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IATSE marches across Providence to draw attention to the plight of theater workers



We need people to know to know that individuals, companies and organizations in our industry are on the brink of bankruptcy, and many workers have been pushed to the brink of homelessness, if not actually homeless.

Nearly two hundred members and allies of IATSE Local 23 gathered at the corner of Richmond and Pine Streets near the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence to march across town the Dunkin Donuts Center. IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) members, “the union behind entertainment,” were especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with live performance venues all over the world shut down. Now that the CARES Act funding has dried up, 77% of workers in the industry have lost 100% of their income and 97% of IATSE workers have lost their jobs entirely, according the William Brackett Jr, President of IATSE Local 23.

IATSE has a series of legislative demands:

  • Extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for as long as the health crisis persists.
  • Ensure the safety of entertainment workers as states allow workplaces to re-open by ordering OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard that establishes an employer’s responsibility to protect workers from infection. Under current standards no such obligation exists which leaves the door open and put workers and their families at risk.
  • Preserve workers’ healthcare and ensure that no-one loses their benefits because of job loss
  • Allow all nonprofits fair access to the government economic support in the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as expanded funding available
  • Protect the healthy pension plans and earned pension checks of workers
  • Update the Qualified Performing Artist tax deduction, allowing creative professionals to keep more of our hard-earned money by deducting necessary business expenses from their taxes, now due in July.
  • Provide direct economic support for organizations in the arts, entertainment, and media industries with appropriate workforce restoration requirements to get people back to work when it is safe to do so.

Here’s video from the march across town:

“We need people to know to know that individuals, companies and organizations in our industry are on the brink of bankruptcy,” said William Brackett Jr, President of IATSE Local 23. “And many workers have been pushed to the brink of homelessness, if not actually homeless.”

“There are people that are facing dire circumstances, and we have to act in Washington,” said Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed. “We have to renew unemployment compensation benefits. We have to pass PPE bills. We also have to pass the Save Our Stages Act, and I’m a cosponsor. That would provide money directly to live venues so that they could support themselves while they’re not operating.”

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Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner:

Patrick Crowley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO:

United States Representative David Cicilline:

IATSE also joined with a national #WeMakeEvents movement, illuminating buildings across the country in red lights from 9pm to midnight in support of theater workers.

See also this excellent piece in Motif from Michael Bilow.

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.