The decision by nearly two dozen Republican governed states to terminate federal pandemic unemployment insurance programs months before they are currently set to expire in September pulls the rug out from live event workers who have already suffered enough.
Throughout the pandemic, the unemployment insurance provisions passed in the CARES Act and most recently the American Rescue Plan Act have been lifelines for workers in our most devastated industries. But live events workers have wanted to get back to work doing what they love since last March, and just as they are preparing to do so, right-wing politicians, armed with voodoo economics and a new big lie that “no one wants to work” have conspired to starve these workers into low wage jobs outside their industry.
Lifting COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings doesn’t magically make the live events industry reappear overnight. It takes months for events to be planned, tours to be booked, and tickets to be sold. At this moment, there are scarcely any jobs for entertainment workers to return to yet.
But as the live events industry slowly regains steam and approaches full operational status in the coming months, employers will require dependable, skilled workers who are readily available to get the job done. By ending the federal pandemic unemployment insurance programs prematurely, our members are left to worry that taking interim employment outside the industry will make it more difficult to eventually find live events work again, while our largest employers are left to worry there won’t be enough skilled workers genuinely available to accommodate the volume of live events and trade shows when the industry reaches full capacity. In other words, this harebrained scheme threatens to disrupt the economic recovery of the live events industry and the very workers who produce American culture in “red” states become collateral damage.
IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb said “This is yet another example of how what we win at the bargaining table, we can lose at the ballot box, not just at the federal level, but also the state and local levels. It’s beyond the pale that we have a major political party in this country that has chosen to stonewall my IATSE sisters, brothers, and kin from receiving meaningful COVID-19 relief at every turn. We haven’t forgotten that every last Republican member of Congress voted against the American Rescue Plan Act just two and a half months ago. And if my memory serves me correctly, this is precisely the kind of counterproductive and deeply unpopular economic policy that caused their party to lose both chambers of Congress and the presidency by millions of votes in the 2020 elections.”
IATSE urges all states to continue the federal pandemic unemployment insurance programs that are providing relief to entertainment workers who lost work through no fault of their own, until they are called back to work. Many IATSE members across the country will not resume full employment in live events until the late-fall or winter. Congress must enact an extension of federal pandemic unemployment insurance past its proposed September 6 expiration date and ensure that these critical benefits are accessible to all Americans.