Actors’ Equity Association has thrown its support behind Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, marking only the second time in the trade union’s history that it has made a political endorsement.
In 2016, Equity also endorsed the Democratic ticket. In supporting Hillary Clinton, the group justified its foray into the world of politics by noting Donald Trump’s opposition to arts funding and education. As Actors Equity notes, Trump has made good on that hostility to programs that support artists and performers since moving into the Oval Office — his administration has proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts in each of his budgets.
“It didn’t have to be this way. In 2016 I said that unions would have to fight with everything we have for our survival. I never imagined how true those words would be today, given the Trump administration‘s utter failure to respond to the pandemic that shut down our industry six months ago,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “Vice President Biden understands that the arts are a critical driver of healthy and strong local economies in cities and towns across the country. He will also be an ally who can help us build a stronger and more inclusive country by championing the rights of workers in every sector, including the arts.”
The group represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, most of whom have seen their livelihoods endangered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Trade organizations, theater owners, concert venue operators have been pushing for the federal government to provide funding to help theaters remain in operation during the public health crisis. Bipartisan legislation, dubbed Save Our Stages, would provide $10 billion in support. It was authored by senators Amy Klobuchar (a Democrat) and John Cornyn (a Republican).
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Actors Equity noted that Trump has also failed to support social justice causes, such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights, and has stood in the way of gun control regulations.
“Equity fights for the right to a safe workplace, but at every turn, Donald Trump has worked to undermine workers’ rights,“ said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, adding, “It is not too late. We can instead elect Vice President Biden, who in his decades long career in public service has shown time and time again his belief that labor unions are key to a strong middle class.”