The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents more than 180,000 members, has sent 80,000 letters to Congress appealing for lawmakers to include displaced entertainment workers in a federal aid package.
IATSE spokesman Jonas Loeb said the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) is not applicable to entertainment workers because of its qualifying requirement to work on a day job. He stressed that entertainment workers should not “be collateral damage in the fight against COVID-19.”
Loeb added, “Entertainment workers depend on the income from each project they book to ensure they can support themselves and can qualify to participate in our collectively bargained health plans. Rules designed specifically for the traditional single employer relationship, or even for multi-employer work in the construction industry are likely to exclude our members, and entertainment freelancers in general.”
The reason many entertainment workers are excluded is because of the fast-moving nature of the industry means many do not reach the “days worked for a single employer” requirement that HR01 sets. “The bill only looks back when it extends enhanced benefits, but does not look forwards to include those whose jobs were cancelled or those whose jobs had just started,
He called the situation “dire” and said the union is working around the clock to make sure that members are included in any relief packages.
Earlier on Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff and other members of Congress representing California also sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, urging for relief.
The members wrote, “The unique freelance nature of work in film, television, theater, and live music means that a large number of the professionals who make these productions possible work only sporadically — often with extended periods between paying jobs — and count on income from each project to make ends meet. … As a result, many of them can’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits or paid emergency leave, yet will now be unable to cover their basic expenses due to lost work.”