April 13, 2020

Recommended Best Practice Protocols for Institutions and Funders

With cultural institutions across the country struggling to maintain programming activity without access to their physical sites, many are moving content online, and some are doing so while simultaneously laying off and furloughing workers whose labor has become unnecessary to their daily operations.

After these critical staffing decisions have already been made by institutions, but before emergency funding flows downstream to buoy their organizational capacity, a window of opportunity is opening to adopt some simple protocols that build worker solidarity, increase transparency, and secure a more equitable distribution of resources across the institutional spectrum.

Building on Guidelines for the Postponement or Cancellation of Work, this message introduces a set of suggested best practice protocols.

1) Compensation for Online Content
Content transferred online or commissioned exclusively going forward for web-based platforms should be paid for at the same or greater rate as prior to the pandemic. Artists shouldn’t be asked to provide free content in order to maintain the perception of continued institutional productivity.

2) Layoff and Furlough Transparency
In addition to updating audiences about programming changes and support for artists, institutions should consider including in their public announcements the layoff and furlough of workers, what measures they may be taking to support their staff, as well as any reduction in the compensation of their highest paid employees. The nonprofit sector’s public-facing messaging should mirror internal policy changes that directly impact the livelihood of workers.

3) Distribution of Emergency Funding
Pledges of support from private foundations along with relief aid from the federal government should be distributed in ways that do not replicate existing unequal divisions of wealth among cultural institutions, but should instead be made with an awareness of the greater vulnerability to closure of non-endowed institutions, and in particular small-scale, local and community-based cultural organizations. Relief funding for institutions should be contingent on fair labor practices including the rehiring and equitable compensation of staff negotiated in good faith with unions.

W.A.G.E. has limited organizational capacity but will continue to add new guidelines as conditions evolve. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions: info@wageforwork.com.