In his 1987 political memoir “Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O’Neill,” the late speaker of the House of Representatives wrote:
“I began my political career in 1936, on a slogan of ‘work and wages.’ Today, more than half a century later, I’m still a bread-and-butter liberal who believes that every family deserves the opportunity to earn an income, own a home, educate their children, and afford medical care.”
Fortunately, there are many elected officials at the city, state and federal levels who share Tip O’Neill’s beliefs and have written legislation to expand those same opportunities for working musicians and their families.
However, none of it has been signed into law yet.
If passed, these bill and resolutions would create work and wages for a lot of our members.
NEW YORK CITY
At the city level we have the following:
- Resolution 837-2007. Authored by Councilman Bob Jackson, this resolution requires the Department of Education to maintain a dedicated funding line for arts education programs in city public schools.
- Resolution 1625-2008. Outgoing Councilman David Yassky, author of the New York City Film Production Tax Credit, sought to expand the program by increasing the recently expired tax credit for qualified production costs from 5 percent to 15 percent.
Resolution 1626-2008. Recognizing the need to attract film scoring, animation and editing work to the city, Yassky’s legislation would establish a 10 percent tax credit for qualified postproduction costs.
(I have been informed that Councilman Yassky’s legislation is going to be picked up by an incoming councilmember. A formal announcement will be forthcoming.)
- Justice for Jazz Artists Resolution. A resolution expressing the sense of the New York City Council that the Justice for Jazz Artists Campaign is a worthy cause designed to bring dignity and respect to the city’s jazz musicians in the form of pension payments for their work. It also urges the club owners to come to the table and negotiate with Local 802 to secure these pension payments. This resolution was submitted to and accepted by Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council.
NEW YORK STATE
- A9060/S2724A: This bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle and State Senator Martin Golden, would eliminate the artificial cap on the Empire State film production credit. Further, it adds a new credit of $420 million per year and funds the program through 2015.
- A5784 (Englebright)/ S4943 (Serrano) Establishes an Empire State film postproduction tax credit.
PERFORMANCE RIGHTS ACT
In Washington there is the Performance Rights Act (HR 848/S 379). Authored by Rep John Conyers and Sen. Patrick Leahy, this bill plugs a hole in federal copyright law and provides performers (artists and musicians) with the right to be paid royalties when their work is played on AM/FM radio. It also allows American artists and musicians to receive royalty payments from the 29 developed nations that recognize a performance right.
How do these bills get passed? Answer: public pressure through layers of phone calls, letters, citizen lobbying and coalition building.
Local 802 has a successful history of doing this on many issues.
Most recently, we got the state legislature to repeal the tax on tickets for jazz clubs, which paved the way for our Justice for Jazz artists campaign, and we defeated the ticket tax.
The question going forward is, are we as a union willing to organize and mobilize to make these bills a reality?
Increased work, increased wages and fully funded arts programs in our public schools ensure a positive future for our industry and our members.
The multiplier effect from increased film/TV production and post production work stimulates the economy in many other sectors and puts badly needed gap-closing tax revenue into city and state coffers.
Like Tip O’Neill, I believe that our members deserve the opportunity to earn dignified wages, own a home, educate their children, and have quality, affordable health care. Resolving to improve the lives of our members and organizing to make it so are great ways to kick off the New Year.