Local 802 members are acutely aware of all our work in the music field – including our recent successful campaigns to win fair contracts for the musicians of the New York City Ballet orchestra and also DCINY. Broadway is next on our plate – and the list goes on. This work is how most members see us, and that’s exactly the way it should be.
But not everyone is aware of the political relationships that we build behind the scenes. As we strengthen our bonds with elected leaders and other political allies, we build crucial power to achieve fair contracts for musicians as well as pass good laws that help our members.
As part of my job as Chief of Staff, I also manage Local 802’s political presence. I’d like to tell you about two projects I was recently involved in. These serve as examples of Local 802’s political work in two different ways – one more obvious and one more subtle.
First, on Nov. 28, I had the pleasure of joining a call with Bobby Andres, the lead tax advisor for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to discuss the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act.
Why is this important to Local 802 members? There is a disparity in tax law right now that severely affects musicians and other entertainers. Here are more details, directly from the PATPA website.
Most entertainment workers spend 20 to 30 percent of their income on necessary work expenses. Typical expenses might include transportation to an audition, a talent agent and manager, or equipment such as expensive cameras, musical instruments, or tools. Unfortunately, the last tax reform bill eliminated the ability of entertainment workers to deduct these common work expenses. Without the ability to deduct these work expenses, many entertainment workers owe burdensome amounts in taxes and struggle to make ends meet. Many working class entertainment workers saw their taxes increase after tax reform. Entertainment workers are still recovering from lost work due to the pandemic, and the last thing they need as they return to work is a tax code that punishes them for seeking employment. We must restore tax fairness and put money back in the hands of these hard-working entertainment workers.
The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act seeks to restore tax fairness for entertainment workers by allowing the deduction of essential work expenses through updating the Qualified Performing Artist (QPA) deduction. Established in 1986, the QPA deduction allows eligible entertainment workers the option to take above-the-line deductions for certain unreimbursed expenses. QPA has been limited since its inception to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $16,000. PATPA would raise the thresholds of the QPA deduction to $100,000 for single tax filers and $200,000 for joint tax filers to help ensure middle-class entertainment workers qualify for the deduction.
Local 802 supports the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act. As you can see, this is directly relevant to our members, plus it strengthens our relationship to Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, which has helped us so often over the past several years.
STRENGTHENING OUR TIES
The second project I was involved in was possibly a little more abstract, but just as important. For the first time ever, Local 802 sent a staff member to the SOMOS conference in Puerto Rico, and I was honored to represent the union.
SOMOS is an annual gathering of New York’s labor, political, and activist communities – a who’s who of Latino politicos and beyond. By sending me in person, Local 802 showed its commitment to building relationships among diverse communities. I can tell you that I met many elected officials who appreciated Local 802’s overtures and who wanted to hear more about our issues.
That kind of relationship building is a long-term investment in friendship and good will. It is easier to build larger coalitions if we show up in person to flagship meetings like the SOMOS conference. Actions speak louder than words, and meeting in person speaks louder than Zooms or phone calls.
2024 IS A BIG ELECTION YEAR
Lastly, no one needs a reminder that 2024 is a presidential election year. Local 802 will be actively involved in helping to get out the vote in all races, including municipal, state and federal. If you want to get involved, e-mail me at email@example.com.