IATSE president Matthew Loeb has released a video detailing the union’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has idled most of the below-the-line union’s members.
“I want to talk to you about the biggest challenge that’s faced the union since its founding in 1893,” he said in the video posted on IATSE’s website Wednesday morning. “As a result of the coronavirus, virtually all of our work shut down immediately, causing severe unemployment for the better part of our 150,000 members.”
“Our efforts have been tireless, to lobby, to ensure the inclusion of entertainment industry workers in any legislation that the government puts forward,” he went on. “We lobbied tirelessly for the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) to provide urgent financial assistance to our members to make sure the entertainment industry was included. You sent over 107,00 letters to members of Congress.”
Loeb mentioned talking to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and said she had recognized and accepted the needs of IATSE members. He also talked about Adam Schiff’s letter to Congress that had over three dozen signatures from Congress members who also supported the call for entertainment workers to be included in any relief package.
He also brought up the success of some Canadian lobbying efforts, which have resulted in an unemployment insurance benefit, a Canadian emergency response benefit of $2,000 per month for four months and a wage subsidy for businesses to continue to be able to pay employees.
“We have to continue to lobby in both the United States and Canada on a state level, on a municipal level in order to secure our future, whether it’s for IATSE members or support for our employers,” he added.
“We’re doing a lot of things to help,” Loeb continued. “We’re sewing masks, we’re making shields, we’re collecting gear from hospital shows to give to medical facilities. And we’re offering assistance to coordinate equipment we have and use that may also be beneficial in the effort against the coronavirus.”
Furthermore, Loeb pointed members to its new initiative IATSE Cares. The initiative facilitates volunteer deliveries for at-risk members, such as the elderly and/or disabled members during the crisis, and features a buddy system where volunteers can check in with other members by phone.
“The most important thing of all is you stay healthy and safe,” Loeb concluded. “You follow the advice to keep safe.”
“This union has been through wars, plagues, terrorist attacks and strikes and natural disasters since 1893. Through our collective strength and our voice and our spirit of compassion and commitment, we’ve gotten through and we’re going to get through this too.”