As New York’s creative economy evolves to keep pace with the rapid growth of digital media and other industry and cultural changes, traditional unions in the world of arts and entertainment (A&E) face many challenges, especially in their approach to younger creative workers. A&E unions recognize a growing need for innovative strategies to represent and advocate for the interests of these workers because of the rapidly changing environment.
This research examines the socio-economic and demographic indicators of New York’s arts and entertainment workforce, with a particular emphasis on the experiences of early-career workers. The research generates insights and policy proposals to help unions respond more effectively to the challenges brought on by technological innovation, rapidly changing industry structures, and an increasingly non-union workforce.
The research also informed the development of an interactive training curriculum (ReSET) to facilitate dialogue on innovative practices and strategies among the unions and other workforce organizations facing these challenges. In addition to the Research Report and the ReSET curriculum, the project generated five in-depth case studies detailing challenges and best practices from unions and workers across the industry. It has also generated an effort to develop an Arts and Entertainment Worker Resource Center to address some of these challenges.
From spring 2015 through spring 2016, researchers conducted more than 80 interviews with union leaders, policy makers, leaders of non-profit groups in the arts, young workers in a variety of positions across the industry, and “incubators” (creatives who also function as producers of theater, films, music, etc.). They have conducted an extensive literature review, drawn on secondary statistical analysis, gathered and analyzed industry data, and conducted five focus groups of young workers across the industry.
A final Research Report summarizing the findings is available online here: Strengthening New York’s Emerging Arts and Entertainment Workforce - Research Report
The four case studies, based on the experiences of five different sectors of the early-career workforce in the A&E industry in New York City, is being used to facilitate discussion among the unions about the challenges they face, to share best practices in reaching out to and advocating for these workers, and to generate possible public policy initiatives to improve their lives and conditions.
The case studies are:
- The Invisible Workforce: Labor Abuses and Organizing in the Video Game Industry by Jake Barnes
- Immersive Theater’s Non-Traditional Approach Generates Traditional Exploitation by Anne Gartlan
- The Real Deal: Organizing New York’s Reality TV Workforce by Sally Alvarez
- Making a Movie but not a Living by Anne Gartland and Sally Alvarez (PDF, 207 KB)
ReSET is an interactive curriculum that generates an in-depth group discussion about the emerging A&E Workforce and its challenges. It was designed in partnership with the NY State AFL-CIO and with the active participation of New York’s A&E unions and worker advocacy groups. It involves a series of dynamic group exercises and an interactive PowerPoint presentation, accompanied by a Resource Book with additional background information and sources.
ReSET was designed for use by elected leaders, staff, and activists from A&E unions and arts groups. Trainer/facilitators are available to run ReSET for your union or group, or we can train your staff to run the curriculum. It can be customized to a particular sector, audience, or purpose (e.g. A&E students, administrators, funders, new or potential union members, etc.) Contact Sally Alvarez for more information about how to customize ReSET to your particular group, or to request and schedule a trainer/facilitator.
PowerPoint slides are available here.
Roundtable May 5, 2015
To mark the launch of the ReSET curriculum and share the findings of the research project, a roundtable discussion was convened at Cornell’s Manhattan Conference Center on May 5, 2016, bringing together unions, worker advocacy groups, political leaders, academics, and policy makers. One of the policy recommendations that emerged from that exchange was focused on the need to create a workers’ resource center for young arts and entertainment workers that would aggregate resources and information crucial to helping them start and stabilize careers in the industry. The unions involved also articulated a need to coordinate with each other in their outreach to young workers in order to help them understand their rights as workers, and the advantages of collective voice and action. That project has become the Arts and Entertainment Worker Resource Center, and more information is available about it on the project page.