Theatre Writers are Job Creators in the Creative Arts Economy: Add Your Testimony to the Congressional Record
Jan 12, 2022
Advocacy

We are asking Dramatists Guild members— and all theatre writers— to submit testimony on January 19 and beyond, in order to ensure our voice is heard regarding the issues that are important to playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists, and our entire industry. 

The Committee on Small Business will be holding a remote hearing, titled "The Power, Peril, and Promise of the Creative Economy" at 10am on Wednesday, January 19 via Zoom (information to be provided). While only four witnesses can testify in this hearing, Be An #ArtsHero/Arts Workers United encourages all Arts Workers to make their voices heard, and to testify across the country on their social media channels in order to spread awareness and solidarity.

Dramatists are not arts employees; we are job creators who are responsible for fueling our sector of the Creative Arts Economy. But the Creative Arts Economy requires all stakeholders to have access to rights, services, and emergency assistance, especially when we are not allowed to work by government mandate. Our industry needs short-term help and long-term solutions for proper recovery. There can be no full American economic recovery without an Arts & Culture Recovery.

Representing nearly 5.2 million American workers, the arts sector is a major component of the economy. Unfortunately, this industry has been hit exceptionally hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and its recovery has been slower than many others. The hearing will offer recommendations for investments in key infrastructure and provide a roadmap for bringing arts, culture, and creativity into the center of long-term recovery. Members will hear from experts, alongside creative entrepreneurs, to demonstrate the power of the creative economy and the importance of a robust recovery.

 

What is The Dramatists Guild Fighting For?


Collective Bargaining Rights: The Dramatists Guild is a member of a coalition of creative professionals who co-filed a request with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice for collective bargaining rights on behalf of creators of copyrighted works everywhere, including playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists. Such artists continue to suffer in the marketplace due to outdated labor laws that treat them as independent businesses rather than workers, resulting in their inability to protect themselves through collective bargaining.

Any of the three legislative approaches proposed by the coalition would serve to empower dramatists to act collectively through their guild to establish fair terms and practices in the theatre industry, so we support this effort and ask you to consider supporting it as well.

Learn more about the legislation for collective bargaining rights here.

Read the full text of the petition here.

Healthcare for Dramatists: As dramatists, most of us are members of the "gig economy," earning our living in a piecemeal fashion rather than working as employees. Even in the best of times, many dramatists live an economically fragile existence. Our work is inconsistent, and the income from that work often falls far short of meeting our basic human needs. Among those needs, of course, is healthcare; in the United States, access to healthcare is almost inextricably linked to full-time employment. Because most of us don’t enjoy that status, we struggle to get the care that we deserve as human beings. In ordinary times, that’s inequitable. During a pandemic, it’s abominable.

Independent Contractor Issues: Film and television writers are deemed employees and, therefore, are members of a labor union. They create work under the Copyright Act’s "work for hire" doctrine, which divests authors of ownership and control over their work. As a result of collective bargaining, however, those writers are well compensated for their contributions, including the funding of their health and welfare benefits, and pensions.

Dramatists, however, are not employees. Instead, the courts have determined that they are property owners who are licensing their property and, therefore, are not permitted to unionize. As a consequence, dramatists have no health insurance, vacation time, sick leave, or pension, based upon their writing for the theatre.

So, as independent contractors, theatre writers are also concerned about issues such as the cost of and access to health insurance, federal and state tax policy (related to "hobby loss" rules, incorporation, etc.), anti-trust issues (related to collective bargaining for independent contractors), the applicability of sexual harassment laws to non-employees, and the impact of COVID-19, where both enacted and proposed legislation creates unique concerns and opportunities for theatre writers. 

 

What is Be An #ArtsHero/Arts Workers United Fighting For?


There can be no full American economic recovery without an Arts & Culture Recovery. Be An #ArtsHero is devoted to one singular mission: to bring relief, recovery, and economic justice to the Arts & Culture sector and to American Arts Workers. All legislation in service of helping American Arts Workers and the Arts & Culture sector receives their full-throated and enthusiastic support.

Take a look at the Arts & Culture Legislation they’ve supported and developed.

 

What Should I Share?


If you had the opportunity to tell the story of what it's like to be a theatre writer in front of Congress, what would you say? What would you fight for? How would you use your testimony to uplift our legislative needs and your colleagues?

Our work is not a hobby but a profession. There is value to our work, even in a crisis. Discuss your experience as a writer during COVID or give testimony detailing how the government can better support theatre writers. Explain how writers are job creators or how the arts impact every community. 

 

How Can I Share My Testimony?


Be An #ArtsHero/Arts Workers United have crafted an amazing toolkit to help guide you in how to share your testimony and with whom. Download the toolkit using the button below. Don’t forget to tag the Dramatists Guild at @dramatistsguild.

 


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