L.A. Stage Actors Understand Economics! No to Higher Wage.

L.A. stage actors want to be exempt from minimum wage hikes because they don’t want their employers driven out of business.

This is great but it is infuriating. Doesn’t anyone realize that all other businesses are affected by the same economic forces?

I’m referring to this story at the New York Times about L.A. stage actors: “Actors’ Equity Pushes for Minimum Wage, but Not All Members Want It.”

They rehearse for weeks, often in run down theaters that were once garages or retail stores; perform challenging premieres of new works and imaginative reinterpretations of old ones; and sometimes clean the bathrooms, sell the tickets, or sew the costumes, too.

But hundreds of union actors working in this city’s distinctive and thriving small theater scene are barely paid for their work. And, in an unusual twist to America’s economic fairness debates, many of them say they are O.K. with that.

“None of us is here to make money,” Lynn Odell said recently as she rehearsed a science-fiction comedy at Theater of Note, a 42-seat theater that operates in a former auto-glass repair shop in Hollywood. “We are here for the experience.”

The willingness of Los Angeles actors to perform for a pittance, hoping to hone their craft and, maybe, to catch the eye of an agent or manager, is now at the heart of an extraordinary rift in the union representing theater actors, and has opened a new front in the nation’s battle over the minimum wage.

The stage actors are opposed to “their” union (people who presume to speak for them and demand dues) because they want to get the opportunity to act. If these theaters can’t afford to hire them or to stay in business then they won’t get to work. That means they won’t get the experience, they will never be scouted, and, yes, they will get paid $0.

[See also, “White House Preaches Higher Minimum Wage, Pays Nothing.”]

What is astonishing is that the New York Times takes the concerns of the stage actors seriously and reports on them accurately. Has that paper ever treated the minimum wage issue so rationally?

But how can anyone explain the economic issues involved in minimum wage for these small theaters and not give any thought to how these same economic principles work for every other business?

The disconnect is astounding.