As the coronavirus pandemic continues to weaken the economy, the entrainment industry is also reeling from job losses.
The shutdown of TV productions and postponement of major entertainment events have resulted in the loss of 1,600 to 2,200 jobs a day over the last two months.
Ronald Valentine, the business agent for IATSE Local 33 — representing television studios and shop technicians in both recorded and live entertainment — discussed with Variety exclusively about the impact of coronavirus on its union members.
“This outbreak and stoppage of entertainment venues could not come at a worse time for our members who service recently postponed or canceled shows such as ‘Kids’ Choice Awards,’ E3 Gaming, ‘Hamilton,’ concerts at Staples Arena, Microsoft Theatre, and the famous Inglewood Forum,” he wrote.
The postponement in taping major TV shows such as “America’s Got Talent,” “American Idol,” “The Masked Dancer” and iHeartRadio Music Awards also affected its members.
As previously reported, an estimated 120,000 below-the-line entertainment jobs have been lost due to the coronavirus crisis. That number represents 80% of the 150,000 members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
Valentine said he and Robert Pagnotta, the business agent for theaters and stadiums, have been trying to set “effects bargaining” meetings with facility employers to work with them to keep income flowing for employees. He wrote, “Regular employees of facilities and some productions have been covered for 1-2 weeks of payroll. This makes up about 5% of the workforce. Most of our workforce (80%) calls in on a daily basis seeking employment for the following day.”
Valentine said the Staples Center will continue to pay out-of-work employees.
“Staples Center president Lee Zeidman has provided news that the Lakers and Clippers organizations pooled together some funds and will pay all employees who would have been scheduled for the canceled games taking place at the Center during those scheduled times only. This was big for the employees and we thank Lee and the two organizations for stepping up.”
He concluded by saying, “We, Officers of Local 33, have been in emergency meetings every day with different entities and most via phone conferencing trying to figure out ways we can get financial relief for our members. Ca. Rep. Adam Schiff is trying to pass an Act to recognize the entertainment division for relief. We the stagehands are the ‘below the line’ people who most live check to check in this business due to the seasonal flow of productions. We make what the area standards require and not much more. Now with COVID-19 hitting us at one of our busiest times, this will have a huge impact down the line for many of our members. This is the start of the ripple effect. Some productions have canceled their ‘once a year’ production and I expect a few more to follow as this goes on. Once again, canceling more employment as well.”