Tag Archives: covid

More COVID Economic Aid – Tell Congress to Act Now!

As we enter the fifth month of the pandemic, the live entertainment industry is still shutdown. With Depression-era unemployment and with the virus out of control, no one knows when it will be safe enough to reopen our performance venues, to end this isolation, reconnect with our audiences and with each other.

In this period of radical uncertainty, many believe the pandemic will cause shifts in political and economic power that will only become clear later. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the US unemployment rate will stay above pre-pandemic levels for a decade, predicting that unemployment in the fourth quarter of 2030 will be 4.4%. The February pre-pandemic unemployment rate was 3.5%, a 50-year low. Current projections of 14% unemployment for the fourth quarter this year do not reflect the resurgence of virus cases that have led many states to re-impose restrictions and scale back reopening plans. 

As I write today, July 16, over 50 million people have filed for unemployment benefits, putting the real unemployment rate near the Depression-era peak of 25%. With a V-shaped recovery considered unlikely, a growing number of scientists, politicians, and economists say that controlling the virus is the key to economic recovery. 

All of us are under an enormous amount of stress due to the economic effects of the pandemic, which are also viewed against the background of pandemic politics. We see politicians deciding whether to risk tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of lives on the one hand, or whether to risk the economy on the other. But as the agony of the pandemic plays out, the economy is stalling during the reopening process with exponential spread of the disease. 

There is misery on either side of the equation. The lockdowns have given rise to tens of millions of unemployed, a rash of bankruptcies, and severe financial pain. But there is also an extended period of suffering when opening the economy too soon results in a rebound in infections. With science saying a full year of pandemic infectiousness is looming, even with the discovery of a vaccine, additional government intervention and economic assistance is needed. 

The Federation played an important role in the lobbying process toward initial emergency supplemental COVID legislation in March, which gave state unemployment programs the latitude to pay freelancers and gig workers unemployment benefits. The added federal boost to state payments of $600 per week was expected to end (as of this writing) the last week of July. 

We are lobbying hard to extend those payments. We know that it is likely, due to the non-essential nature of our employment, that for the entertainment industry and for musicians in particular, both for regularly employed and for freelancers, the devastation to our business may result in our being among the last to return to work. Returning to anything resembling pre-COVID working conditions looks more and more distant. 

In March, the government enacted a four-month legislative economic relief program that included expanded unemployment benefits, small business assistance, tax-filing delays, and eviction moratoriums. But in light of the virus resurgence that is choking the restarting of the economy, it won’t be enough.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s early aggressive intervention both saved lives and led to a quicker rebound to help rebuild demand for jobs. The New York approach, which imposed a short-term lockdown and solid social distancing measures, got control of the infection rate and limited the spread of the disease. Governor Cuomo saw it necessary to mitigate the deadly impact of the virus because he believed and clearly understood that without a healthy population, there can be no healthy economy. 

More governmental aid is necessary not just for our unemployed, but also for the small and medium-sized businesses that employ us. Without it, you can expect many more businesses to file bankruptcies, which will cascade through and crash the financial and real estate markets. Banks will be in trouble if business debt is not serviced. Landlords will not get rental payments, which will lead to additional bankruptcies, debt charge offs, and more banking sector problems. And if we can’t enable the scientists to find ways to treat and contain the disease quickly, more people will get sicker, more companies are going to crash, and this shaky, sputtering economic reopening will regress further.

What we can do today is what we did in March. We can contact Congress, particularly the Senate, to demand action to aid the unemployed, including gig workers and professional musicians whose jobs disappeared overnight, and whose loss of work has no end in sight. 

In May, the US House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which would extend expanded unemployment benefits through January 2021. But the Senate has still not voted on this critical piece of legislation. I contacted my senators to tell them to support critical pieces of the HEROES Act in the next COVID-19 relief bill including:

  • Extending Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $600 per week to the unemployed.
  • Providing a 100% COBRA premium subsidy for lost access to employee-based insurance.
  • Safeguarding renters and homeowners from evictions and foreclosures.
  • Providing assistance to struggling multiemployer pension plans, including the AFM plan.
  • Increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and other arts organizations.
  • Additional financial aid for small businesses.

Will you join me in writing to our senators now? Please copy the following link and follow the prompts:


Our health and livelihood, and that of our families and friends, and reducing short- and long-term consequences of this terrible pandemic may very well depend on what happens in Congress between now and August 8, when the Senate is scheduled to recess. Again, please visit the link above and urge your two senators to support our interests. Don’t wait. Please do it today!

NYC Beginning to Come Alive!

Having lived in New York City for over 40 years, I’ve learned that a very important part of what makes this vibrant, pulsating, multi-cultural city so special is the people who live here and the tourists who visit. During normal times, walking around the five boroughs of New York can be like a world tour. Each borough is composed of neighborhoods, and each neighborhood has its own flavor. The first indication that you’ve entered a wonderfully different and fascinating part of the city is the language that can be overheard (in addition to English) and then the distinctive foods that are available, associated with that neighborhood’s predominant culture.

Both the United States and Canada are nations of immigrants, and our countries have benefitted greatly from their talent, work ethic, and often the genius that immigrants have contributed to our societies. With all the political controversy that swirls around us daily, particularly the demonizing of immigration in the US, it’s important never to lose sight of how much we have gained from accepting and embracing those from other countries who have a burning desire to become an American or a Canadian citizen.

New Yorkers have learned to live together in what is a very densely populated city. Last March and April, the density became painfully evident as the coronavirus swept through New York City, infecting many people. Downstate New York became the world’s hotspot for coronavirus, and the fear was that our hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units would become overwhelmed. Our governor, Andrew Cuomo, and Mayor Bill de Blasio made daily television appearances updating the current coronavirus numbers (reporting new cases, new hospitalizations, released hospital patients, and, sadly, deaths).

Both the governor and the mayor would beseech New Yorkers to do everything they could to bend the spiking upward curve in the opposite direction. New Yorkers heeded the warnings and complied by sheltering in place, wearing masks if one needed to leave home, washing hands often, and social distancing. “The City That Never Sleeps” was forced into slumber. New York City became something akin to a ghost town as the traffic disappeared and sidewalks emptied (see inset photo).

West 42nd St. in New York City, a major crosstown thoroughfare, has been devoid of traffic or pedestrians for months, as seen in this photo.

Compliance with guidance from our state and city governments has been the key to bringing our COVID-19 numbers down to much more manageable levels, allowing the New York AFM office, along with our Toronto, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, offices to re-open cautiously and slowly with very reduced staff, rotating days, and flexible hours. Body temperatures are taken each morning as the AFM staff arrives at the NYC office. All AFM offices are marked to maintain social distancing and masks are worn when leaving workstations or personal offices. Personal Protection Equipment (hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks) is readily available to the staff. For now, the offices are open to AFM staff only, no visitors at this time.

It is painful to watch reports as other areas of the United States become the new coronavirus hotspots. I am left dumbfounded by the pictures of huge gatherings at beaches and pools, bars and parties—so many people ignoring the social-distancing and mask-wearing guidance based on science. In some way, they must have felt themselves invulnerable to the virus. Risking their own lives is one thing, but risking the lives of all those they come into contact with afterwards is quite another. No one has the right to act irresponsibly by risking the lives of others because they’re bored, tired of staying sheltered, or believe they have an unrestricted right to do what they please. 

Think about all the first responders, healthcare workers, and medical professionals who are willing to risk their lives in order to save the lives of others. Why would one want to risk becoming part of the problem unnecessarily? Banging pots and pans from front yards and apartment balconies to show appreciation for our healthcare heroes is a beautiful statement recognizing the sacrifices they make on a daily basis, but we are all responsible for staying as safe as possible to hopefully avoid the need for their services.

Of course, there are no guarantees we won’t catch this very contagious virus. We all assume some level of risk every time we leave our homes, but taking unnecessary risks by acting irresponsibly is an open invitation to a deadly virus that puts all of us at risk. We can and we must do better. Please stay safe.

Safety Protocols for a Return to Work for Pit Musicians

From the Theatre, Touring, and Booking Division

The Broadway League announced in late June that Broadway performances in New York City will be suspended through the remainder of 2020 due to COVID-19. Returning productions are currently projected to resume performances over a series of rolling dates in early 2021. 

As we navigate through the current pandemic and the total shutdown of live theatrical performance, it is important to think ahead and consider what our industry will look like as we prepare for a return to work in the theatre pits across the United States and Canada.

For the last several weeks, I have been working with the officers of the Theatre Musicians Association—President Tony D’Amico, Vice President Heather Boehm, and Secretary Treasurer Mark Pinto—and the Director of Broadway Jan Mullen to evaluate the needs of theatre musicians for a safe return to work.

We will be faced with many challenges in ensuring musicians performing in the theatre pit environment remain safe and healthy. Below is a list of questions and issues that we believe will be important to address with our employers as we emerge from the current crisis. We offer these as a guideline for the bargaining of safety protocols for musical theatre. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments: tgagliardi@afm.org.

Questions to Consider While Bargaining a COVID-19 Safety Plan for the Musical Theatre Workplace:

All the items below are subject to collective bargaining and can be addressed in COVID-19 side letters to avoid opening the agreement and keep bargaining confined to safety protocols. As with any change negotiated in a collective agreement, side letters must be ratified by the bargaining unit before musicians return to work. Musicians should only return to work after the union has determined that the employer has met its obligation to provide for a safe and healthy work environment. 

All the below items should be considered for load-in, load-out, sound-check, rehearsals, and performances.

A coordinated response to health and safety procedures between the AFM, Actors Equity, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) will ensure consistent guidelines for our workplaces. All theatres should establish safety committees and compliance officers to monitor that sanitation, ventilation, social distancing protocol, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are in accordance with best practices and legal requirements. Employees are not responsible for establishing these protocols and should not shelter the employers from liability. No worker should sign a liability waiver as a condition of returning to the theatre or any other workplace. 

Under no circumstances should COVID-19 reopening procedures be used to change or diminish instrumentation or run of show by electronic or any other means.


  1. How will the special challenges of placement in the pit be resolved?
    1. Protection against contamination from singers/dancers above the pit.
    2. Ventilation challenges in close quarters.
  2. Will musicians and staff, as well as vendors and anyone else entering the workplace, be trained in the agreed-upon safety protocols?
  3. What must change with regard to sanitation?
    1. Placement of hand sanitizer and/or disinfectant wipes.
    2. Containers/absorbent material for wind and brass condensation/spit and proper disposal of same.
    3. Prohibition of food and drink in shared spaces.
    4. More frequent cleaning and sanitizing of all facilities.
    5. For more info, visit: www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
  4. Will employees receive health screenings prior to entering the workplace?
    1. Testing, for either infection or antibodies.
    2. Temperature screenings.
    3. Local musicians who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 should inform their union steward, contractor, and local union officers. Traveling musicians shall inform their union steward and company management.
    4. Anyone who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay home and get tested. No musician who stays home due to symptoms should lose wages, sick pay, or sick leave. This should apply to subs as well as chairholders. In the US, the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) provides for paid leave in these and other circumstances. More information here: www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave.
    5. Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should remain at home, away from the workplace, until cleared to return to work by a medical professional. The employer should assist in contact tracing to identify any other employee who may have been exposed to the infected worker. The AFM local, union steward, and company management should be informed immediately of any infection that occurs in connection with the workplace and any potential exposure.
    6. If a family member of a musician or other worker contracts COVID-19, the individual should stay at home and quarantine until it is clear they have not become infected. The FFCRA provides paid leave in the case of employees.
    7. In the circumstances of the pandemic and community spread, employers are permitted to ask employees about their symptoms and perform certain temperature and health checks on employees. The employer must continue to keep all employee health information confidential and store it in a file separate from other personnel records. More information can be found online here: www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws.
  5. How will the employer provide support allowing musicians to travel safely to and from the theatre, particularly in cities where public transportation is the normal mode of travel or when company housing is farther than one-half mile from the venue? Will employers secure free or discounted parking in close proximity to the theater, so as to allow musicians to avoid public transportation or ride share services?
  6. Will masks be required of everyone in the workplace?
    1. Will the employer provide PPE (masks and gloves)? What kind?
    2. When will brass and wind players remove masks to play?
    3. Where will masks be kept when not being worn?
    4. Will new masks be available to musicians on double service days?
  7. Will visitors be prohibited from entering backstage/pit areas?
  8. How will musicians and others in the workplace maintain proper distancing offstage from their arrival to departure? How will traffic flow be managed, and workplace capacity limited, in all of the following areas:
    1. Parking Lot • Entry to the theatre/Stage Door • Security checks • Backstage/Onstage/Pit areas • Hallways • Green rooms and lounges • Dressing rooms • Locker rooms/Instrument storage room/Trap Room/Case storage • Restrooms • Offices
  9. Where will musicians place their cases?
  10. Where will musicians warm up?
  11. How will food and drink be handled?
    1. Water fountains? Bottled Water? • Eating in shared spaces? • No communal food?
  12. How will music be prepared and distributed safely?
    1. Adjustments to rental and touring music distribution procedures to protect performers.
    2. PDFs of advance books.
    3. Touring librarian safety in handling returned parts and rental parts.
    4. Encourage iPad or EStand technology.
  13. How will musicians be physically spaced for rehearsing and performing?
    1. Routes for travel to the performing/workspace.
    2. Spacing in performing/workspace.
    3. One person per stand, even for strings.
    4. Barriers between musicians—plexiglass or other materials.
    5. Barriers between workspace and audience.
    6. Conductor placement.
  14. How will musicians document and report instances of discrimination because of ageism, immunocompromised status, caretaker status, or personal comfort level?
  15. How will normally shared equipment be managed to avoid contamination?
    1. Chairs • Music stands • Percussion equipment • Keyboards • Books/Parts • Headphones • Avioms or other personal audio monitoring systems • Laptop rig/Mainstage • Shared instruments for subs.
  16. When large instruments, travel cases, and other equipment are moved who will move them? What will be done to protect against contamination of people and instruments?
  17. Will normal timing of rehearsals need to be adjusted?
    1. To limit time exposed to others in the same space.
    2. To extend break time to allow safe (staggered) use of restroom facilities.
    3. To create breaks to allow for proper and complete ventilation of rehearsal and performance areas.
  18. Will the theatre need to be updated or retrofitted?
    1. HVAC and air filtration • No-touch door opening • Elimination of blowing hand dryers • Installation of hand sanitizing stations.
  19. What restrictions must be in place for the audience and front of house in order to protect workers?
    1. Distance from the front of the stage to the audience.
    2. Audience members and ushers required to wear face masks.
    3. Suspension of onstage/backstage tours and pit visits.
    4. Temperature checks or other screenings for audience members.
  20. Will you need to address travel-related concerns for out-of-town musicians?
    1. Ability to travel across borders (state or national).
    2. Housing (single vs. double occupancy) in hotel or with company.

How About a Basic Income Guarantee?

en français

It’s April of 2018, and “Fred” (not his real name) from Hamilton, Ontario, has qualified for the Ontario Basic Income (OBI) pilot project. Disabled, he had been relying solely on the Ontario Disability Support Programme (ODSP) to cover his rent and other day-to-day expenses, while also relying on food banks for meals. The OBI project enriched his life considerably, and his health had drastically improved due to a proper diet. Shortly after the Ford government was elected, the programme was discontinued. Within a few weeks, Fred died.

In Brantford, Ontario, “Mary” was barely surviving on her ODSP payments and food banks. Unable to work due to blindness, her service dog was her lifeline to mobility. However, ODSP did not provide for veterinarian or drug costs for the animal, until she qualified for OBI. Once the programme was abruptly ended, she had to give up her service animal, along with her measure of independence.

“Karen” entered an emergency shelter with her newborn to escape domestic violence. Anonymity was necessary to prevent being tracked down by her ex-boyfriend. OBI provided the necessary security for her and her child, since it was impossible to apply for child support and not be exposed. Pulling the programme placed her back on the streets and completely vulnerable. These are all horrific examples of the system failing society.

It’s ironic that this is the 40th anniversary of Status of the Artist, the declaration made at the 21st session of UNESCO in Belgrade. Although Canada became signatory in 1980, it was not until 1995 that implementation was realized. This was the first step toward recognizing the cost of being an artist, the atypical way in which artists work, and acknowledging their low and irregular income. That said, the value of the arts, globally, is somewhere north of $2.3 trillion in US dollars, according to UNESCO. Yet, the absurdly imprudent view of the acquiescent public is that the repugnant moniker “starving artist” is somehow appropriate.

While Status of the Artist provided the necessary tools to introduce collective bargaining into the equation for artists at the federal level, the gains made are generally offset by provincial legislation favouring employers. When COVID-19 lay bare the fragility and precarious nature of working as a musician, there was, to our government’s credit, an incredibly quick response, followed by a re-tuning of the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB). With 98% of artists being unable to apply for Employment Insurance (EI), as they are self-employed contractors in general and not employees, this was an issue of survival.

Indications are that the government will not extend the CERB indefinitely, and scuttlebutt is that an alternate method of providing for those in need, while incentivising others to return to work, is preferred. However, it’s has been excruciatingly clear from the beginning that artists will be the last to return to any semblance of a normal work environment, and discontinuing the CERB to encourage recipients to seek employment is not practicable.

In anticipation of these awkward eventualities, the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) has been active in discussions with other unions, guilds, like-minded organizations, and high-profile individuals who are preparing to put forward the concept of a Basic Income Guarantee, as a replacement for other types of individual social subsidies such as EI and ODSP, but not replace existing grant structures for arts organizations, which must be sustained. While the details of this recommendation are yet to be finalized, it is our information that a significant number of members of Canada’s Senate are in favour of the concept.

Similar to a single mother trying to balance childcare, food, and rent with three or more low-paying, part-time jobs in the service industry, Canada’s artists face similar challenges when work is infrequent or [now] non-existent. In fact, artists are the very definition of precarious employment, and invented the so-called “gig economy.” Other models will certainly be considered, such as mandatory EI for all, with every artist being required to contribute on every gig, as well as their engagers. Perhaps a better alternative will emerge which provides the necessary sustainability and balance, yet remains functionally simple; but until then, everything remains on the table.

For more information on how the world views the Canadian initiative on UBI, check out the following: https://rb.gy/rchlgm.

1980 Recommendation Concerning the Status of the Artist

The 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist calls upon member states to improve the professional, social and economic status of artists through the implementation of policies and measures related to training, social security, employment, income and tax conditions, mobility and freedom of expression. It also recognizes the right of artists to be organized in trade unions or professional organisations that can represent and defend the interests of their members.

The Recommendation was adopted by UNESCO General Conference at its 21st session in 1980. At the time, the need to understand and strengthen the role of the “creative worker” was already recognized by member states as well as the need to improve the status of such workers considering both the particular conditions of their profession and their contribution to development. Decades later, the Recommendation remains as relevant today as in 1980, considering the remaining challenges worldwide in the area of social and economic rights and the impact of digital technology on the work of artists.

Read the Recommendation online here: https://en.unesco.org/creativity/governance/status-artist

Pourquoi pas un revenu minimum garanti?

par Alan Willaert, vice-président de la FAM pour le Canada

Nous sommes en avril 2018 et Frédéric (nom fictif), de Hamilton, s’est qualifié pour le projet pilote de l’Ontario portant sur le revenu de base. Handicapé, il ne pouvait compter jusque-là que sur le Programme ontarien de soutien aux personnes
handicapées pour payer son loyer et ses autres dépenses courantes; il faisait appel aux banques alimentaires pour se nourrir. Ce projet pilote a considérablement rehaussé son niveau de vie, et sa santé s’est grandement améliorée parce qu’il mangeait mieux. Peu après l’élection du gouvernement Ford, le programme a été aboli. Quelques semaines plus tard, Frédéric est décédé.

À Brantford, en Ontario, Marie (nom fictif) peinait à survivre avec les prestations de personne handicapée et l’aide des banques alimentaires. Elle ne pouvait pas travailler en raison de sa cécité, et son chien de service lui était essentiel pour garder une certaine autonomie. Toutefois, le programme dont elle dépendait ne couvrait pas les frais de soins vétérinaires ou de médicaments pour l’animal, du moins pas jusqu’à ce qu’elle se qualifie pour le projet pilote sur le revenu de base.  Mais lorsque ce programme a été abruptement interrompu, elle a dû renoncer à garder son chien et au degré d’autonomie qu’il lui procurait.

Carole (nom fictif), fuyant une situation de violence conjugale, a été accueillie dans un refuge d’urgence avec son nouveau-né. Elle devait à tout prix conserver son anonymat pour éviter que son ex-conjoint ne puisse la retracer. C’est le projet pilote qui lui a donné la sécurité dont elle et son enfant avaient besoin, car demander les prestations pour son enfant l’auraient exposée. La disparition du programme l’a jetée à la rue et dans la vulnérabilité la plus complète. 

Ce sont tous des exemples horribles des défaillances de notre filet social. 

Ironiquement, c’est le 40e anniversaire cette année de la Recommandation relative à la condition de l’artiste, formulée lors de la vingt-et-unième session de l’UNESCO, à Belgrade. Bien que le Canada en soit devenu signataire en 1980, ce n’est qu’en 1995 qu’elle a été mise en œuvre au pays. Ce fut le premier pas vers la reconnaissance de ce qu’il en coûte pour être des artistes, de la nature particulière des activités de ces derniers ainsi que du caractère aléatoire et des brusques fluctuations de leurs revenus. Cela dit, rappelons que, selon l’UNESCO, la valeur des arts dans le monde représente plus de 2,3 billions de dollars américains. Pourtant, selon une perception absurde et inconsidérée du public, l’idée que l’artiste meure de faim demeure juste. 

Bien que le Statut de l’artiste ait permis d’introduire la négociation collective au plan fédéral pour les artistes, les gains obtenus sont généralement annulés par les lois provinciales qui, elles, favorisent les employeurs. Lorsque la COVID-19 a mis à nu la fragilité et la précarité du travail des musiciens, il y a eu, il faut le reconnaître, une réponse incroyablement rapide du gouvernement suivie d’un rajustement de la Prestation canadienne d’urgence (PCU). Étant donné que 98 pourcent des artistes sont des travailleurs autonomes et non des employés salariés, et ne peuvent donc pas demander l’assurance-emploi, c’était une question de survie. 

D’après nos informations, le gouvernement ne prolongera pas la PCU indéfiniment. La rumeur veut qu’il tente plutôt de créer un mécanisme qui permettra d’aider ceux qui en ont vraiment besoin tout en incitant les autres à retourner travailler. Cependant, il est extrêmement clair depuis le début que les artistes seront les derniers à retrouver un semblant de normalité au travail, et mettre fin à la PCU pour encourager ses bénéficiaires à chercher du travail n’est pas une réponse adaptée à leur situation. 

En prévision de ces possibilités ingrates, la Fédération canadienne des musiciens participe très activement à des discussions avec les autres syndicats, les guildes et un ensemble d’organisations partageant le même esprit, de même qu’avec des personnes en vue qui se préparent à mettre de l’avant l’idée d’un revenu minimum garanti. Ce dernier remplacerait d’autres types de subventions individuelles telles que l’assurance-emploi et le Programme ontarien de soutien aux personnes handicapées, mais sans remplacer les structures existantes de subventions pour les organismes artistiques, qui doivent continuer d’être soutenus. Les détails de cette recommandation restent à préciser, mais nous avons appris qu’un nombre significatif de membres du Sénat sont favorables à l’idée.

Tout comme une mère monoparentale qui essaie de couvrir ses dépenses de garderie, d’épicerie et de loyer en tenant trois emplois ou plus, mal payés et à temps partiel, dans l’industrie des services, les artistes au Canada font face à des défis lorsque le travail se fait rare ou disparaît, comme maintenant. De fait, les artistes incarnent la définition même du travailleur précaire et ont inventé la soi-disant « gig economy », l’économie fondée sur la pige. Plusiers modèles seront sûrement considérés, par exemple l’assurance-emploi obligatoire pour tous, les artistes de même que ceux ou celles qui les engagent devant y contribuer sur chaque engagement. Peut-être qu’une meilleure option émergera, une option durable et équilibrée, mais dont le fonctionnement serait simple. D’ici là, toutes les possibilités sont sur la table.

Pour savoir comment l’initiative canadienne sur le revenu minimum garanti est perçue dans le monde, rendez-vous à l’adresse suivante (en anglais) : https://rb.gy/rchlgm.

Planning for Post-Quarantine

Now Comes the Fun Part

en français

By now, we have all heard just about enough about COVID-19, and I’m loathing the continuation of dialogue on the subject. However, if we are to start recovery and emerge into a brave new world, there must be an honest discussion about process and destination.

First of all, recognize that we are not alone in this journey, for indeed, we are part of a larger group of performing artists, along with related partners (think actors, stagehands, festivals, venues, theatres, and so forth). One of the coalitions that I am a part of that has been particularly successful in bending the ear of government bureaucrats and ministers is the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage  Employees (IATSE), the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association (CAEA), the Associate Designers of Canada (ADC), and of course the Canadian Office of the AFM (CFM). Egos are set aside, and a mutual nurturing has ensued, allowing for some very effective missives and Zoom presentations.

During one enlightening conversation with Simon Brault (Canada Council of the Arts), it was made clear that in order to continue to be heard among all the sectors scrapping for posture with government, consolidation would be advantageous. In other words, avoid multiple messaging, find like-minded partners and tender a comprehensive, big-picture plan for the future of all concerned.

After Mr. Brault left the meeting, we continued on, and the comment was made as to how to “get back to where we were before COVID.” Like unexpected fireworks, there was a realization: Is that where we want to be, to go back to how things were? Do we want to revert to “Me Too” issues, health and safety problems, and performing artists who are working constantly but still have an income considered below the poverty line? If the Arts are going to ask collectively for a dollar figure to assist in recovery, shouldn’t that number be edged a little higher to allow for presentation of an insightful package that addresses those shortcomings of the past? Shouldn’t the goal be to emerge in a better place, not the same, or worse? Isn’t this our opportunity to correct injustices?

Addressing the latter issue only (low income) generates a plethora of critical choices. For instance, should there be a subsidy for that small theatre which barely subsists, and perennially seeks out a non-union company to trim costs? That injection of cash will ensure status quo, with a continued future where actors and musicians perform for less than union standards. Or rather, is that theatre expendable, in favour of the next-level production that allows for living wages?

Is it wise to provide financial support for a small, community orchestra which has no hope of ever working under a collective agreement which guarantees proper fees and pension? Should a music festival (think Canadian Music Week and Western Canadian Music Awards) be awarded grant money to stay in business, then turn around and exploit musicians into performing free (a “showcase”)?

Should a bar or club be subsidized in order to keep the doors open, and then be allowed to return to an “open mic night” format, which draws a never-ending crush of free, hobby musicians, instead of providing scale wages for professionals? And, as AFM members, could we even reach a consensus on this issue? Will the need for solidarity be obvious, or will there be too many harbouring “leave them alone” sympathy? Worse, will union members surreptitiously slink onto that stage, and perform along with the hobbyists, casting dignity aside to pass the hat for coins? Is there a superior way of asking an employer to be screwed over?

Clearly, if our coalition of the performing arts renders a magnificent and utopian plan of action for an industry-wide recovery, some of what is advocated will be controversial with a portion of members, of any of the unions involved. We’re going to have to decide, do we want it bad enough? Do we want to re-establish music as a viable and respected vocation for future generations, let alone the balance of our own careers?

If your reaction is in the affirmative, then be aware we have work to do. Now is not the time to drop membership due to lack of gigs. Now is the time to become engaged as an active AFM member and be proactive with the internal organizing that will be required to keep us strong.

Planifier la post-quarantaine : c’est maintenant que commence la partie de plaisir

par Alan Willaert, vice-président de la FAM pour le Canada

La COVID-19, on en a assez entendu parler, et la pensée de devoir continuer à dialoguer sur le sujet me répugne. Mais, si on veut amorcer une reprise et émerger dans le meilleur des mondes, nous devons tenir une discussion franche quant au processus que nous voulons engager et à l’objectif que nous visons. 

Premièrement, reconnaissons que nous ne sommes pas seuls dans cette démarche, car nous faisons partie d’un groupe plus large d’artistes de la scène et de partenaires (pensons aux comédiens, aux techniciens de scène, aux festivals, lieux de diffusion, théâtres et autres). L’une des coalitions dont je fais partie et qui a particulièrement bien réussi à se faire entendre par les fonctionnaires et ministres du gouvernement est constituée de l’Alliance internationale des employés de la scène et de la télévision des États-Unis et du Canada (IATSE), de la Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, de l’Association des designers canadiens et, bien sûr, du Bureau canadien de la FAM. Les egos ont été mis de côté et un appui mutuel a émergé, permettant la création de missives et de présentations Zoom très efficaces.

À la lumière d’une conversation avec Simon Brault (Conseil des arts du Canada), nous avons clairement saisi que, pour ressortir parmi les nombreux secteurs qui cherchent à obtenir l’attention du gouvernement, nous aurions avantage à nous regrouper. En d’autres termes, éviter les messages multiples, trouver des partenaires ayant des intérêts communs et créer un plan large et complet pour l’avenir de tous.

Après que M. Brault ait quitté la réunion, nous avons continué à travailler et quelqu’un a fait un commentaire voulant qu’on doive chercher le moyen de retourner au point où nous en étions avant la COVID. Et tout à coup, comme un éclair, nous est venue une question : voulons-nous vraiment retrouver cette même situation? Voulons-nous renouer avec les enjeux liés à « moi aussi », aux problèmes de santé et de sécurité, aux artistes de la scène qui travaillent constamment, mais gagnent toujours un revenu considéré comme inférieur au seuil de la pauvreté? Si les arts doivent avancer un chiffre pour l’aide à la reprise, ne devraient-ils pas hausser un peu ce montant pour présenter un ensemble de mesures permettant de régler les lacunes du passé ? Ne
devrions-nous pas chercher à émerger dans une situation meilleure plutôt qu’identique ou même pire? N’est-ce pas notre chance de corriger les injustices?

Traiter ne serait-ce que le dernier de ces enjeux engendre une pléthore de choix cruciaux. Par exemple, devrait-on encore subventionner ce petit théâtre qui peine à survivre et engage systématiquement une compagnie non syndiquée afin de réduire ses coûts? Une telle injection de fonds assurera le statu quo, donc un avenir de travail pour les comédiens et musiciens dans des conditions inférieures à celles du travail syndiqué. Ou est-ce qu’on pourrait plutôt faire l’économie de ce théâtre en faveur d’une production respectant des normes plus élevées, qui permettent aux artistes de gagner dignement leur vie?

Est-ce une bonne idée d’offrir du soutien financier à un petit orchestre communautaire qui n’a aucun espoir de travailler un jour sous la protection d’une entente collective garantissant des cachets justes et un fonds de pension ? Est-ce qu’un festival de musique (par exemple la Semaine de la musique canadienne ou les Western Canadian Music Awards) devrait recevoir des fonds publics pour garantir sa survie et ensuite exploiter les musiciens en
exigeant qu’ils se produisent gratuitement (une « vitrine ») ?

Est-ce qu’on devrait subventionner un club ou un bar pour ensuite lui permettre de retourner à la formule du micro ouvert, qui attire un nombre infini de musiciens amateurs et gratuits, plutôt que de présenter des professionnels et de leur offrir des cachets respectant les normes syndicales? Et, comme membres de la FAM, pourrons-nous dégager un consensus sur cette question? Est-ce que l’importance de la solidarité sera évidente ou y aura-t-il trop de membres qui prendront parti pour le laisser-faire? Pire encore, est-ce que des membres syndiqués se glisseront subrepticement sur cette scène pour se produire avec les amateurs et se rabaisser à passer le chapeau? Y a-t-il meilleur moyen de demander à un employeur de vous exploiter ?

Il est clair que si notre coalition présente un plan d’action magnifique et utopique pour une reprise à l’échelle de l’industrie, certaines propositions feront l’objet de controverse pour une portion des membres de n’importe lequel des syndicats concernés. Nous devons nous décider : le désirons-nous assez fort? Voulons-nous redonner ses lettres de noblesse à la vocation de la musique, sa viabilité pour les générations futures et même le reste de nos propres carrières ?

Si vous répondez par l’affirmative, sachez que nous avons du pain sur la planche. Ce n’est pas le moment de lâcher votre adhésion en raison d’un manque d’engagements. Au contraire, c’est le moment de vous mobiliser comme membre de la FAM et de participer au travail d’organisation interne qui nous permettra de rester forts.