‘We’re in a crisis’: Workers describe a dire situation in a shuttered industry
SEATTLE (Sept. 2, 2020) — On Tuesday, hundreds of live events workers marched through downtown Seattle, stopping at several venues, and ending at Westlake Park for a rally. The #RedAlert event was intended to raise public awareness around how COVID-19 could permanently harm the live event arts.
“We’re in a crisis,” says Jennifer Bacon, President of IATSE Local 15. “When the pandemic hit, things changed overnight. Shows stopped and thousands of us were without a job. Months later, I’m worried that some in the industry will never recover.”
With theatres, events, and other performance venues indefinitely closed due to the pandemic, workers have few options. Unemployment is at nearly 100 percent and, months later, venues show no sign of reopening.
Longtime industry workers fear that the longer the pandemic keeps venues shut down, workers will leave seeking other careers, causing irreparable damage. After the $600 per week federal unemployment benefits expired last month, this trend has accelerated.
“For many of us, the $600 per week was the only thing keeping us afloat,” said Allison Woods, a stagehand represented by IATSE Local 15 for 33 years. “Ever since those benefits expired I have heard from so many colleagues that they’re moving on to a new career. We are seeing our arts industry die before our very eyes.”
In addition to the enhanced unemployment benefits, workers called for Congress to pass the RESTART Act with labor protections included.
The #RedAlert event was part of a national day of action organized by #WeMakeEvents, a coalition of trade bodies, businesses, unions, and live events workers coming together to raise public awareness and advocate for the live events sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— MLK Labor (@MLKLabor) September 2, 2020
MLK Labor is the central body of labor organizations in King County, Washington. We represent more than 150 unions and 100,000 workers. United, we are a voice for the interests and needs of working people in King County. IATSE Local 15 represents theatre and event technicians in Western Washington – no one matches the knowledge and experience of our Technicians and Artisans.
► From the Spokesman-Review — ‘The impact has just been massive’: Spokane venues call on Congress to rescue live events industry with stalled legislation — Spokane event venues were awash in red light Tuesday as part of a nationwide campaign to call on Congress to provide a lifeline to a live events industry that has been decimated by COVID-19. The #RedAlertRESTART campaign, organized by a coalition of entertainment-sector businesses and workers, lit venues including the Spokane Arena, the Knitting Factory and the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in support of the RESTART Act, a bipartisan bill that has languished since being introduced in the Senate in May.