There is no question that the pandemic has wreaked havoc on our industry. Our stages, concert halls, festivals, and nightclubs have shuttered. Never before has a crisis destabilized our sector and our union in the way the coronavirus crisis has. Our collective future is unclear.
As members and leaders in our union await the restoration of our industry, clear and decisive action will be required at all levels of our organization to recover from this catastrophe. Along with our organizational efforts, we must call upon Congress to act swiftly to restore our sector, much like the federal government did when the Great Depression ravaged our nation, turning the middle class on its head, sending millions of families onto the street and onto the soup lines, much like we see today. The Great Depression was combatted by a major initiative enacted by the federal government the likes of which had never been seen.
Under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a New Deal was adopted investing billions in infrastructure, social programs, and the arts. One of the most famous projects under the New Deal was Federal Project Number One, which employed musicians, artists, actors, and directors in arts, drama, and media. I posit that now is the time for President Biden and Congress to enact New Deal 2021 with ample investment into our sector. Without fast and deliberate action on the part of our elected leaders, our sector may never recover, losing hundreds of thousands of world-class musicians to other professions.
We are beginning to see the talent-drain already as thousands of members pull away from careers in the performance arts and join academia. We see it in membership numbers as locals throughout our federation report mass resignations. We see it in the permanent closing of nightclubs and venues throughout our nation, places that have been iconic in establishing American music as a worldwide beacon for creativity and the power of music and song.
Sisters and brothers, the time to act is now, for the future is in our hands. Joining with our sister unions, community organizations, and employer partners, we must lobby now for a major investment into a jobs program that will put our members back to work. We must lobby for real dollars that can be distributed to orchestras, theaters, festivals, and other performance arts spaces that hire responsibly, and respect area standards. This initiative can be the spark to help launch a nationwide renaissance in the performing arts, a renaissance that places the US at the helm of a global rebirth of the arts. Together we can come back stronger, and, as President Biden said, “Build Back Better.”
Let’s roll up our sleeves and rebuild our movement. Together we can!