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The Second City theatre stands in downtown Toronto on July 10, 2019.

Tijana Martin

Media union CWA Canada says comedy educators at The Second City in Canada and the United States have filed for union certification.

It says it expects the Ontario Labour Relations Board to hold a formal electronic union certification vote in Canada next week after an “overwhelming majority” of the nearly 100 educators at the training centre in Toronto signed union cards.

The union says over 200 workers in Chicago and Los Angeles have also filed for certification with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board but that process will take weeks or months because the NLRB requires mail-in ballots.

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Last spring, Second City co-owner and chief executive officer Andrew Alexander said he would step down after a former performer levelled accusations of racism against the comedy institution.

CWA Canada says workers in the three cities are unionizing to guarantee equitable working conditions and to establish health and accessibility, diversity and inclusivity, fair compensation and reasonable employment terms.

Besides its mainstage theatres in Chicago and Toronto, Second City’s assets include a long-standing comedy training school, a film school and a corporate division that earns revenue by offering online training and education to clients.

“A union at The Second City training centre will go a long way to improve not just the work environment for our instructors, but also the learning environment for our students, who depend on a safe, accessible place to learn and clear lines of communication,” said Paul Bates, a member of the Toronto organizing committee, in the CWA news release.

Second City was an early training ground for Saturday Night Live players including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and Chris Redd, among other comedy stars. The company produced the SCTV series in the 1970s and 80s.

CWA Canada is the country’s only all-media union, representing 6,000 workers at the CBC, The Canadian Press, APTN, newspapers and other companies.

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