Supporting NYC's Early-Career Workers in Arts and Entertainment
The Arts & Entertainment Worker Resource Center (AEWRC) provides resources and information to help the thousands of early-career workers in the NYC arts, entertainment, fashion and media industries build sustainable careers in the context of our rapidly changing work environment. We assist and advocate for all cultural workers, particularly those who face barriers based on ethnicity, race, class, sexual orientation, ableness, gender, and gender identity.
Why an arts & entertainment worker resource center?Every year, thousands of young, talented people flock to NYC determined to work hard and build careers in the highly profitable arts and entertainment industry. They are full of promise and hope, but for many of these young workers, New York can be a daunting place. They struggle to access opportunities that will help them build a sustainable career. They have difficulty finding or building a community that can support them. Just surviving in New York City, with its high cost of living and limited housing options, is a real accomplishment.
While the arts & entertainment industry is a critical driver of the NYC economy, entry-level jobs in this industry are increasingly dangerous, low-paid or unpaid, and unstable. Wage theft, harassment, unsafe working conditions, and theft of intellectual property are only a few of the issues cultural workers report. Young workers often don’t know their rights and, even if they do, the industry is so competitive they fear derailing their careers if they speak up. And so there is a growing labor force of creative workers all around us whose hardships and exploitation are mostly hidden.
In response to this unacceptable situation, the Worker Institute at Cornell ILR has partnered with prominent support organizations and unions to create the NYC Arts & Entertainment Worker Resource Center.
Who is the AEWRC for?The AEWRC is a hub where workers from ALL segments of the A&E workforce can access trustworthy information and crucial resources to help them survive and be productive. The AEWRC provides a safe space for workers to find and/or create community, share information, and face challenges together. The Center empowers and provides early-career artists and arts workers, particularly those who don't have the financial resources or social capital that can assist one's entry into the A&E industry, with a greater chance at a strong start and a productive, sustainable career. This, in turn, will help create a cultural ecosystem that reflects the diverse population of New York City and produces art and entertainment that is vibrant and relevant.
How does the AEWRC support A&E workers?The AEWRC provides a multi-faceted set of resources and opportunities for the emerging A&E workforce: a dynamic, web-based database of resources; face to face programs and seminars; advocacy for public policies benefiting the A&E workforce; research and data-gathering on the needs of this workforce; opportunities for networking and community building for these workers and the organizations supporting them.
Through our AEWRC website (launching Spring 2018 at AEWRC.org) early-career workers can access information about their legal rights as workers, what they should expect from employers, the structure of the industry, and opportunities for work, fellowships, internships, and mentoring. They are referred to legal support and connected to resources for housing, health insurance, healthcare, and student loan repayment assistance. They can find information about fiscal sponsors, funding sources, and affordable rehearsal and performance spaces. They can identify common challenges and issues and create strategies for addressing them. And they are provided with information about the benefits of union membership and how to connect with the industry's unions.
In addition to providing broad information and assistance online, the AEWRC is committed to presenting face to face programs and seminars. In 2017-2018 we produced, in partnership with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, a three part series entitled "Thriving in Arts & Entertainment in NYC."
Twenty-four organizations presented, including nine entertainment unions, the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs' Office of Labor Policy and Standards, NYS Department of Labor, and The Actors Fund. Panel conversations covered a wide range of topics including: worker rights; labor law; intellectual property protection; the NYC Freelance Isn't Free Act; affordable rehearsal and performance spaces; fiscal sponsorship; teaching opportunities; training; financial planning; the value of unions and the power of collective voice. Hundreds of workers from every area of the arts and entertainment industries attended and provided excellent feedback, including these comments taken directly from the response forms collected at the end of each seminar:
"THANK YOU for the informative workshop yesterday... Now, to apply all these good ideas to the work and the life."
"Oh my - everything - the pure wealth of already existing resources for free or cheap…access to training, to institutions, to people who actually understood your work (esp. Healthcare & housing & WAYS TO BUILD MY COMMUNITY!!"
"Intellectual property presentation was relevant and amazingly presented. Thank you."
"The most helpful thing learned today was what and where to access information as an artist in order to be more realistic and a part of society."
Beyond providing programming and online resources, the AEWRC is adding its voice to those of other advocates in support of public policies benefiting the A&E workforce and the development of a rich cultural environment that includes, represents, and is accessible for all New Yorkers. We assist and advocate for all cultural workers, particularly those who face barriers based on ethnicity, race, class, sexual orientation, ableness, gender and gender identity. The AEWRC helps bring organizations together, across disciplines, to develop policies and standards that will protect workers from exploitation.
The AEWRC conducts research and data-gathering on the needs of this workforce. Regular focus groups and an on-line survey launched in July 2017 provide on-going data to determine future programming. In addition to our Steering Committee of partner organizations, the AEWRC is guided by a Worker Advisory Committee that provides input and helps identify needs and concerns of the emerging workforce.
The AEWRC provides opportunities for networking and community building for early career workers and organizations that support them, convening events, discussions, and information sessions focused on identified needs of the workforce.
Who is behind the AEWRC?The important work of the AEWRC is driven by the dedicated entertainment union leaders and representatives from extraordinary support organizations who serve as our Steering Committee. They represent the unions and organizations that have partnered with the Worker Institute at Cornell ILR to bring the Arts & Entertainment Worker Resource Center to life:
- The Actors Fund for Everyone in Entertainment
- Associated Musicians of New York - Local 802 AFM
- American Guild of Musical Artists - AGMA
- Center for Traditional Music and Dance
- Exploring the Metropolis
- Gibney Dance
- League of Independent Theater - LITNY
- Murphy Institute for Labor Studies - CUNY
- Writer's Guild of America East - WGAE
- Fractured Atlas
- National Writers Union - NWU
Want to be involved?If your organization would like to present at one of our events or is interested in being a partner, contact us at AEWRC@cornell.edu.
If you're a worker starting out in the arts, entertainment, fashion or media industries, and you'd like to give us your perspective and input, please send us an email with your contact information. You can also fill out our worker survey at https://goo.gl/forms/dsgw05vggvmqlfon2.
Stay in touch and find out about future events by liking our Facebook page at facebook.com/AEWRC and follow us on Instagram at instagram.com/AEWRC.
To learn more about the plans and goals of the A&E Worker Resource Center (WRC), view this presentation: