Alice Bag, Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, Speedy Ortiz, DIIV, Geoff Rickly of Thursday, and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo are among the hundreds of musicians to sign a new letter to Congress demanding more aid for musicians struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.
The organization behind the letter is the newly launched labor group, Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW), which was formed by a committee of musicians in response to the struggles brought on by the pandemic. While COVID-19 will be one of the union’s top priorities at the moment, the group will also seek to “address issues facing musicians such as streaming payments, mechanical royalties, relationships between musicians and venues and record labels and more.”
Other signees of the UMAW’s new letter include Eve 6, Sammus, Downtown Boys, of Montreal, Frankie Cosmos, DJ Haram, Gauche, Harry and the Potters, Dogbreath, Potty Mouth, Mutual Benefit, Algiers, Half Waif, Diet Cig, Hether Fortune and Zola Jesus.
According to the UMAW’s new demands letter, many musicians have yet to receive stimulus checks or unemployment benefits. In regards to the latter, many states have yet to start distributing unemployment to self-employed workers, while other artists who signed the letter aren’t eligible for expanded benefits because of their immigration status.
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“Many of us have been out of work since early March,” the letter says. “Even when we receive the promised benefits, it will be too little and too late to survive the catastrophe facing our industry.”
The letter lists six demands, including an extension of the CARES Act’s unemployment benefits through the rest of 2020, a particular necessity for musicians because, “Live music will be one of the last businesses to reopen, and music workers will need support until that happens.” It also calls for extending benefits to all Americans regardless of immigration status, Medicare expansion and the cancellation of rent and mortgage payments nationwide to ensure housing security and to save music venues, small businesses and nonprofits.
Additionally, the letter seeks supplemental funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, plus all necessary funding for the Post Office, which it calls “a necessity for musicians and other artists who ship recorded music and other merchandise.”
“The above include the bare minimum needed to ensure that musicians, self-employed people and all workers are able to survive the COVID crisis and its devastating economic aftermath with dignity,” the letter says. “Musicians and artists perform labor that provides entertainment, comfort, and meaning, for countless Americans, particularly during quarantine. If we are to continue producing through this crisis and afterward, we must have rights, respect and immediate economic relief.”
The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers will celebrate its launch with a livestream concert on its Instagram tonight, May 4th. The show will feature performances from Algiers, DIIV, Clear Channel and more, and run from 6 p.m. ET to 7:40 p.m. ET.
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