After the shutdown of Broadway theaters and bans on large groups due to COVID-19, the musicians’ union and Actors’ Equity have called for government financial relief for members of the arts community.
“As theaters and concert halls go dark, we must ensure that musicians and other arts workers are not left behind. We call on all relevant government agencies to work immediately to put together and pass a strong economic relief package that ensures all arts workers have access to health care and unemployment benefits while their workplaces are shuttered,” Adam Krauthamer, president of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM, said in a statement.
The call comes after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that all Broadway theaters must close on Thursday. Events of larger than 500 were ordered to close beginning Friday. Broadway plans to reopen on April 13, but the Broadway League said it “would make decisions as circumstances require.”
Actors’ Equity, which had called for government relief on Wednesday after large gatherings began to be banned across the country, released a new statement Thursday.
“Equity will use all of our options to advocate for all our members and is engaged at all levels to ensure members are protected and paid. Now is the time for Congress and local governments to put workers first to ensure that everyone who works in the arts and entertainment sector has access to paid leave, 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 of other workers behind the scenes and in an administrative capacity,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association.
The actors’ union later said it has been speaking with employers to determine whether Equity members will continue to be paid during the shutdown.
“Those conversations will continue and we will keep you updated as we know more,” Equity wrote on Twitter.
Both Local 802 and Krauthamer praised the actions of state officials in shutting down the theaters in order to keep their members safe. Earlier Thursday, McColl had called Mayor Bill de Blasio’s possible plan to reduce capacities in theaters rather than shut them down “unacceptable.”
But the worry for both unions is that a prolonged shutdown could affect members’ health care and benefits, in addition to affecting their livelihoods.