Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Actors’ Union Joins the Fight Against Drag Bans

Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) has joined the legal fight against Tennessee’s “Drag Ban.” Next steps? AEA should continue to push forward actions with worker solidarity in the fight against anti-drag / anti-trans legislation.

Claire Latourette

April 23, 2023
Facebook Twitter Share
The Actors Equity Association logo superimposed on a background of the trans flag colors

This past Friday, the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), a national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theater, filed an amicus brief in Tennessee opposing the state’s new “Drag Ban.” This bill was signed into law by Governor Lee in early March; the law would ban “adult cabaret entertainment” on public property or at locations where they could be viewed by minors and updates the definition of “adult cabaret entertainment” to include “male or female impersonators.”

The broad, vague language of this bill, and many other anti-drag bills, is by design: a clear attack on trans rights and gender expression. By providing a blanket statement of “adult cabaret entertainment,” right-wing reactionaries are providing legislative backing to continue the coordinated attack on the trans community and anyone who engages in public gender-nonconformity. Under the overbroad language of these anti-drag bills, the trans community could face legal charges for simply existing in public. Singing karaoke at a restaurant, speaking at a protest or rally, engaging in any kind of performance in public — all of these activities could have grave consequences. 

You might be interested in: “The Unprecedented Attacks on Trans Rights”

Kate Shindle, AEA president, released a statement: “News flash to the Tennessee legislature: drag performance is not inherently ‘prurient’. Have they ever heard of Shakespeare? The Ancient Greeks? Live theater has always had male actors (in drag!) playing female roles, and vice versa.”

Shindle goes on to say, “It is also quite clearly part of a much broader campaign in which Republican legislators use transgender/non-conforming human beings as political footballs, which is as cynical as it gets, but at least perhaps a metaphor they will understand.” Currently, in this 2023 legislative season, there is a record number of 469 anti-LGBTQ bills in the United States attacking LGBTQ+ rights, especially transgender youth. 

While Shindle is correct that these prejudiced laws primarily stem from Republicans, the solution is not limited to the binary of Democrat vs. Republican legislation or legal success in the court system. The solution lies in worker power and uniting through vigorous class struggle. An amicus brief is a productive legal step, but Actors’ Equity can and should continue to push forward actions with worker solidarity in the fight against anti-drag / anti-trans legislation. 

AEA should authorize an ongoing strike and call for a work stoppage in Tennessee — a state where, according to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $1.17 billion industry. Theater professionals should not be expected to put their health and safety on the line in order to continue making profit for the state. AEA should encourage other entertainment unions, like IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) or SAG (Screen Actors Guild), to follow suit — not only by joining the legal fight, but to strike and halt production in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. 

Theatrical professionals deserve to execute their craft, but it is imperative they are safe in their workplaces and have their identities respected and protected. As with any crisis, we cannot rely on politicians to prevent harmful laws from being introduced or sworn into law. We’ve seen time and time again that worker power creates the biggest change: we can organize, we can withhold our labor, and we can take to the streets. Entertainment professionals need to show up and fight alongside the LGBTQ+ community with the same energy and dedication that we give to our creative pursuits. The art of theater and performance has the power to create change, but that only happens if entertainment workers fight for the true safety and inclusivity of all. 

Facebook Twitter Share

Labor Movement

Why Won’t PSC-CUNY Stand with Palestine Now?

While other higher education unions are going on strike in defense of their workers and against the genocide in Gaza, the bureaucratic leadership of PSC-CUNY just crushed a resolution calling on the university to divest from Israel and to drop the charges against Palestinian activists arrested on April 30. 

James Dennis Hoff

May 24, 2024
A sign for the University of California at Santa Cruz with a line of UAW signs in front of it

Dispatch from Day One of the UC Santa Cruz Picket Line for Palestine

Left Voice member and City University of New York worker Olivia traveled to Santa Cruz for UAW 4811’s historic strike to talk to workers. This is her dispatch from the first day of the strike.

Olivia Wood

May 22, 2024
Signs and banners at the picket line in front of the UC Santa Cruz in May, 2024. UC student workers are beginning a historic strike for Palestine, against genocide.

University of California Student Workers Begin Historic Political Strike against Repression and Genocide

This week, student and postdoctoral workers at the University of California began a historic strike in response to the brutal, violent repression of students, faculty, and staff protesting for Palestine. The action marks an important escalation of the labor movement’s struggle in defense of Palestine and the right to protest.

Olivia Wood

May 21, 2024
A rally in Brooklyn, people hold up UAW signs

University of California Academic Workers Authorize Strike to Defend the Right to Protest

48,000 workers are one step closer to going on strike to demand that charges and academic sanctions be dropped for the students and faculty who protest the genocide in Palestine and UC’s financial and academic ties to Israel.

Madeleine Freeman

May 16, 2024

MOST RECENT

Attack on Pro-Palestinian Protestors at UMich Latest Example of Democrats Defending Israel’s Genocide in Gaza

Capitalist apologists from the Democratic Party have chosen their business partners in Israel’s far-right government over Palestinian lives. In Ann Arbor, those same so-called “progressive” Democrats decided to bring felony charges against protestors earlier this week, encouraging harsh police violence against the University of Michigan encampment.

Ryan McCarty

May 24, 2024
Activists in Detroit speaking at a press conference condemning repression of the pro-Palestine movement on May 20, 2024.

Detroit Activists Hold Press Conference to Condemn Repression of Pro-Palestine Protesters

Detroit Will Breathe organized a press conference to discuss the police violence and repression against pro-Palestine protesters. The movement must stand in solidarity and unite to combat the increase of repression.

Kyle Thibodeau

May 23, 2024

CUNY Workers Should Support the Five Demands of the Student Encampment

As the PSC CUNY Delegate Assembly prepares to debate a vote to endorse the five demands of the CCNY Gaza Solidarity Encampment, some members of CUNY on Strike penned the following rebuttal to the bureaucratic union leadership that has been trying to distance itself from the struggle against the genocide in Gaza. 

A Russian tank fires toward Kharkiv on the May 10 offensive against Ukraine.

Russia’s Offensive in Ukraine May Be a Turning Point in the War

Russia’s May 10 offensive in Ukraine may be a turning point in the dynamics of the war, and the specter of Ukraine’s defeat is exposing the cracks that divide the Western powers.

Claudia Cinatti

May 21, 2024