Second City's Comedy Educators Set for Chicago Strike Showdown

Second City's Comedy Educators Set for Chicago Strike ShowdownSource: Google Street View
Jo Marquez
Published on November 29, 2023

The laughs might soon stop rolling at The Second City in Chicago as faculty members stand on the verge of striking over stalled contract negotiations. According to a report by FOX 32 Chicago, these teachers and educators of comedy, who have trained some of the most recognized names in humor, find there's nothing funny about their current pay and working conditions.

Hot on the heels of a union-authorized strike, these Second City stalwarts, who claim their compensation has long been an opening act, aired their grievances following what has been termed a lengthy and fruitless two-year negotiation period with management. The Association of International Comedy Educators, also known as AICE, has signaled that its patience has tested the limits, having voted overwhelmingly before Thanksgiving in favor of a walkout. "We are seeing progress here and there, but not on main sticking points, and not fast enough," AICE member and teacher Ana Silva told The Chicago Crusader during a recent bargaining session, emphasizing the urgency of their position.

Despite The Second City boasting about their globally lauded instructional staff, the reality, as teachers assert, is a paycheck that doesn't reflect their standing or comparable market rates. They have been negotiating with the famed comedy institution for a first contract since forming their union back in 2021. With member turnout at nearly 80%, a commanding 94% of voters cast their ballots to strike, pushing the company toward an impasse, as reported by The Chicago Crusader.

Furthermore, educators like Katie Wilson are advocating on behalf of colleagues for improvements, who, as AICE members, are calling for the respect they deserve from a company whose reputation they have helped build. They want fair scheduling practices, rights to intellectual property, and recognition for work done beyond the traditional classroom—the struggle for which wages on. "We love what we do, and we deserve to work for a company that values that work and respects the people who do it," Wilson told FOX 32 Chicago, invoking the shared sentiment of her fellow comedians-in-arms.

The deadlock has put a spotlight on the date of December 12, when the next round of bargaining is scheduled to occur. The strike could be called at any moment, pending the fruitfulness of that session. As the world watches and the future of these comedy craftsmen hangs in the balance, Silva and her AICE compatriots hope that "The Second City management will finally take our positions seriously and do right by our teachers, facilitators, and music directors," as they seek to return their focus to their passion—teaching, creating, and spreading the gift of laughter. The AICE represents 300 faculty, film school faculty, facilitators, and music directors in both Chicago and Toronto.