HELLO? SORRY, CAN’T TALK. I’M AT A PERFORMANCE.
Local 802 testified at a City Council Consumer Affairs Committee hearing on Oct. 31 to support new legislation, Intro 257-A, that would prohibit the use of mobile telephones in places of public performance. Actors’ Equity and the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM) also testified.
While most theatres, music venues and museums individually attempt to forbid cell phone use, the behavior is not currently punishable by law. Complaints of audience cell phone use at performances have become routine.
“Horn honking, construction and gabbing on cell phones are part of the daily chorus of noise that all New Yorkers experience,” said President Bill Moriarity. “People attend a performance expecting to escape this noise.”
Patrons with phones set to the vibrate mode wouldn’t be subject to fines, even if the phones went off during an event. Cell phone calls could still be made and received in theatre lobbies.
A vote is expected next month.
COUNCIL PREDICTS $1 BILLION SHORTFALL
The City Council is projecting a shortfall in this year’s budget of nearly $1 billion. The gap is being fueled by lower-than-expected revenues from a sluggish Wall Street and fiscal assumptions that may not actually happen.
The widening gap likely will add to the enormous pressures on city budget cutters, who already are struggling to plug an expected $5 billion to $6 billion gap in next year’s budget, which begins July 1, 2003. Other likely problems include: increased rent payments by the Port Authority for the airports; extra overtime for cops, firefighters and other agency workers; pension investment losses due to the declining stock market and changes in the teachers’ pension system; higher-than-expected tort claims against the city and added public assistance costs due to transfer of recipients from federal welfare to the state’s costlier Safety Net program. Mayor Bloomberg had also assumed that union givebacks negotiated by the city would bring in $500 million, but so far the concessions have only saved the city about $250 million.
ODDO INTRODUCES ANOTHER SMOKING BILL
City Council Minority Leader James Oddo has introduced his own anti-smoking bill, saying that although he supports Mayor Bloomberg’s broader ban on smoking, the bill may not pass in the Council. Oddo (R-S.I.) asked Council Speaker Gifford Miller to go ahead with a measure to ban smoking in restaurants that seat fewer than 35.
Local 802 testified at an Oct. 10 Council meeting in support of the Mayor’s legislation.
UNION WORKERS FARE BETTER
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), in its report The State of Working America 2002-2003, found that the average union worker makes 11.5 percent more hourly than a nonunion worker in a comparable job, is 53.9 percent more likely to have a retirement plan, 28.2 percent more likely to have health insurance and gets three more days of annual paid vacation.
The study also found that the low unemployment rate in the late 1990s brought workers their first persistent, broad-based prosperity gains in decades. “But with the boom gone bust, American workers are heading back to an economy marred by slow wage growth and job loss, with wage and income disparities widening again,” said EPI President Lawrence Mishel.
LESS HEALTH COVERAGE FOR WORKERS
An annual health benefits survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Education Trust found that workers are paying more for health coverage with fewer benefits.
While 56 percent of 2,000 employers of all sizes surveyed between spring 2001 and 2002 say they had increased workers’ share of health costs this year, 78 percent say they are likely to increase workers’ share next year. Health insurance premiums rose an average of 12.7 percent between 2001 and 2002 – the biggest increase since 1990.