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November 20, 2003

Stars, Union Officials and Child Performers Celebrate Passage of NY State's New "Coogan" Law

L-R, Back: Alan Simon/On Location Education; Eileen Henry SAG-NY, NY Assembly Person Helene Weinstein; Actor/Advocate Paul Peterson, SAG President Melissa Gilbert, Equity President Patrick Quinn, AFTRA First National VP Roberta Reardon, AFTRA Legislative Committee Chair Ed Fry, NY Senator Guy Velella, AFTRA Young Performers Committee's Robert Lydiard
L-R, Front: Nicole Flender, AEA Young Performers Committee Chair, Kristen Alderson, "One Life To Live," Alexandra Palmari, Julianne Mauriello, Samantha Browne-Walters, Dyashwa Sylvester
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

Daddy Warbucks! Equity President Patrick Quinn, currently starring in ANNIE at the Walnut Street Theatre, gets a polish from clockwise from left) Samantha Browne-Walters, Eileen Henry, Melissa Gilbert, Alexandra Palmari, Julianne Mauriello
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

AEA Young Performers Committe Chair Nicole Flender and Executive Director Alan Eisenberg thank Julianne Mauriello, currently appearing in GYPSY, who went to Albany to lobby with other young performers
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

Tri-Union Victory! NY Assembly Person Helene Weinstein (left) and NY Senator Guy Velella (right) are thanked by SAG President Melissa Gilbert, AFTRA First National VP Roberta Reardon, and Equity President Patrick Quinn
photo by Walter McBride/RETNA

Thank State Legislators Guy Velella and Helene Weinstein for Sponsoring Child Performers Education Trust Act of 2003

Screen Actors Guild President Melissa Gilbert hosted Equity President Patrick Quinn, AFTRA First National Vice President Roberta Reardon and other high-ranking union officials, staff members, committee members, parents and child performers at the celebration for New York State's new "Coogan" Law at Equity headquarters in New York on Monday, November 17, 2003.

The event was organized to thank State Senator Guy Velella and Assembly Woman Helen Weinstein for sponsoring the Child Performers Education and Trust Act of 2003, which was signed by Governor Pataki on September 30, 2003.

Similar to the California "Coogan Law," named after child star Jackie Coogan, the New York law requires that 15% of all child performers' earnings be set aside until the age of majority (18 years of age), protecting the earnings of the minor. On the education front, employers must provide a teacher, who is either New York State certified or has credentials recognized by the State, to any child performer who cannot attend school due to his or her employment (when a teacher is provided, the performers will not be marked absent from school while working). Parents will be responsible for getting work permits from the Department of Labor for their children, renewable after six months. Employers will apply to the Labor Department for certificates of eligibility to employ a child, which lasts three years. The law takes effect on March 28, 2004.

Paul Petersen, a former child star (Mousketeer, The Donna Reed Show) kicked off the event by emphasizing the importance of protecting young performers in the entertainment industry. In her remarks, SAG President Melissa Gilbert acknowledged Petersen's tireless efforts on behalf of children throughout the country. "Hopefully, now that we have California and New York covered by Coogan laws, it won't be long before there is federal legislation," she added. "I'm so pleased and proud of everyone for their efforts on this wonderful day."

Gilbert introduced Equity President Patrick Quinn, who thanked Barbara Janowitz from the League of American Theatre and Producers for its support: "Without the cooperation of our collective bargaining partners, this would not have happened," Quinn said, before introducing the young "stars" of the press conference.

"Everyone knows that in order to lobby the legislature, you need constituents that are impacted by the proposals, and in this instance, we were actually blessed up in Albany with four very talented, personable and intelligent young lobbyists, who were able to concisely and cogently relate the real challenges of being both a child and a professional actor. They eloquently represented all young performers in New York State and placed a human face on the need for this legislation." Quinn introduced Julianna Mauriello, currently performing in GYPSY and Samantha Browne-Walters (LIFE WITH BONNIE, THIRD WATCH), who received certificates of recognition from the Unions.

Quinn added that the legislation has taken on added significance personally, as he is currently appearing in ANNIE ("Daddy Warbucks"), at the Walnut Street Theatre, with no fewer than twelve children on stage, including several from New York. "I've spoken to the parents of my cast members, including one of the orphans who is not a New Yorker, the daughter of US Congressman Robert Andrews (NJ). They asked me to congratulate everyone who is responsible for the passage of this important legislation."

Patrick then introduced AFTRA First National Vice President Roberta Reardon, who conveyed congratulations from AFTRA President John P. Connolly. "AFTRA has been covering live television since its inception, and we've been aware for a long time of the difficulties facing young performers, so we're extremely happy to have this bill. This is a wonderful thing to happen, because it's been a tri-union effort, this is a great example of what happens when the three entertainment unions work together, and I'm very proud of this effort." Reardon especially thanked Larry Scherer, the lobbyist who was employed by the Screen Actors Guild, but whose work benefited all three unions.

Reardon introduced another young performer, AFTRA member Kristin Alderson, who currently plays "Star" on ONE LIFE TO LIVE. Kristin said "It's really important to have this law signed in New York. I was also in a production of ANNIE. Hopefully this will become the law in the whole United States. Thanks to everyone who made this possible."

Assembly member Helene Weinstein thanked Actors' Equity, AFTRA and SAG for their dedication and support in bringing the matter to her attention, acknowledging Paul Petersen as well as the children who came to Albany to publicize this issue. "New York has had a long tradition of protecting child workers, and the new Child Performers Education Trust Act will continue this strong tradition, from "Sea Biscuit" in Saratoga, to "Time Machine" in Albany, to Broadway and at movie studios in Queens. We have an obligation to protect the 3500+ young performers who are employed in New York on an annual basis, and this new act will do just that. This bill has had a miraculous journey, because of the efforts of all of you here today."

Quinn then introduced Senator Guy Velella who joked, "I also owe a debt of gratitude to your profession, because in high school, I tried out for the school play, and being devoid of any talent, they suggested I try politics!"

Velella continued: "I just want to say that it's not always easy to get a Democrat Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate to agree on anything, and when we do agree, it usually takes four or five years to get it passed. This bill took on a life of its own, and we're grateful to Larry Scherer and all of you for bringing this to fruition." Special thanks goes out to: Actors' Equity's Young Performer Committee, Nicole Flender, Chair; AFTRA's Legislative Committee, Ed Fry, Chair; AFTRA's Young Performers Committee, Robert Lydiard, Chair; SAG New York President Eileen Henry; SAG Legislative Committee Chair Cynthia Vance; and SAG's Young Performers Committee Chair Lee Bryant.

Also to: Actor's Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg; EEO/Young Performers Business Representative Willie Boston; Eastern Regional Director Carol Waaser; and Communications Director David Lotz; AFTRA Executives Stephen Burrow, Connie Best, Debra Gigbot, and Jayne Wallace; SAG Executives Nancy Fox and Jae Je Simmons; and other committee members.

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