Hollywood Pantages wardrobes campaign for equal pay
As a teenager, Jamie Brown managed the costumes for her school productions and even won prizes in student costume contests. But she didn’t think she could make a career in costume until she saw “Wicked” at the Hollywood Pantages Theater.
âIt opened my eyes that it wasn’t just my hobby in high school,â she told The Times. âI specifically remember seeing Elphaba running backstage to do a [costume] quick change and saying to myself, “I want to be the person who will help him get there.”
Brown’s childhood dream has come true. She is now the head of Pantages’ wardrobe department, which takes care of the costumes for shows presented on site. The team of 14 wardrobes is currently in charge of helping to make âHamiltonâ: pressing the pieces beforehand and dressing the actors, making quick changes during a performance, washing everything afterwards and making the necessary repairs. .
âThe wardrobe tends to be the biggest department of all productions because there can be thousands of costumes in a production and they all need to be groomed and maintained,â says Brown. âEven though they’re used eight times a week, they should look the same in December as they do in August. “
However, members of Pantages’ wardrobe department – the majority of whom are, currently and historically, women and LGBTQ + – say they are paid $ 99 less per performance, on average, compared to their fellow machinists, and receive 60% less in contributions to health care and pension plans. The workers, represented by IATSE Local 768, will hand out leaflets outside the site starting Thursday evening to raise awareness of this behind-the-scenes injustice.
“We are trying to draw attention to this because it is not only for our current workers, but also for anyone who might want to pursue this career in the future,” said Union President Mary Basile. . âWe have trained for years to perfect our craft, which is just as integral to a show as lights, props or anything else. The goal is to be fairly compensated by employers for the very valuable contribution we make to the story that is told on stage, night after night.
Patrons of the theater are encouraged to participate in a letter writing campaign addressed to the management of Pantages – the general manager of the place Jeff Loeb as well as the Nederlander Organization, the parent company of the place – which demands equal pay and benefits for the wardrobe staff. The Pantages did not respond to The Times’ request for comment on the campaign.
“We have been asking for parity for decades and we have received constant apologies,” said Carol Ann Sparks, who has previously helped negotiate contracts with the management of Pantages, on Instagram. “We have been operating under wage inequality for far too long, and it is no longer sustainable.”
The department will distribute the leaflets while continuing its work on âHamilton,â which is set to play through February.
âWe love our work here at Pantages, which is the pinnacle of commercial theater in Los Angeles,â says Brown. âIt is a great honor to work here. But once you get to that level, you feel like it justifies a sustainable salary. I don’t want to have to work all those odd jobs when I already have a more than full-time job. My brothers and sisters from other departments can live very comfortably in careers they love, and I envy them. “
âWe have each worked so hard to be able to do this job and we want to keep doing it,â she adds. “But we should be paid fairly for the work we do.”