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    Posted January 28, 2009

How Can We Get A Piece of the Recovery Pie ?

At press time, Actors' Equity had under taken these initiatives in response to the financial crisis:

Pre-Inaugural Ball and Congressional Luncheon
Along with other entertainment unions (including AFTRA, AFM, DPE, IATSE and SAG), Actors' Equity hosted a pre-inaugural ball to welcome in the new administration and build connections with Obama's Arts Policy Committee and Transition Team, as well as key Congressional and Gubernatorial staff. In addition, Equity President Mark Zimmerman, Vice President Ira Mont and Eastern Regional Director Carol Waaser were invited by New York State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes to attend a NY Congressional luncheon in Washington on January 27. Topics of discussion included the Employee Free Choice Act and the Federal Stimulus Package as it relates to New York State. "We continued to emphasize the absolute necessity of including a jobs program and funding for the arts as essential keystones in any economic recovery package," said President Zimmerman.

NY State AFL-CIO Arts and Entertainment Industry Committee
On January 21, Equity hosted a meeting of the Arts and Entertainment Industry Committee, a coalition of arts/media unions under the umbrella of the NY State AFL-CIO. State Federation President Denis Hughes and Public Employee Division Director Art Wilcox discussed the impact of Governor Patterson's proposed budget. Specifically, there was discussion about the Governor's proposed amusement tax (8.37 %) and the negative impact this would have on the theatre industry. Hughes urged the coalition to review other areas of budgeting that might also have an impact (such as funding for the NYSCA), so that pressure can be mounted with the Legislature. He also discussed the State AFL-CIO's plans to advocate for improved unemployment benefits as more and more workers lose their jobs. This would entail increasing weekly benefits; indexing benefits with the cost-of-living; and shoring up the Unemployment Trust Fund.

Eastern Regional Director Carol Waaser and Councillor Margie Horne will travel to Albany on February 3rd as part of Arts Day to testify before the Joint Legislative Finance Committee about the amusement tax and other Equity-centric issues that the state budget will affect.

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