Starting Small And Building Momentum

Last month, The Art Newspaper reported that NYC would begin requiring all employers to disclose the salary range of jobs starting on May 15. Many saw this as a positive step for the arts world as well as the employment environment at large, especially since it applies to many different employment arrangements, including internships.

The new ruling, an amendment to New York City Human Rights Law passed by the city council last December, applies to roles that are remote or in-person, permanent and short-term contracts, and to interns. Any company with more than four employees must adhere to it or risk civil penalties rising to $125,000 from the New York City Commission on Human Rights.


This small shift, he says, could transform the hiring process, and potentially the wage structure, of some of the top cultural institutions in the US, many of which have been subject to activist campaigns and union pushes in recent years due to huge internal wage inequalities


Finkelpearl describes New York City’s new law as being “long overdue” and sees it as part of a “generational shift around how people look at their jobs”. He points out that it comes in the wake of the so-called Great Resignation, or the Big Quit, which saw millions of workers across the country resign from their jobs during 2021.

A tidbit I found interesting came near the end of the article where it was noted that New York State (NYS) had made it illegal for employers to ask about salary history in January 2020, but that New York City had passed that law in October 2017. As far as I can tell, New York State hasn’t passed a law about wage transparency similar to NYC’s, but there was a subtle implication that it may come in the future.

While we have seen some state governments use preemption to overrule laws made on the municipal level, there are frequently times that city level laws can evolve to encompass the whole state –even in the face of preemption. The Ballotpedia article on preemption I just linked to cites NYS governor’s override of NYC’s plastic bag ban in 2017, but a statewide ban was eventually implemented in 2020.

I bring this up because there may be some hope and value in advocating for arts and cultural causes on the local level and seeing it expand to the state. Of course, a large segment of the population needs to see the need/value to have an investment in putting laws and rules forward.  The report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences I wrote about yesterday frames the need to support culture in terms of extant support for other industry segments.   Or as in the case of Minnesota’s Legacy Fund, Art & Culture made common cause with wildlife/wilderness preservation.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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