In the toughest 12 months, Hollywood’s unions had their most interesting hour. Together and individually, they navigated these first unsure days of the leisure trade shutdown a 12 months in the past this week and got here along with the main firms to develop protocols to get their members again to work as safely as potential. Their rallying cry was, “We’re all in this together.”
By the tip of that first horrible week, tens of 1000’s of their members would find themselves suddenly unemployed, ad infinitum to the staggering lack of jobs.
A report from the nonprofit Americans for the Arts estimates that 63% of the humanities work drive remained totally unemployed as of December and that 95% had reported earnings loss due to the pandemic. According to the report, the common arts employee misplaced $22,000 in creativity-based earnings final 12 months. IATSE alone reported that 120,000 of its 150,000 members had been out of labor by the tip of that first week as movie and tv production ground to a halt and theatrical venues shuttered in all places.
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IATSE Local 33, the 1,700-member stagehands union in Los Angeles, has been among the many trade’s hardest-hit unions, and three of its members have died from Covid-19. “Approximately 60% of our workforce is still not working due to the shutdown of live entertainment, theaters and movie theaters,” stated Ronnie Valentine, the native’s enterprise rep for tv/retailers. “There are still over 400 daily jobs not active that are ‘guaranteed work’ on a normal basis.”
The native itself, he stated, additionally has been “greatly impacted in a negative way. We recently put $1.5 million into a fund so that the members who are losing health insurance due to no work can get some assistance transitioning into a COBRA plan until work resumes. We have already spent $2.2 million in extending healthcare for four months, which ran out in November. But we are unable to continue that process with no income to the union itself.”
He added, “We see a possible decrease in membership once this is done, but we are trying to stay optimistic that during the summer the industry will open back up for live entertainment and we expect to be busier than ever with everybody trying to make up for lost time.”
Every different trade union has been hit simply as arduous – none extra so than Actors’ Equity, whose members suffered almost 100% unemployment due to the closure of live theater. Except for voice-over work in animation and commercials, which could be recorded remotely, SAG-AFTRA members additionally confronted file joblessness. So too have musicians, administrators and their directorial groups.
The early days
In that first week of the pandemic, the unions shut down their workplaces to guests and non-essential employees, and within the coming days they started furloughing a lot of their workers, whereas placing others on shorter hours – although many say they’re really working longer hours, on-call across the clock. But all through all of it, they nonetheless managed to offer important providers to their members, together with much-needed residuals checks and pension and well being advantages. And because the disaster deepened, they supplied loans to their members in want, and deferred dues funds; like their members, Hollywood’s unions have taken a serious monetary hit.
SAG-AFTRA lowered its workers by almost one-third. “As productions shut down across the industry, we took steps to protect core member services and the financial health of the institution,” SAG-AFTRA nationwide govt director David White instructed Deadline. “That included lowering our workers by a big proportion – simply over 30%. We’ve been very open with our members about this truth. However, we should all the time assume strategically, and through this time we’ve centered on innovating our operations to organize for the long run. As a end result, the group is extra resilient and a lot better ready to guard our members within the new technological age.
“As our finances grow again and we think about our post-pandemic staffing needs, we are now well positioned to ensure that we can fulfill our charge to our members: to protect and empower them as they strive to earn a living in a very difficult environment. As a professional advocate, letting employees go is an incredibly painful thing to do, but what is essential is to take such measures in the most ethical and strategic way possible. As we emerge from the pandemic and see the positive results of our decisions, our entire executive team is eager to rebuild. We are optimistic about the future of this union and about the growth and strength of our membership.”
By early June, the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force had issued a 22-page “White Paper” for the safe return to work, which heralded the reopening of movie and TV manufacturing in California and New York after a near-complete shutdown that lasted 2½ months.
That’s not uncommonly lengthy for a lot of who work in present enterprise, the place stretches of unemployment are to be anticipated, however 1000’s of actors additionally misplaced their day jobs, leaving them with none earnings in any respect. Expanded state and federal unemployment advantages and eviction moratoriums spared many from insolvency, however union members don’t pay dues on their unemployment advantages. With much less cash coming in, the unions lower prices, however have needed to do extra with much less for 12 months and counting. During the pandemic, much less work for members meant extra work for unions. And with smaller staffs.
Every Hollywood union and guild – besides the WGA and the American Federation of Musicians, which technically should not manufacturing unions – took half within the drafting of the White Paper tips, which had been submitted on June 2 to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, permitting manufacturing to renew in these states.
Two weeks later, the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters issued their “Safe Way Forward,” a set of protocols that had been conceived and initially drafted by a DGA committee of working members, based mostly upon shut session with infectious illness epidemiologists and different consultants. Simultaneously however independently, SAG-AFTRA had been working by itself protocols via its President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety, its workers, and skilled consultants. IATSE was additionally engaged in an analogous course of with its personal consultants. SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters all subsequently joined with the DGA within the effort to create the protocols.
“This pandemic has shined a spotlight on the important role the entertainment guilds and unions play for our members, and for the industry,” DGA president Thomas Schlamme instructed Deadline. “Covid-19 was perhaps the biggest disruption any of us have ever experienced. From the very beginning, the extraordinary challenge of getting our members and the industry back to work was at the top of our minds, but we could not do that without first ensuring it could happen safely.”
“We knew and were committed from the start that science would lead the way,” he stated. “The DGA consulted with the best virology and epidemiology experts out there, and brilliantly led by our national executive director Russell Hollander, we convened a member committee, chaired by Steven Soderbergh, to guide us through the process. We collaborated with SAG-AFTRA, the IATSE and Teamsters to develop industry-leading protocols because we all knew how important it would be for us to stand together. We published the Safe Way Forward report in June, and in a groundbreaking show of solidarity, we negotiated jointly with multiple employers to make sure we got this right. To date, the protocols have allowed the industry to resume production with low incidence of Covid-19 transmission, and we continue to work together to monitor new developments and make adjustments as necessary.”
Although the preliminary White Paper supplied a basis for state companies to permit the resumption of manufacturing, and supplied steering for employers to observe, it expressly famous that the precise protocols concerning necessary testing, private protecting gear and department-specific procedures “would be the subject of further discussions and agreement between the producers and the unions.”
In September, an agreement was reached on a final set of protocols, codified into contract language, after prolonged negotiations between the movie and TV firms – led by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers – and the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and Hollywood Teamsters Local 399. It took longer than many union leaders would have favored, however it was higher than getting it incorrect.
Those protocols, which made TV and movie units a number of the most secure workplaces within the nation, established tips that included necessary testing for Covid-19, necessary Covid-19 compliance officers, symptom screening, masks and different PPE, bodily distancing, disinfection and upkeep, paid go away insurance policies, and a system of “zones” to make sure that completely different sections of a manufacturing could possibly be tightly managed to ascertain boundaries inside which these on set can transfer about based mostly on proximity to forged.
SAG-AFTRA nationwide govt director David WhiteThe protocols and our course of have served as a mannequin for different industries and have achieved all of this with out vital battles between administration and labor. This is a large success. I doubt you will discover one other trade that achieved comparable success with out authorities mandate or intervention.”
The 57-page doc they produced expires on April 30, and the unions and firms at the moment are gearing up to renegotiate it. The firms and the unions have been making minor changes to the protocols as situations advanced, however Covid-19 vaccinations haven’t been required for forged and crew members. That may change, nevertheless, now that vaccines have gotten extra usually accessible. SAG-AFTRA stated earlier this month that “from the start of the pandemic, safety and a safer return to work have been a priority for SAG-AFTRA. Vaccinations are the most vital part in the next phase of combating this virus and getting back to work safely.”
And by all accounts, the protocols have labored. In January, SAG-AFTRA referred to as them “a remarkable success,” and the DGA stated they’ve been “largely effective in catching infected individuals before they are contagious, and limiting the potential spread on set.”
“Every union and every studio hired a team of public health experts to inform our leadership about the dangers of this new virus,” stated SAG-AFTRA’s White. “We then each formulated our own plans to build a safe production environment. The unions then came together to build a singular plan while the studios did the same. Then all the parties spent hours each day for weeks to work through every detail of each one of our plans to build a general industry-wide plan to keep everyone safe while continuing to produce during a health crisis that happens once, hopefully, in a century.”
“Frankly,” he stated, “it is not surprising that this took the length of the summer to achieve. I am thrilled to say that, once established, our safety protocols have indeed kept our members safe while working. The protocols and our process have served as a model for other industries and have achieved all of this without significant battles between management and labor. This is a huge success. I doubt you can find another industry that achieved similar success without government mandate or intervention.”
Union solidarity by no means has been higher than throughout the pandemic. Hollywood’s unions have sponsored quite a few applications to assist their members take care of all the pieces from honing their expertise for when jobs return, to psychological well being and meals insecurity. IATSE, working with meals banks throughout the nation, has delivered thousands of meals, not solely to its personal members, however to members of different trade unions as properly.
Separately, whether or not they endorsed candidates or not, Hollywood’s unions additionally went full-out to end up the vote that noticed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win the November election, turn the Senate blue and maintain labor-friendly Democrats in charge of the House.
And collectively they banded collectively to foyer Congress to go the $2 trillion CARES Act, a part of which expanded key advantages for a whole bunch of 1000’s of trade employees who misplaced jobs due to the coronavirus shutdown of movie, TV and theater productions throughout the nation. Signed by President Donald Trump final March, it expanded unemployment advantages for lots of the trade’s abruptly unemployed employees, and added an additional $600 every week on high of their common state unemployment advantages for 4 months, in addition to $1,200 in direct funds to most taxpayers.
Last month, leaders of the DGA, SAG-AFTRA and IATSE lobbied congressional leaders once more – this time to work with President Biden to go the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, saying that it’ll present “much-needed relief for the current crisis and address long-standing vulnerabilities in our economy.” Passed by Congress, Biden signed the bill into regulation on Thursday.
Business as (not) regular
And whereas the pandemic impacted just about each side of the unions’ operations, there was nonetheless the same old work of unions to be carried out. Pandemic or not, 2020 noticed the renegotiation of movie and TV contracts by the DGA, SAG-AFTRA and the WGA.
The DGA reached an agreement with the AMPTP for a brand new movie and TV contract on March 4 – simply days earlier than the shutdown started – and its members ratified it April 3. The new settlement, which set the sample of bargaining for the opposite guilds to observe, achieved vital beneficial properties in residuals for brand new reveals made for streaming, which DGA leaders hailed as “a major victory for our members.”
The DGA famous that all through the pandemic, it “worked hard to support members across all fronts, negotiating for additional pay, fast-tracking residuals, and providing dues relief.”
SAG-AFTRA was subsequent to discount for a brand new movie and TV contract, reaching an agreement with the AMPTP on June 11 that it stated would enhance members’ incomes by $318 million over three years, and included beneficial properties in residuals for authentic reveals made for high-budget streaming platforms. In August, the union negotiated a brand new TV animation contract, and final month, promulgated its first-ever contract masking “influencers.”
The pandemic even modified the best way SAG-AFTRA ruled itself – at the least quickly. In the primary weeks of the pandemic, SAG-AFTRA’s board voted to present the union’s 38-person govt committee the authority to take actions on behalf of the board throughout “this time of extraordinary national emergency.” The board resumed its authority, nevertheless, in time to vote to kick Trump out of the union for inciting the Jan. 6 revolt on the U.S. Capitol, and to completely ban him from rejoining after he resigned, petty as ever, earlier than he could possibly be expelled.
The WGA, in the meantime, averted a strike throughout the pandemic by reaching an eleventh-hour agreement with the AMPTP for its personal new movie and TV contact on July 1. The deal achieved lots of the phrases sought by the guild, however the pandemic clearly lowered its bargaining energy, with the WGA negotiating committee noting that “although the ongoing global pandemic and economic uncertainty limited our ability to exercise real collective power to achieve many other important and necessary contract goals, we remain committed to pursuing those goals in future negotiations.”
And all through the pandemic, the WGA continued to pursue, and finally win, its almost two-year battle with the main expertise companies, securing an historic victory final month with the signing of WME – the final company holdout – to its franchise settlement. The deal, which ended a long-running authorized battle, will ban packaging charges by 2022 and restrict the companies’ possession pursuits in affiliated manufacturing firms to simply 20%, ending the main companies’ conflicted enterprise practices by returning them to a ten% commissioning enterprise mannequin not seen in a long time. The unparalleled victory, led by WGA West govt director David Young and president David A. Goodman, was received by the unwavering solidarity of WGA members who fired their brokers en masse who refused to comply with the guild’s code of conduct.
Funds transfer ahead
The pandemic stored individuals aside, however it additionally introduced union leaders and their members collectively like by no means earlier than, all in pursuit of the frequent good. Providing monetary help was key to unions’ efforts to maintain their members afloat.
In the primary week of the shutdown, IATSE’s General Executive Board dedicated $2.5 million to The Actors Fund, the Motion Picture & Television Fund, and The Actors Fund of Canada to be distribute to IATSE members in want “during this dire time.”
Ten days into the lockdown, Actors’ Equity introduced the creation of the Actors’ Equity Emergency Curtain Up Fund, and issued a grant to The Actors Fund to offer assist for members in danger attributable to work cancellations ensuing from Covid-19. Actors’ Equity contributed $500,000 to launch the fund and pledged to match one other $250,000 in contributions from different donors, greenback for greenback.
Last March, the Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, allotted $500,000 to its Hardship Fund to offer $1,000 grants to members in want who’d misplaced their jobs, and gave its members 100% dues reduction for the dues-paying quarter starting April 1. The Editors Guild, IATSE Local 600, adopted go well with, lowering dues by 50% for the second quarter of 2020. Nearly all of the trade’s unions and guild would give their members dues reduction, together with SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, Actors’ Equity, the Producers Guild, IATSE Grips Local 80, IATSE Costumers Local 705, IATSE Make-Up & Hair Stylists Guild Local 706, Hollywood’s Teamsters Local 399 and L.A.’s Musicians Local 47.
On April 2, the Directors Guild Foundation introduced the creation of a Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund to assist members dealing with monetary disaster. The grants from this new Fund had been along with the Foundation’s longstanding interest-free mortgage program that supplied help to members experiencing monetary hardships and emergencies. Later that month, the trustees of the DGA-Producer Pension and Health Plans introduced that they’d permit members to take as much as $20,000 in loans towards their Supplemental Benefit Plan’s retirement funds “to assist participants experiencing financial hardship during the unprecedented work stoppage during the COVID-19 crisis.”
In May, Hollywood’s Teamsters Local 399 accepted an Emergency Recovery Fund that allotted as much as $500,000 from the Local’s treasury, to be administered by the Motion Picture & Television Fund, to help members who “have found themselves in extreme financial hardship because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The WGA West, which throughout its battle with the expertise companies had launched a sequence of initiatives to assist its agentless members discover jobs, is offering interest-free loans of as much as $14,000 to members in want via its Good and Welfare Emergency Assistance Fund.
The American Federation of Musicians additionally arrange a Musicians’ Relief Fund to help members “confronting extraordinary financial challenges” on account of the pandemic.
But the SAG-AFTRA Foundation outdid all of them. By November, it had distributed greater than $6 million in Covid-19 emergency reduction to greater than 6,500 of the union’s members and their households in want.
During the disaster, SAG-AFTRA additionally turned a frontrunner within the subject of member outreach, internet hosting webinars, seminars and summits on all the pieces from unemployment help, fairness and inclusion, and the back-to-work protocols, to wellness and psychological well being, casting and performing ideas, labor innovation and expertise, and adjustments to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan. The union additionally hosted conversations with political leaders on all kinds of points affecting its members. Zoom conferences sprang up in all places; SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris was just about omnipresent.
“The pandemic has magnified and clarified, beyond question, that in this day and age workers of all industries need to have the support and backing of a collective voice,” Carteris stated. “We have seen that without the unified collective, it is every person for themselves.”
“During the pandemic,” she stated, “it was leisure content material that helped individuals handle via the turmoil. It was leisure trade unions that drove the design of security protocols and practices that helped guarantee a safer office. It was the work of our union, together with the whole labor motion, that helped safe pandemic reduction and assist for American residents.
“Unions are people. Union members are at the forefront of the fight to level the playing feel and to care for our citizens in this terrible time. Union members like nurses, teachers, janitors, grocery workers, first responders in many other fields kept the country going allowing many of us to stay safely in our homes. Union members protected us during the pandemic and they are driving our recovery.”
“When I speak to members, what they share is their pride in SAG-AFTRA membership,” she stated. “Their personal stories represent the moments in their careers where they have been grateful for the union’s help, support or service. They have expressed their gratitude for the protocols that help us get back to work, the safety standards and procedures for sexually explicit scenes, and the educational and informational seminars, podcasts and other content we have made available during the pandemic. Members have personally let me know how grateful they are for the work we do bargaining and enforcing contracts and preserving their residuals.”
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle CarterisThe pandemic has magnified and clarified, past query, that this present day employees of all industries must have the assist and backing of a collective voice.
She says he found her personal appreciation for the union when she was partially paralyzed on a set in Canada, throughout a battle scene, almost 14 years in the past. “Until that point, the union was just a building occupied with lawyers negotiating my contracts. I discovered the real union when I reached out for help and they were there to give me support. The union and our members spoke on my behalf and I have been of service ever since. It has been, and is, an honor to work with and on behalf of my fellow brothers and sisters. I have learned the true meaning of strength in unity.”
It must be famous that Carteris – like Schlamme on the DGA, Goodman on the WGA West and Beau Willimon on the WGA East and all of their quite a few vice presidents, secretary-treasurers, and board, council and committee members – obtain no pay for his or her service. The similar is true for Actors’ Equity president Kate Shindle, many of the leaders of IATSE’s locals, and lots of the trade’s different unions as properly. Their staffs and executives are paid, however for probably the most half, the elected management of the trade’s unions are unpaid volunteers.
And though the unions got here collectively like by no means earlier than, there have been nonetheless occasional inner and internecine battles. In October, SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity turned embroiled in a bitter jurisdictional dispute over the taping of dwell stage shows. Because of the shuttering of dwell theater throughout the nation, Equity figured it may put its members again to work by permitting producers to tape reveals with out audiences.
SAG-AFTRA, nevertheless, insisted that taped shows have all the time fallen below its jurisdiction and contracts, however supplied its sister union a waiver to assist out their fellow actors throughout the coronavirus shutdown. The dispute was settled, after some heated exchanges, in November when SAG-AFTRA agreed – with out ceding its jurisdiction – that Equity may cowl the work throughout the pandemic interval, with a time period ending on December 31, 2021, topic to sure limitations, together with a prohibition of distribution of the taped reveals on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and different streaming providers.
SAG-AFTRA was not with out inner dissent both, even throughout the pandemic. The large lack of jobs, and the ensuing lack of contributions to its already ailing Health Plan, compelled the Plan’s trustees to lift premiums and eligibility thresholds, efficient January 1, 2021. Dissidents, led by former SAG president Ed Asner, argued that the adjustments disproportionately affected older members, and filed go well with, claiming age discrimination – a cost the trustees vehemently deny. That dispute is ongoing.
The large lack of jobs has induced 1000’s of trade employees to lose their union well being protection, and the ensuing lack of employer contributions to the plans has created a big drain on their reserves.
To assist members maintain their well being advantages, trustees of the DGA-Producers Pension & Health Plans supplied three separate rounds of premium-free COBRA protection to members who misplaced their well being protection throughout the pandemic. In August, the trustees stated the transfer was made in recognition of “the continued shutdown of production since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the impact this has on participants.” The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) permits eligible staff who’ve misplaced their jobs to proceed receiving well being advantages.
On Oct. 1, the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan started providing an 80% discount in COBRA premiums for members who not certified for protection, saying that “Despite the serious financial challenges facing the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan, Plan trustees are committed to helping as many participants keep their health coverage as is sustainable for the Plan.” That discount got here on the heels of a 50% premium discount for the second quarter of 2020 for energetic and COBRA members.
In its response to the pandemic, the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans, which coverers West Coast members of IATSE and plenty of different below-the-line employees, granted as much as six months of particular no-cost COBRA protection starting on November 1 for many who met its enrollment necessities. The Plan famous that it “is aware that many Participants are experiencing an unexpected reduction in hours due to coronavirus-related production shutdowns that may impact future health plan eligibility.”
Social justice takes middle stage
In the center of the pandemic, just about all the trade’s unions and guilds additionally responded to the social justice motion and the Black Lives Matter protests that had been sparked by the loss of life of George Floyd final May, main a number of unions to re-examine their very own roles within the lack of variety among the many ranks of their members.
In June, IATSE’s management acknowledged the union’s position in failing to upend “systemic racism in the arts and entertainment industry.” Calling for industrywide motion, they vowed to do the “hard work” wanted to “create real, lasting change.”
“We have not always lived up to our own values and ideals of unionism, through our action, inaction, apathy, and at times ambivalence,” IATSE president Matt Loeb and the union’s whole govt board stated in an announcement. “For too long, we have turned a blind eye to the need for our workspaces to represent all members of our society, and for all workers to have an equal opportunity to enter the entertainment industry. We can do better. We must do better. We will do better.”
That similar month, Actors’ Equity, acknowledged its “historic culpability in perpetuating inequity.” And on that very same day, the 4,300-member Stage Directors and Choreographers Society conceded its “own responsibility” for the shortage of Broadway jobs for its members of coloration.
The DGA and the WGA West each launched TV variety reviews throughout the pandemic – time consuming surveys that present how far the trade has come, and the way far it nonetheless has to go, to realize fairness.
Citing regular beneficial properties for ladies and underrepresented TV writers over the previous 5 years, the WGA West’s Inclusion Report, launched in June, stated that “If these trends continue, women and people of color could achieve parity in TV employment within the next two years.” The report, nevertheless, famous that “In spite of this progress, systemic discrimination against writers from underrepresented groups remains pervasive in the entertainment industry.” And in December, the WGA West issued a set of neighborhood requirements to handle problems with bias, discrimination, inequity, bullying and sexual harassment within the office.
The DGA Inclusion Report, released last month, discovered that the share of episodic TV reveals directed by ladies and other people of coloration has reached “new highs,” with ladies directing greater than a 3rd of TV episodes within the 2019-20 season, and administrators of coloration helming almost a 3rd of the episodes. Latinos and ladies of coloration, nevertheless, “continued to be severely underrepresented despite their sizable and growing presence in the population.”
Also final month, leaders of SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, IATSE, the WGA East and Actors Equity, together with leaders from a number of different leisure unions, outlined their legislative agenda to advance variety, fairness and inclusion within the arts, leisure and media industries, and referred to as on Congress to go a flurry of laws to extend federal arts funding; set up variety targets for grant recipients; to leverage federal tax incentives to encourage various hiring, and to guard the rights of unions to prepare nonunion employees. “As unions, we hold a fundamental belief that diversity is a strength,” the union leaders stated in a joint assertion.
“As we have sheltered in place, we have witnessed the realities of systemic racism,” Carteris instructed Deadline. “The pandemic opened a window into this truth for many citizens of this country who before had not given diversity, equity and justice much thought.”
Inclusion, in any case, is simply one other method of claiming: “We’re all in this together.”