The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, with which a dozen entertainment industry unions are affiliated, has set its policy agenda for the 118th Congress, centered on creating diverse talent pipelines, incentivizing diversity in hiring and strengthening creative professionals’ workplace rights.
“Union professionals in the arts, entertainment, and media industries remain committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said DPE President Jennifer Dorning. “The updated DEI policy agenda for the 118th Congress allows union creative professionals to continue building off gains made in collective bargaining that provide for more inclusive, representative industries.”
Dorning told Deadline, however, that achieving those goals in this Congress – with a majority of Republicans in the House and a slim majority of Democrats in the Senate – will be no easy task.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge. We see that,” she said. “But we see this as a long-term investment on our part, and our affiliates to create systematic change. So we don’t expect to get everything that we want right away. We’re definitely in it for the long haul, and we’re going to working a lot to try to make change.”
Passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act is DPE’s top priority, though it remains a legislative long shot. Recently reintroduced in Congress, “It’s the labor movement’s No. 1 priority, and we’re going to keep pushing for passage,” Michael Wasser, the DPE’s legislative director, told Deadline. “I think we’re all realistic about the dynamics in this Congress, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying.”
The Pro Act would greatly expand various labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain. Among other things, it would allow collective bargaining agreements to require all employees represented by the bargaining unit to contribute fees to the labor organization for the cost of such representation, notwithstanding any state law to the contrary; expand unfair labor practices to include prohibitions against replacement of, or discrimination against, workers who participate in strikes, and make it an unfair labor practice to require or coerce employees to attend employer meetings designed to discourage union membership.
But passing the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act might be the most doable in this Congress, Dorning said. “We thought we were going to get it in the last Congress, and there’s a lot of bipartisan support for that bill. So we are optimistic that we will be able to get that through the 118th Congress,” he said.
It would restore tax breaks for work-related expenses by updating the Qualified Performing Artist deduction and modernizing a provision that has been on the books since it was signed into law in the 1980s by President Ronald Reagan. The provision would allow middle-class entertainment workers to deduct common business expenses again.
Other legislation on DPE’s policy agenda include the passage of the American Music Fairness Act and the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, reforming Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and creating federal tax incentives that would encourage more inclusive hiring.
“The arts, entertainment, and media industries are becoming more diverse and inclusive thanks to the efforts of union professionals at the bargaining table and in the halls of power,” Dorning said. “However, we realize this work is not finished, which is why we remain committed to pushing for smart policy solutions that will help continue to move the creative industries forward and allow creative professionals of historically marginalized communities to realize the full value of their skills and talents.”
The unions that support the DPE’s diversity, equity and inclusion policy agenda include:
Actors’ Equity Association
American Federation of Musicians
American Guild of Musical Artists
American Guild of Variety Artists
Directors Guild of America
Guild of Italian American Actors
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Office and Professional Employees International Union
Stage Directors and Choreographers Society