KEY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS SIGN LETTER COMMITTING TO SUPPORT ART AND ENTERTAINMENT WORKERS

From Brandon Lorenz, National Director of Communications and Public Policy: “Countless actors, stage managers and everyone who work in arts and entertainment are out of work and wondering how they will make their next rent payment. We are grateful for the leadership of Rep. Schiff and all the members of Congress who have made it clear they understand arts workers need to be protected during this unprecedented health emergency. We will continue to work in partnership with other entertainment unions to make the case that Congress must act.”

Background: On Broadway alone, 16 shows were scheduled to open during the period when shows are suspended. Many who have not yet begun rehearsals but had planned for that work will not quality for unemployment or paid leave. One off-Broadway venue has already postponed 109 shows with 37 artists — workers who have accepted an offer but not started their work will be devastated without action. A similar story is happening at theaters all around the country.

Equity quickly mobilized to partner with other entertainment unions and advocate for arts and entertainment workers during this unprecedented crisis. Actors’ Equity first made the public case for emergency relief for arts and entertainment workers on March 11, when news reports emerged that Washington state and others would limit public gatherings. Since then, Equity members have sent thousands of letters to their member of Congress. Equity has also partnered with the Coalition of Broadway Unions (COBUG) to seek relief for members in New York State.

The full letter is below:

March 19, 2020

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:

Thank you for your work on behalf of our nation advancing swift and decisive legislative responses to the emerging coronavirus crisis. The bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act that overwhelmingly passed the House on Friday, as well as the previously approved $8.3 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations, will help protect the health and financial security of families across the country as we confront this unprecedented challenge.

Already, the sweeping disruptions to public life that are crucial to slowing the spread of the coronavirus have sent shockwaves through the economy, bringing many industries to a standstill as workers and employers heed the instructions of public health officials and scale back all but the most essential activity.

In the coming weeks, it is critical that Congress provide relief to impacted workers and their families. Particularly hard hit are freelancers, contractors, and other independent workers who in many cases lack the resources of a large employer as well as unemployment and paid leave protections provided to traditional employees. As events are called off, contracts postponed, performances canceled, and other opportunities for work reduced, we must ensure that relief is provided to all affected workers, regardless of the structure of their employment.

In particular, we urge you to include protections for freelance and contract workers in the entertainment industry who have lost work because of coronavirus-related cancellations or postponements. For every worker or performer on stage or in front of the camera, there are dozens more who make their living in this industry—an industry in crisis, with virtually every workplace in the country shut down over the past week.

The unique freelance nature of work in film, television, theater, and live music means that a large number of the professionals who make these productions possible work only sporadically—often with extended periods between paying jobs—and count on income from each project to make ends meet. As a result, many of them can’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits or paid emergency leave, yet will now be unable to cover their basic expenses due to lost work. Many of these workers have arranged, contracted for, and planned on work on a film, television show, streaming program, commercial, theatrical or other live production that has been cancelled or postponed as a result of the coronavirus emergency. However, these union workers are not adequately protected by rules designed for traditional single-employer relationships, or even consistent multi-employer work as in industries like construction.

As Members representing many constituents who work in film, television, theater, and live music, we urge you to include protections for those who have lost work due to coronavirus-related cancellations and postponements in the entertainment industry. Due to the unique, sporadic nature of work in this industry, we believe that benefits provided to these workers should be calculated based on verifiable anticipated earnings for a current or future contract that has been cancelled, rather than prior wage history.

Thank you for your attention to our constituents’ concerns in this unprecedented situation and your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Brendan F. Boyle (D-PA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Gilbert Ray Cisneros, Jr. (D-CA), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Jim Cooper (D-TN), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Debra A. Haaland (D-NM), Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr (D-GA), William R. Keating (D-MA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Alan S. Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and John A. Yarmuth (D-KY).

CC:      The Honorable Richard Neal
            Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means

            The Honorable Kevin Brady
            Ranking Member, Committee on Ways and Means

March 19, 2020

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