Thinking about the parallels between sports and theatre today, I started thinking about this whole issue (I hate to go back to the well, again, but this is worth something. Trust me.) and I came up with a name that has some relevance here:
A-Rod. Alex Rodriguez.
Come with me in the wayback machine, to the long-ago year of 2003. A-Rod was a Ranger and the highest paid player in the sport. For all of that cash, though, the Rangers blew. A-Rod's contract was tying up tons of their money and they were hurting. He wanted a ring to go with his piles of cash, so he tried to head to a contender, the Boston Red Sox. But going to the Red Sox would have meant a reduction in salary and the Players Union nixed it.
Now under the logic some have been throwing around, he should have allowed to do it. It was voluntary and it would have meant that all parties were better off. He could still be a player, the Rangers would be off the hook and the Red Sox would have the key piece to finally bring them a championship. All good...but then the lousy union rained on everyone's parade and said no.
Why would a union do such a thing? Why would a union deny a player an opportunity they wanted? Why would they block an owner from making the deal?
Because what a player does matters. Because how much someone is paid for their work matters. Is someone else going to get an A-Rod size contract again? Probably not. Will someone else be in that position again? Probably not. But down the line, someone will be in the position where an owner will ask them to take a paycut and the union has to be there for that. Even if the player agrees. Because what they do has worth and making a deal for less degrades the work everyone else does.
One of the things we lack in our industry is that sense of worth. The underlying belief is that this is something we love to do and we'll do it for free. Actors Equity exists to defend against that. My beef in all of this has been with Equity. The producers are trying to make money and, honestly, Lord love 'em for wanting to keep the show open. The actors face a hard decision: keep doing the same job they've been doing for less money or go without work. Equity was supposed to be there for them so this didn't happen. By all of the reports, Equity worked this deal out with the producers and without the knowledge of the cast. Whose side does it sound like they're on?