Stronger arts funding will help workers and boost local economies, including many who work in hospitality and service jobs 

New York – Kate Shindle, President of Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement in reaction to the District of Columbia, the Bay Area and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee limiting public gatherings:

“Given the decision from Gov. Inslee – and with further closures sure to be imminent – we must focus on how we can protect the workers who will be displaced. Equity members are dedicated professionals who earn their health care and pensions one week of work at a time. Limiting public gatherings also means the prospect of lost income, health insurance and retirement savings – to say nothing of the financial crisis those workers will face if their workplace closes down, due to a pandemic, right before they qualify for coverage.

“Now is the time for Congress and local governments to put workers first with a strong economic relief package to ensure that everyone who works in the arts and entertainment sector has access to health care and unemployment benefits. Payroll tax cuts won’t help those whose theaters are now dark. For every middle-class actor you see onstage, there are dozens more working behind the scenes and in an administrative capacity.

“Decisions made now will impact many arts organizations and the communities they serve for months to come. Sustaining our entertainment sector and the workers who power it is essential to the stability of communities across the country; Study after study has shown that live performing arts generate a huge return on investment in local economies. Nonprofit theater attendees generate an additional $31 in economic activity per person, per show. 

“We must act now. Not only to protect public health, but with arts funding at all levels. This will provide arts employers the resources they need to quickly recover and reopen when appropriate. It is a strategy that ensures these organizations can immediately resume generating the economic halo effect that boosts local communities large and small.”

Background: A strong arts and entertainment sector means a strong local economy. The typical nonprofit arts attendee spends an additional $31.47 per person per event beyond the cost of admission according to Americans for the Arts – that includes everything from dinner and drinks to parking and the babysitter. 

Read Equity’s statement on coronavirus preparations here. Equity issued guidance to members and Equity Membership Candidates this week asking them not to come to auditions if they are sick or have traveled to high-risk countries.

March 11, 2020