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How MPTF Helps Workers in Crisis: ‘It’s Like Having a Family’

As president of the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) union, Matthew Loeb has had a front-row seat to the benefits offered by the Motion Picture and Television Fund.

“Nobody is prepared for economic and physical and emotional crises in their lives,” says Loeb, who serves on the fund’s board. “MPTF has been a great backstop for people to not suffer devastating effects from all kinds of various issues that they face in their lives.”

Loeb says the fund does a “exemplary job” compared to the other charities he works with. “I think that they are just really responsive,” he says. “We really are able to hone in on what a given individual’s challenge is and bring solutions to them and their problems.”

Case in point: Alex Aguilar, Jr., was working on a movie set in 2007 when the writers’ strike hit. A laborer who’d followed in his father’s footsteps, Aguilar thought the strike would be short-lived, or perhaps his project would be exempt because the writers were also co-producers.

No such luck. As the strike stretched from days to weeks to months, Aguilar — now the business manager for Labor Local 724 — found himself and his family in dire financial straits. “We thought we’d be safe,” he recounts today. “But of course we weren’t.” To make matters worse, his wife — who was pregnant with their third child — was put on bed rest. “We basically had no income coming in,” he recalls. “We had gone through all of our savings. We were at that point where I was going to fall behind.”

Friends helped out with weekly grocery deliveries; he decided to sell his car, sending out a desperate text to everyone he knew hoping to find a buyer. Then someone suggested he call MPTF. “What do I have to lose?” he recalls thinking.

The social worker who responded told him to bring in all of his bills — and the fund ended up covering his mortgage and utility bills, to help bridge the gap until the strike ended. “It was an amazing thing,” Aguilar says. “I’m so thankful it was there for me and it is there today. Who knows what would have happened?”

Now back on his feet financially, he’s gotten actively involved with MPTF — he serves on the committee for events like the upcoming “Day at the Races” on October 22 to help give money to workers like him. he says.

“There’s no better feeling than being a part of something that helps you,” he says. “I don’t think too many people can say that. Because I lived it and now I’m doing it for others.”

And when members of his union need help, he knows just where to send them. “We’ve had several guys [who’ve reached out to MPTF], including one whose house burned down,” he says.

Now he’s proud to call MPTF a “family.” “I consider MPTF an extended family who helped me when I needed it most,” he says. “I don’t know that I would be here in the same situation and in this position if it wasn’t for MPTF.”

(pictured: Alex Aguilar Jr. and his family) 

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