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Comedy educators at famed Second City move to unionize

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

CHICAGO, IL – Arts educators and facilitators from The Second City - which includes world-renowned stages and training centers for artists in Chicago, Hollywood, 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 other education professionals at The Second City are making our collective voice heard," said Taylor Walters-Chapman (she/her), a four-year acting program teacher in Chicago. "By filing cards demonstrating our intent to organize a union, we are standing up for our rights as professionals and the needs of the students we proudly serve. As educators, we get to share our passion every day. We are dedicated to doing that at The Second City, an institution which sets the standard for excellence industry-wide. As a union, we'll have the power to demand that The Second City step up and show its dedication to us, too."


The Chicago-based AICE members will be part of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, a state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers/AFL-CIO.


The Chicago AICE unit consists of about 160 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.


“The classroom is often the only space where creatives get a chance to explore antiracist and intersectional social justice issues, but The Second City has provided no formal training on these topics or in handling sensitive conversations,” said Sarah Little (they/them/theirs), a five-year teacher of media literacy, film analysis, and screenwriting in Chicago. “Through a union, we will have greater opportunity to focus on addressing social justice and make The Second City environment much more inclusive and equitable - from the office to the classroom to the stage.”


Now that cards have been filed by an overwhelming majority of employees, a representation election will be held at each location. In Chicago, 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 Chicago, Hollywood, and Toronto locations. The Hollywood and Toronto AICE units will be part of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the CWA Canada, respectively.


“The Second City teachers deserve a seat at the table,” concluded John Hildreth, a 30-year improv and sketch writing teacher in Chicago. “AICE will be our negotiating force that ensures we create a new and improved The Second City, not just restore the same toxic system that has been there all along. Management may not even know they need our help in this."


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The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees under every statewide elected constitutional officer, and retirees. 

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