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danforth

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^And just to show how one voice can effect change...

Back in the mid-to-late 80s I was my city's volunteer rep for Actor's Equity. I was on the regular quarterly national call one day, and they informed us the requirements to earn health care (something every actor must do every year), were going to increase by 2/3rds, overnight. Effectively, for my area, that meant only stage managers, and a small cadre of consistantly-working actors would qualify.

I called an emergency meeting of every working actor in town, and in a bunch of jammed rooms where you could hear a pin drop, I gave them the news. At some point, a fellow actor said, "So, there's nothing we can do, right?"

And I said: "On the contrary. We've lost everything, so there's everything we can do and everything we must do. Here's one idea: Actor's Equity has a rule: if any paid-up member writes a letter to Council (think Board of Directors), that letter must be read aloud during a Council meeting, and that supersedes all other business. Let's tell them how we feel."

Well, one other local had the same idea, and soon, the entire weekly Council meeting was taken up reading the letters, only to find a larger pile awaiting them for the following week. Before long, I got a frantic call from the Regional Director: "All right! Enough with the f^^kin' letters! We get it. WE GET IT! We're having a summit this weekend! Now NO MORE F^^KIN' LETTERS!" From that summit came Equity's current two-tiered plan, where a certain amount of work weeks gets you 6 months coverage, and almost twice as many weeks gets you a year's coverage.

Interestingly, what also emerged was a twist, since there is always a time when someone who will eventually earn a year, has qualified for 6 months. Rather than automatically onset, the system allows the participant to delay the onset of coverage. Knowing this, I accepted a show that not only qualified me, but would allow me to time the start and end of the coverage to segue to Cobra until Medicare kicked in. For someone like me, who would be thrown in a high-risk pool if the ACA ever collapsed, it was a great feeling to join the ranks of those who will never have to worry about affordable access to health insurance again.

Look what happened in this case: the smallest voices in the Union made the loudest difference. They forced changes in the structure of the coverage system, and ironically, a meeting I had in my home one night led to a provision which ended up benefitting me...30 years later.

None of us would have been so empowered without the Union.

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