Closed Broadway theatres in New York because of the COVID-19 pandemic. – New York NY/USA – May 7, 2020 (Shutterstock)
New York – Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement regarding the Broadway League’s announcement that the Broadway suspension would extend through May, 2021.
“My heart breaks for everyone who works on Broadway or depends on it to make their living. Today the Broadway League made the difficult but responsible decision to put the safety and health of their workers and audience first. This is a deeply painful time for everyone who depends on the arts for their livelihood. We are at this moment because, seven months into the pandemic, our nation still lacks a coherent national strategy for masks and testing which could help bring the virus under control,” said Mary McColl, executive director for Actors’ Equity Association. “Too many in the industry need help now as we face another six months without work. The ongoing lack of work in the arts means we face a critical need for a federal COBRA health insurance subsidies, renewed federal unemployment benefits and arts funding. Washington must act.”
Equity has been fighting for a governmental response to an arts industry shutdown since March, when it first asked for an economic relief package for an industry in crisis. The union then fought for the passage of the CARES Act in March, helping expand the bill to apply to arts workers who lost future work.
While Equity members have largely been without work weeks that would allow them to qualify for union coverage, the union has been fighting for increased access to affordable health insurance. In April, Equity called for a COBRA subsidy as unemployment began to skyrocket in the arts and entertainment sector.
In May, Equity then set its sight on the HEROES Act, which passed the House and has yet to pass the Senate. Last month, House Democrats introduced a new version of the bill, that Equity also supports. It includes, for example, these provisions that protect Equity members:
- $10 billion in emergency arts funding would be made available via an updated “Save Our Stages” Act that also includes new, critical worker protections.
- An additional $135 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. More funding was also allocated for the National Endowment for the Humanities and Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
- New provisions to ensure that workers who earn a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent (e.g. 1099) employment income can fully access the unemployment assistance provided in the CARES Act.
Equity members and supporters have collected 26,000 signatures on relevant petitions, sent nearly 80,000 emails and text message and made 3,000 calls to Congress to advocate for the passage of the HEROES Act.
Equity drafted a letter calling for additional supplemental arts funding, and over 260 employers signed on. It was delivered to Congressional leadership on September 17.
Equity will continue to prioritize Congress taking action to approve relief for workers and the industry.
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