IATSE is calling on Congress to pass a wide range of legislation to protect its members and the rights of working men and women across the country. Known as its Federal Issue Agenda, the wishlist faces an uphill battle with Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives.
Calling for the elimination of so-called “right-to-work laws” – which in 28 states make it harder for workers to form unions and collectively bargain – IATSE is urging Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and to increase funding for the National Labor Relations Board.
“Labor unions are under assault,” the union says, “with policies across the country undermining workers’ collective bargaining rights and stripping union workers of the wages, benefits, and retirement security they deserve. We must strengthen the federal laws that protect workers’ right to organize a union and bargain for higher wages and better benefits.”
The union also wants Congress to make health care a basic right of all Americans. “Our longstanding goal for achieving this is to expeditiously move toward a single-payer system that provides universal coverage, without diminishing the hard-fought benefits union members have won for themselves and all working people.”
IATSE also seeks federal legislation to protect voting rights. “The right to vote is fundamental for working people,” the union says. “It is how we express our voice as citizens and the ultimate defense against the power of wealth and privilege. Our freedom to vote is under threat, as many states have placed undue restrictions on access to the ballot box. Early and absentee voting options, which entertainment workers rely on due to the transient nature of our work, are being curtailed across the U.S. To preserve the will of the people, we need national standards that ensure every voice is heard and every vote gets counted.”
The union is also calling on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and federal programs. “Equal rights are the cornerstone of the labor movement,” the union says. “IATSE is committed to equality of opportunity, eliminating all forms of discrimination, and upending systemic racism in the arts and entertainment industry.”
Seeking to restore tax fairness for union creative professionals, the union is urging Congress to pass the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act to update the Qualified Performing Artist tax deduction, and to restore the tax deductibility of union dues, and to end tax breaks for companies that bust unions. “The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated unreimbursed employee expenses as a tax deduction,” the union said. “W-2 workers lost the ability to deduct expenses, often significant, like our equipment, travel for work, and even union dues. This meant an industrywide tax increase for working class, union creative professionals.”
Calling for increased federal funding for the arts, IATSE wants Congress to support a funding level for the National Endowment for the Arts to be set at the equivalent of $1 per capita, or $333 million. “As the union behind entertainment, we know that funding for the arts directly impacts job growth and work for our skilled craftspeople. Federal arts agencies – like the National Endowment for the Arts – support working families, bolster local economies, and ensure all Americans have access to the arts and entertainment.”
The union also wants Congress to enforce strong copyright laws to protect creative content by reforming Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and to exclude overly broad copyright safe harbor provisions from future U.S. trade agreements. “Fighting online piracy and enforcing copyright obligations are critical to our members,” the union says. “While we do not own the copyrights to the works we help create, our livelihoods depend on contractual residuals paid to our health and pension plans when the copyrights for those audiovisual works are licensed to others over the life of a work. The theft of copyrighted works – domestically and internationally – threatens our hard-won health care benefits and retirement security.”
Calling for the establishment of a national paid family and medical leave program, IATSE notes that it is “comprised of a diverse membership with a variety of family care needs. While some of our members can access state-level paid family and medical leave benefits, or have secured these benefits at the bargaining table, many more IATSE workers do not qualify for state-provided paid leave programs due to the intermittent ‘gig’ based nature of our work performed for multiple employers each year, potentially in more than one state. In crafting a national program, we urge Congress to accommodate the unique work patterns of behind-the-scenes entertainment workers to ensure we are not left out of this important care infrastructure.”
The union also wants legislation to protect and restore Social Security, and to “defend our pension funds and ensure retirement security after a lifetime of work.” Commending the last Congress for passing the Butch Lewis Act to safeguard the long-term health of the multiemployer pension system, the union said that “We oppose any proposals that would weaken our financially stable, healthy pension plans and harm the IATSE’s ability to provide promised retirement security to workers.”
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