New York union appeals for aid for suffering freelancers

New York union appeals for aid for suffering freelancers


norman lebrecht

March 13, 2020

Statement from president Adam Krauthamer of the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM:

In our city and state’s efforts to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19, health authorities have urged social distancing, forcing businesses to cancel or indefinitely postpone large gatherings. For musicians, whose workspaces primarily constitute “large gatherings” – whether a theatre production, a concert, a music festival, or a recording session in close quarters – the developing coronavirus situation poses a major threat to our income and health and retirement benefits.

Many Local 802 members make their living as freelancers, relying on multiple employers for their income and to accrue health and pension benefits – which they can only accrue each time they work an engagement. While we applaud employers for taking all the necessary steps to ensure our members, fellow colleagues, and audience members are safe from the spread of this pandemic, the reality is that as musicians lose work for unpredictable amounts of time, their financial security is threatened. This does not just affect freelance musicians, but all our colleagues in the arts eco-system – hard-working actors, choristers, stage managers, crew members, ticket-sellers, and ushers who work in tandem to make the show go on.

As such, today I call on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to take action to ensure that musicians and other impacted cultural workers are covered during this time of crisis. As theaters and concert halls go dark, we must ensure that musicians and other arts workers are not left behind. We call on all relevant government agencies to work immediately to put together and pass a strong economic relief package that ensures all arts workers have access to health care and unemployment benefits while their workplaces are shuttered. Immediate action is required not only to protect public health, but arts funding at all levels. This will provide arts employers the resources they need to quickly recover and reopen when appropriate. New York benefits from one of the most dynamic and profitable arts and entertainment sectors in the world – we must ensure that all the workers who keep this sector running are taken care of during this pandemic and able to get back on strong economic footing when the crisis passes.

musicians from the Met



  • Anon says:

    They can all file for and collect unemployment, no?

    • The And of One says:

      Unfortunately, Not all free lance work pays on W-2 forms. If you do not have work on a W-2 that contributes to unemployment insurance, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

      As “contractors”, free lancers are considered small business owners by the government.

    • Bill says:

      It depends on the situation. If they are a non-contracted freelancer, then generally no, they can’t. They might have a case if they accepted a date, but it was later cancelled.

      But this won’t take into account work they might have gotten but haven’t been called for yet. A lot of freelancers get last minute calls to sub.
      Hopefully New York State will make accommodation for this unusual circumstance.

      Even if they do qualify, unemployment will not nearly cover the amount of pay they will be losing even if they do get it. New York’s an expensive place to live.

    • Nicole Grant-Whitmore says:

      That’s an uneducated viewpoint.

      If opera and concert houses took on more “employees” of any sort, they would be FORCED to provide both tax forms and healthcare benefits which would be both ANTI-OBAMACARE and ANTI-DEMOCRAT.

      Democrats simply made it TOO EXPENSIVE to keep too many regular employees on the payroll.

      That’s why they must contract out so many services and artists have no hope of ever becoming part of a venue anymore.

      Note Norman’s thoughtful article regarding California freelancers of all types. Their employment law covers a highly DIVERSE section of their workforce who got dumped by employers.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        Generally speaking, it’s not opera and symphony musicians, or, for that matter, Broadway pit musicians, who are at the greatest risk. These folks are usually under contract. It’s freelancers, who play as subs, or play in for-hire small ensembles, or as pickup musicians for events, or who are members of touring groups that play repertoire that they create. There is no employer to compel to hire these people.

        To blame Democrats doesn’t reveal a knowledge of the music business. It does reveal a desire to cram a right-wing perspective into any possible situation.

      • Bill says:

        I have no idea what you are talking about, and neither do you.

        The freelancers being affected are mostly broadway subs, extras at the Met and other general per service freelance activity. These types of gigs are exactly as they have been from long before the ACA existed. New York does not have any such law as California has regarding freelancers.