Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), the national union that represents professional actors and stage managers working in theater, has shared its endorsement of three candidates running in California’s primary election. AEA announced its support for two candidates running for U.S. Congress, Lateefah Simon and Anthony Portantino, as well as for Adam Schiff, who has entered the race for U.S. Senate. The election is scheduled for March 5.
All have demonstrated direct support for the arts or policies that match AEA’s policy priorities.
Simon is running for Congress in California’s 12th Congressional District, which represents Alameda County. The seat is currently held by Barbara Lee, who is vacating the seat to run for U.S. Senate. Simon has been an organizer for more than 25 years and has advocated for civil rights as the leader of multiple high-profile justice organizations and nonprofits.
“Simon has dedicated her entire career to giving underrepresented communities a voice in their government,” said AEA president Kate Shindle in a statement, noting, “Simon will be a fearless champion for arts workers in Congress.”
“I am eager to get to work in Congress to fight for equity, fair wages and benefits for the creative professionals who enrich our lives through their artistry,” added Simon in a statement.
Portantino’s bid is for Congress in California’s 30th Congressional District, a post currently held by Schiff, who is running for U.S. Senate. As a California state senator, Portantino spearheaded SB 1116, a bill signed by California governor Gavin Newsom, which created the Equitable Payroll Fund (EPF). EPF reimburses payroll expenses for employees of live productions. Additionally, Portantino authored SB 799, which, had it passed, would have provided unemployment benefits to union members on strike.
“Senator Portantino has fought for and won important new arts funding that will put people to work across California,” noted Shindle. “He will take that same fight and determination to Washington, and arts workers everywhere will be better for it.”
“I can’t wait to partner with Equity once elected to continue to support the live theater craft,” expressed Portantino in a statement.
Current congressman Representative Schiff has proven his commitment to the arts with his support of both the CARES Act and the Performing Artist Tax Party Act (PATPA). Passed in 2020, the CARES Act provides an additional $100 per week in unemployment benefits for entertainment industry workers who work on both W-2 and 1099 contracts. The Performing Artist Tax Party Act allows for the deduction of essential work expenses.
“Schiff has made it a priority to fight for the arts,” explained Shindle. “Schiff’s work on pandemic unemployment issues during COVID was critical in ensuring that arts workers were able to receive the same unemployment benefits as traditional workers when our industry was shut down.”
These endorsements follow AEA’s creation of a political action committee in 2023.