Everyone Needs an ‘Equity Card’

Oct 15 2018

Everyone Needs an ‘Equity Card’

Article from: aflcio.org

By: Amy Laura Hall

The younger people in my life introduce me to songs they consider vintage but that are completely new to me. The Dead Kennedys, for example, are alive and well on my most recent playlist. And just this morning I heard, for the first time, “Work Bitch,” by Britney Spears. As I listened to her sing “Bring it on/ring the alarm/don’t stop now/just be the champion,” I added, in my best BritBrit voice, “and get a labor union, get some collective bargaining.” (This is what it is like to ride in the car with me.)

The movie “9 to 5 came out when I was in sixth grade. It was a hit, even in West Texas. The decade that was the ’80s was full of “Work Bitch” songs—beats to sweat off the toxic stress of the union-busting Ronald Reagan era. But no “Eye of the Tiger” could compare with the thrill of the fight that Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda carried out together on screen. I had overheard grown women around me shaking their heads with a kind of laughter mixed with wistful, delayed revenge. When I saw the movie with friends in the theater, my laughter was mixed with dread. Is this what work looks like for grown women? Are there really bosses who actually pull this sort of crap with women? No wonder my mother and her friends wanted a labor union.

When looking up more about Tomlin, the first news item to pop up was her recent interview with Shalini Dore for Variety, a source for “the Business of Entertainment” (Aug. 24, 2018). Tomlin recently has received yet another Emmy nomination for the TV series “Grace and Frankie.” Right off the bat, Tomlin brings up her Equity card. Dore’s first question is about the first time Variety noted Tomlin’s work (in 1964) and Tomlin’s immediate response is “I got my Equity card then.” Three sentences later, she repeats “It was terrific to get my Equity card.” Yes, it was fantastic to be mentioned in Variety in 1964, but Tomlin impresses on Dore and Variety readers that this was the year she became part of the Actors’ Equity (AEA), a labor union that represents people working in live theater performance. She names for readers following “the Business of Entertainment” that her career in the business included, from the get-go, the collaborative kinship of courage that is collective bargaining.

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