IATSE outlines its legislative agenda for new Congress: “Labor unions are under attack”

IATSE is calling on Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to protect the rights of its members and working men and women across the country. Known as the Federal Issues Agenda, the wishlist now faces an uphill battle with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives.

Calling for the elimination of so-called “right-to-work laws” — which make it difficult for workers in 28 states to form unions and bargain collectively — IATSE is urging Congress to pass legislation protecting the right to organize and increase funding for the National Labor Relations Board.

“Labor unions are under attack,” the union said, “by undermining the collective bargaining rights of workers across the country and by depriving union workers of the wages, benefits and retirement security they deserve. We must strengthen federal laws that protect workers’ right to organize a union.” Protects and bargains for higher wages and better benefits.”

The union also wants Congress to make health care a basic right for all Americans. “Our longstanding goal to achieve this is to move quickly toward a single-payer system that provides universal coverage, without diminishing the hard-fought benefits that 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 to working people,” the union said “This 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 impose undue restrictions on access to the ballot box. Early and absentee voting options, which recreation workers depend on because of the transient nature of our work, are being reduced across the United States. To protect the will of the people, we need national standards that ensure every voice is heard and every vote counts. “

The union is also calling on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to address discrimination based on 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 addressing systemic racism in the arts and entertainment industries.”

The union is urging Congress to restore tax fairness for creative professionals, to pass the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act to update the qualifying performing artist tax deduction, and to restore union dues tax deductibility and end tax breaks for companies. The bust union “excluded unreimbursed employee expenses as a tax deduction in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” the union said. “W-2 workers lose the ability to deduct expenses, often significant, such as our equipment, travel to work, even union dues. It means industry-wide tax increases for working-class, unionized 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 set at $1 per capita, or the equivalent of $333 million. “As the union behind entertainment, we know that funding for the arts directly impacts job growth and jobs for our skilled artisans. Federal arts agencies — like the National Endowment for the Arts — support working families, strengthen local economies, and ensure that all Americans have access to arts and entertainment.”

The union also wants Congress to enforce stronger copyright laws to protect creative content by reforming Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and removing overly broad copyright safe harbor provisions from future U.S. trade agreements. “Combating online piracy and enforcing copyright obligations is important to our members,” the union says. “Although we do not own the copyrights to the works we help create, our livelihood depends on contractual residuals paid to our health and pension plans when the copyrights to those audiovisual works are licensed to others for a working life. Theft of copyrighted works — domestically and internationally — threatens our hard-won health care benefits and retirement security.”

In calling for the establishment of a national paid family and medical leave program, IATSE notes that it is “composed of a diverse membership with diverse family caregiving needs. Although some of our members may access state-level paid family and medical leave benefits, or these at the bargaining table benefits secured, many IATSE workers do not qualify for state-provided paid leave programs due to their intermittent ‘gig’-based nature. Our work is performed for multiple employers each year, potentially in multiple states. In developing a national program, we I urge Congress to accommodate the unique work patterns of behind-the-scenes entertainment workers to ensure they are not left out of critical care infrastructure.”

The union wants legislation to protect and restore Social Security and “protect our pension funds and ensure retirement security after a lifetime of work.” Praising the last Congress for passing the Butch Lewis Act to protect the long-term health of the multi-employer pension system, the union said “we oppose any proposal that undermines our financially stable, healthy pension plan and impairs IATSE’s ability to deliver on promises. Retirement security of employees.

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