AB5 Raising Hackles

Nonprofit arts organizations in the Island City have raised alarm over the passing of Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) aimed at leveling the playing field of the gig economy. The impact of the bill on arts organizations, freelance artists, writers and musicians has been expensive. 

Alameda’s performing arts group since the 1930s, Altarena Playhouse — known as Northern California’s longest-running performing arts venue — has expressed concern over its future; the diverse offerings of Rhythmix Cultural Works are threatened; Island City Opera canceled its 2020 season. 

“I recently created the Coalition of Community Artists,” wrote Altarena Board President Becky Davis. “This informal union of more than 40 nonprofit community theaters and other performance art companies in California seeks a two-year grace period to create a separate set of clauses regarding employee status for the industries represented by our members.”

Davis expressed concern that AB5 could cause the closure of hundreds of small, nonprofit community theaters and other performance art organizations across the state, like Island City Opera. According to Davis, one nonprofit community arts group that was in operation for more than 50 years did just fold.

“Nonprofit community arts groups were simply not adequately funded to comply with AB5’s drastic increase in employment costs on such short notice,” wrote Davis. “These changes are increasing budgets anywhere from 15 to 40 percent to much more. These kinds of increases are devastating for small-to-medium nonprofits.”

Davis created an online survey for people to send information or concerns at https://forms.gle/XqH5pb5oSjWT2Mdc6.

Any arts nonprofit interested in joining the coalition may contact Davis at becky.davis@altarena.org.