HOLLYWOOD — Arts educators and facilitators from The Second City, which includes world-renowned stages and training centers for artists in Hollywood, Chicago and Toronto, have filed cards with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today affirming their intent to form a union, the Association of International Comedy Educators (AICE).
“Today the teachers, facilitators and musical directors at The Second City took the first step to creating a more inclusive, equitable and fair workplace by filing our application to unionize,” said Leslie Seiler, a Conservatory, adult improv and sketch writing instructor in Hollywood for 11 years. “We love our students and are passionate about providing them with a positive, safe and accessible experience in our classrooms. We are equally ardent that our faculty is protected and supported in their workplace so that they can thrive, while producing the exceptional training that our unique staff provide. We are dedicated to holding The Second City accountable to our standards of transparency, accountability and equity. We decided it was time to stop talking about the things we want changed and actually become part of that change.”
The Hollywood-based AICE members will be part of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 9400.
The Hollywood AICE unit consists of more than 80 comedy educators who help students of all ages develop their skills in comedy improvisation, performance, writing, editing, and much more. During the pandemic, these educators quickly adapted their courses and instruction to an online-only format, ensuring that students could continue to get high-quality instruction and providing a critical source of income for The Second City while touring and performances were suspended.
Over the years, The Second City has produced such famous alumni as Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Tina Fey and hundreds of other highly acclaimed comedy performers.
By organizing a union, the educators will ensure that their voices are heard on important decisions that affect the future of the institution and its students, as well as secure the ability to negotiate fair and reliable compensation, clear job descriptions, and equitable working conditions.
AICE members are particularly focused on collaborating with their employer to develop inclusive and welcoming workplaces at The Second City, which has been publicly criticized for a lack of diversity.
Now that cards have been filed by an overwhelming majority of employees, a representation election will be held at each location. In Hollywood, it is expected that will occur within the next several weeks.
The educators and facilitators began the organizing process last spring and have been coordinating their efforts between the Hollywood, Chicago, and Toronto locations. The Toronto AICE unit will be part of the CWA Canada, while the Chicago unit will join the Illinois Federation of Teachers, AFT.
“There are certain tools teachers need in order to set themselves and their students up for success,” said Macklen Makhloghi, a youth and teen improv instructor in Hollywood for two and a half years. “When we are denied those tools, or when those tools are broken, the onus always falls on us to compensate for what’s lacking. With a union, instead of continuing to duct tape the problems, we can help fix them.”