April 7, 2005
Senator Richard Alarcon
Chair, Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee
State Capitol, Room 4035
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Chairman Alarcon:
On behalf of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO I wanted to communicate our opposition to SB 382—a bill that would arbitrarily disallow unemployment benefits to symphony musicians employed by symphony or classical orchestras with 10 or fewer performances per calendar year.
By way of background, our organization of twenty-five national unions includes among its affiliated members 10 unions with nearly one-half million media professionals, artists, musicians, broadcasters, technicians, and support workers. Among our key affiliates are the Screen Actors Guild, The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, The American Federation of Musicians, the Actors’ Equity Association and the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees. Combined these unions alone have over 200,000 members residing and working in California.
We view SB 382 as punitive legislation that targets one group of highly talented professionals whose chosen artistic vocation provides for many of them less than full time work with a single employer. As such these talented performers—who add so much to the cultural and economic life of California—have no other choice than to work at different symphonies and orchestras, latch onto other music related “gigs” or have to find other jobs completely outside music in order to cobble together any semblance of full time work.
For many of these artists, it is a constant struggle to piece together enough work to make a living and support a family. From time to time the availability of unemployment benefits is the economic lifeline that provides the needed financial bridge between performances and enables these musicians to continue their work. Denying them eligibility for unemployment compensation, would be the proverbial economic “straw that broke the camels back” and force some of these talented artists to leave the field entirely. In a state where music is a billion-dollar business, where innovation and the nurturing of musical talent is critical to its future, legislation that punishes the very talent that grows the industry would be both reckless and shortsighted.
For the overwhelming number of workers represented by our unions in the music and entertainment business, their work is by definition part time. Year in and year out they, like the symphony musicians, work for multiple employers. As a group, they make up a significant proportion of the now 25% of the nation’s workforce who are defined as “contingent workers.” It is and has always been the nature of that business. As more and more work arrangements move in this direction, state legislatures should be examining ways to help working families adjust to these changing conditions and the economic uncertainties inherent therein and not, as SB 382 would do, punish them for circumstances outside of their control.
In conclusion, we strongly oppose SB 382 and urge your opposition it when it comes before the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.
Paul E. Almeida