

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Referendum Fast Fact - Are the two parts of the proposal linked?

Yes they are.

In deciding on a proposed basic dues rate, Council also had to consider the working dues rate, and vice versa. Together, they cover almost all association expenses, and the due proposal is a balanced increase in both. There was a pretty strong message in 2011 that the membership considered a two-part adjustment to be more equitable, and Council has delivered that.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - vote early, vote often

I know I'm dating myself is saying this, but I have always been a big fan of Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo. The title of this post is a crib of the habitual election-year rallying cry of his characters. To be clear, we don't actually allow you to vote often, but if you are a life or regular member in good standing, you do get to vote, and it's important that you do.

If you'll pardon the digression, I thought I'd use this post to give you a bit of behind-the-scenes insight into the voting habits of our membership. I find them kind of fascinating, and perhaps you will, too.

First out of the gate are the early voters. These are people who, one way or another, have already made up their mind on the matter at hand, and vote within a day or two of the polls opening. Read the voting instructions; log in online, or pick up the phone and dial; make the selection; done! These voters account for about one-quarter of the returns.

Then we move into the long, dark doldrums of the mid-vote lull; voting tails off pretty rapidly by the end of the first week. It doesn't seem to matter how long that middle period is - one week or three - the mid-vote turnout is always about the same, another 25%.

Then, bam! Fully half of all members wait to cast their ballot until the last week, with roughly one-third hanging on until the very last minute. These are the people who fascinate me most. Well, second-most. Were they just having trouble making up their minds? Were they waiting until some voice or point arose that really touched them, one way or the other? Or were they, like many of us I suspect, thinking I'll vote tomorrow…well, tomorrow…well, tomorrow…What?!…the vote closes tomorrow?! Who knows. All we know is that there are always a lot of them, and we're glad they got in under the wire.

The members who really do fascinate me the most are the ones who don't bother to vote. Depending on the topic, voting return rates vary between 25% and 38%. Most of our sister associations would kill for return rates that high (yes, you read that correctly), but it still means that as many as three-quarters of members are not exercising their right to vote.

Why? Or, more correctly, why not?

This is your association, and your vote is your voice. Let it be heard! If you think the proposal should pass, please let us know by voting for it - our Staff Psychic is on vacation. If you think the proposal shouldn't pass, we need to hear that, too. (Obviously, we encourage you to vote in favour, but the decision is yours.) 

I mean, come on: this vote is all about finances. You have already paid for the opportunity to vote, don't waste your own money.

And for those who think that their vote doesn't matter one way or another, let me tell you something. The only vote that doesn't matter is the one you don't cast.

Vote! Vote early, vote often once.

PS: Someday, I would love to be able to mention, in casual conversation with one of our sister organisations, that we had a 50% turnout for our last vote. (I'll ensure emergency medical personnel are standing by, just in case.) I can't make that kind of turnout happen, but you can.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - voting opens today

Your association.
Your decision.
Your future.
Your voice.
Your vote.

If you are reading this post, and thinking "What referendum?" or "Where is my ballot?", call the national office for assistance. Details are here.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Referendum Fast Fact - What happens after 2018?

I received a question today, that I think others might have as well...

Part of the proposal is to freeze the new dues rates until at least 2018. Does this mean that the rates can be unilaterally changed by Council after that?

In a word, no. The bylaws say that Council can't change the dues without membership approval, end of story. The next time Council needs to revisit the rate, we'll have to hold another referendum, just like this time.

So, why specify 2018 in the first place? Council and staff have to plan finances well beyond the short term, and we know you do, too. Putting 2018 in bylaws is our commitment to you that we will not be seeking any further adjustments before then.

Got questions? Get answers!