With the incoming administration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, two major organizations that represent the theater community are celebrating the Democratic victory in the 2020 election and continuing their advocacy for governmental support of the industry.
Mary McColl, Executive Director of Actors’ Equity Association (Equity) – the national labor union founded in 1913, representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theater – issued the following statement:
“Joe Biden will be the most consequential president for the arts industry in a generation. At a time when live entertainment is still largely dark because of the coronavirus, we will finally have a partner in the White House who will create a national strategy to bring the pandemic under control and put everyone in the arts back to work. Until then, we need to reinstate pandemic unemployment so that displaced workers can pay their bills, increase arts funding, and finally pass a COBRA subsidy to make health insurance affordable as unemployment stretches on.”
Following Equity’s endorsement of the Biden-Harris ticket, its members enthusiastically phone banked in the weeks leading up to the election. The volunteers spoke on the phone with constituents for 7150 minutes (over 119 hours) – long enough, the organization calculated, to have seen Angels in America sixteen times.
“The members of this union were proud to do our part,” said Equity President Kate Shindle. “We mobilized to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at a desperate time for the theater and everyone who works in the arts. I am so moved by the dedication of our actors and stage managers. They volunteered so much time and energy to electing a president who cares about workers every single day, and will be laser focused on getting us safely back to work in the wake of this unprecedented pandemic and months-long shutdown.”
Equity has been advocating for the HEROES Act – which includes $10 billion in emergency arts funding and $135 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts – since it was first introduced and through it subsequently being stalled in the Senate. The union believes that Vice President Biden’s victory is now more important than ever, with the week of the presidential election having marked a record high for coronavirus cases in the US, including two days with over 100,000 new cases reported. The expectation is that the Biden administration will create a comprehensive plan for combatting the virus, shortening the duration of the shutdown of entertainment and other industries and saving the lives of countless Americans.
The grassroots movement Be An #ArtsHero has also released a statement in celebration of the new Biden-Harris administration:
“This is a shining moment for our Democracy and we are encouraged that President-elect Biden has consistently shown that he understands the socioeconomic value of the Arts. As we bask in the light of this national transition, we must continue to fight for the Arts and Culture sector, whose stages still sit in darkness and whose people still wait for legislative action. We are urging Congress to pass an immediate and retroactive extension of FPUC, a 100% COBRA subsidy, and an expansion of PPP. The livelihoods of 5.1M Arts Workers in red states and blue states need immediate relief and recovery to sustain the human and physical infrastructure of 4.5% of America’s GDP, not to mention the very expression of our great democracy. The great work begins. We stand ready.”
Be An #Arts Hero has continuously emphasized that the Arts and Culture contribute $877 billion to the annual US economy, highlighting the human and financial toll of letting that contribution collapse. The group is advocating that the government allocate $43.85 billion in proportionate relief, to keep all 5.1 million Americans who work in the arts alive, in their homes, and with jobs to return to when the pandemic crisis subsides.