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October 2, 2003

NEW YORK STATE BRINGS STANDARDS AND PROTECTIONS TO YOUNG PEOPLE WORKING IN ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY

Governor Pataki Signs Child Performers Education and Trust Act

Governor George Pataki yesterday signed into law the Child Performers Education and Trust Act of 2003, passed by both the Assembly and Senate this summer. This act serves to codify protections for wages and education for the thousands of children working in the entertainment industry, and will become effective in New York State as of March 29, 2004.

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. Additionally, it makes it possible for child performers to receive quality education without risk of continued marked absences on workdays and authorizes the New York State Department of Labor and Department of Education to enforce these provisions.

In what has been a historic week for child performers, California Governor Gray Davis recently signed a Bill improving the methods of locating performers who have money in unclaimed Coogan accounts. Now, New York has moved to protect its child performers as well.

The American Federation and Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA,) Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Actors' Equity Association (AEA) led the campaign to achieve these protections. The three performers' unions expressed their thanks to Senator Guy Velella (R-C-31st District) and Assembly Member Helene Weinstein (D-41st) for taking the lead in recognizing the importance of protecting kids working in television, radio, films and theatre, and to Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-64th) for their support of this important legislation. Equity, AFTRA and SAG work in concert on legislative and legal issues.

Screen Actors Guild President and SAG's National Young Performers Committee Chair Melissa Gilbert stated, "This is a great day for young performers in New York. I am ecstatic that the Coogan Bill will now become state law providing vital protections and safeguards. I am grateful to Governor Pataki and the New York State Legislature, and I am extremely proud of the Screen Actors Guild Legislative Committee members for their hard work. As a former child actor myself, this has been a goal since the day I was elected. I am proud and honored to have been a part of this remarkable collaborative effort."

"Congratulations to Governor Pataki for signing this landmark legislation protecting young performers, and establishing guidelines for the protection of kids working throughout the entertainment industry," said John Connolly, National President, AFTRA. "Finally, New York, like California, can safeguard the earnings and educational standards of young performers. On behalf of AFTRA's entire membership, we applaud the Governor and New York legislators for addressing the realities that child performers are working professionals with special concerns."

"Bravo to the Governor and our New York State Legislators for signing this important act," said Actors' Equity President Patrick Quinn. "In our volatile industry, child and juvenile actors are particularly vulnerable to financial pressures, so it is important to recognize and protect their interests in New York State. On behalf of our membership, we applaud this new law and look forward to its implementation."


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