Covid-19 Museums, galleries, art fairs, art centers, universities, theaters, festivals… Cancel everything, pay everyone!

Dear gallery owners, curators, editors, directors, and the many others who employ us, 

The emergency procedures are in place in response to the coronavirus COVID-19. 
You had to cancel a conference, a fair, an opening, a festival or a performance.For you, it’s a disappointment: it means an artistic project won’t come to fruition, it means a year’s worth of work going to waste, and you see significant funding thrown out the window…Perhaps you were asked to work from home or you were put on forced paid leave.

So please remember that the situation of those who were supposed to work for you is far worse  Whenever you void the contract of an artist, a writer, an invigilator, or a translator, there is no unemployment benefits nor compensation, let alone any paid leave. If we’re in America, chances are that we do not even have health insurance. In the context of a shrinking economy, whenever you cancel plans at the last minute, and everyone else around you does too, there is no chance for us to bounce off and find a replacement income. Some of us will probably decide to cancel themselves, whilst forced to stay in confinement or torn between paying rent and taking care of their loved ones. As always, the most vulnerable and precarious groups will suffer the most. 

Go ahead, cancel everything, do what you have to do for the sake of everyone’s health, but pay everyone at once. 
Your budget was already approved, and who knows, you’ve most certainly just saved thousands on canceled shipment, printing and champagne. So now, pay security guards, pay artists, pay stage managers, pay speakers, pay educators, pay graphic designers, pay editors, pay cleaning staff, pay dancers, pay ushers and invigilators, pay actors, pay technicians, pay writers, pay musicians, pay art handlers, pay translators. 
Pay everyone. 

It’s not about how generous or how kind you are. We must change an economy that clearly doesn’t work.
You have been relying for way too long on the flexibility offered by our freelance status. No employment contract, no health insurance, no paid leave, no taxes. How convenient! Now, the current coronavirus outbreak is exposing this two-tier system that we’ve long known to be wrong.  Workers on payroll – a ‘privilege’ nowadays even if poorly paid – are protected by what’s left of the welfare state. Those who are not, those who had to resort to self-employment, have no protection. 

Welfare systems exist to reduce employees’ dependency on their employer’s so-called generosity: if they fall ill, if the economy shrinks, they provide a safety net, however fragile. Freelancing doesn’t mean that we are free at all: it means that we are dependent on you and that we carry all risks. 
Since you’ve never wanted to cover the cost of our welfare, you must act as our welfare system for the time being. 
Today, take your responsibilities and pay everyone, so that we can survive until our next collaboration. 
Tomorrow, take your responsibilities and be the change, reverse this unfair and failing system.