Makeup artists, set designers, prop fitters and other Hollywood workers rallied outside City Hall in Los Angeles on Thursday, pushing government officials to offer more help during the actors’ strike.
The grassroots workers, joined by actors, writers and directors, have called on the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance to increase unemployment benefits and for Gov. Gavin Newsom to intervene in negotiations. to stay at the bargaining table and negotiate with the actors to return to work.
“We’re here because we felt that six months out of a job is something the government needs to focus on,” said Farah Bunch, a makeup artist for Local 706 of the International Alliance of Theater Stage Workers, which helped organize the rally. “People are losing their entire livelihoods.”
The meeting began at noon, when AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA were scheduled to return to negotiations. Calls for the rally began during a nearly two-week hiatus after the studios rejected SAG-AFTRA’s proposal to impose a fee on every streaming platform subscriber, resulting in the funds being distributed to members.
Outside City Hall, nearly 200 attendees from all corners of the entertainment industry chanted “Stay at the Table – Film Industry Unite!”, “Expand the EDD” and “Help the Band. “
Katie Baccaro, production manager and a member of the Directors Guild of America, who also helped organize the event, said, “Downstream workers, small businesses, vendors and caterers are largely being overlooked. There was no help from the government when the citizens were in crisis.”
A petition with nearly 25,000 signatures was sent to Newsom asking for increased unemployment benefits for workers affected by the strike. Unemployment benefits in California are currently $450 per week for up to 26 weeks. With the writer’s strike beginning in May and the actors’ strike no end in sight, some workers’ stipends are about to expire or have already expired.
Joshua Bryan, who works in craft services and is a member of IATSE Local 80, said, “You hear about the writers and the actors, but not about the staff who haven’t been on the job for five or six months. because I didn’t know how long it would last. If I knew what I know now, I would have found a job.”
Asked about a return to negotiations, Bryan emphasized that he was hopeful but not optimistic. “How many times did they talk and leave? It affects a lot of people you don’t hear about.”
Among those people is Robert Litomiski, owner of Hollywood Clapper Boards. With business down 80 percent since May, he said he’s down from three full-time employees to just one.
“We are a bellwether for the health of the industry,” he said. “There have been layoffs before, like in 2008 and with COVID, but nothing like this. We are currently working with fog.”
Tara Stephenson-Fong, owner of Hollywood Studio Gallery and also a decorator, said she similarly had to make five of her eight employees part-time. Through a job-sharing program with the state Department of Employment Development, workers can still receive unemployment benefits and continue their health insurance.
The film and television industry shed 7,000 jobs in September after losing 17,000 jobs in August, according to the US Labor Bureau. Industrial employment has fallen by 45,000 since May.
At the rally, several IATSE members emphasized their solidarity with SAG-AFTRA. Their contract with AMPTP will expire next year.
Asked about the possibility of respecting a potential IATSE picket line, SAG-AFTRA member Karis Campbell said, “Solidarity is a promise” and “anything less than that would be disrespectful.” He added: “Everybody in this town makes sacrifices. Will we have an appetite for it? Probably not, but we have to fight for what is right.”
Adam Cuthbert, a member of the Directors Guild of America, emphasized: “We will support IATSE in everything we do. They are the skeleton of Hollywood’s body. You can’t turn on the light without them.”
IATSE members will not be eligible for unemployment insurance if they go on strike next year. In September, Newsom vetoed legislation that would have allowed striking workers to collect such benefits in a move that drew widespread criticism in Hollywood (New York and New Jersey allow it). It was among a series of anti-labor actions that vetoed bills that would have prohibited employers from punishing public workers for respecting picket lines and expanding worker’s compensation benefits for certain workers.
“Being a pro-union governor doesn’t mean you get to be with us when it’s convenient,” Teamsters Joint Council 7 President Jason Rabinowitz said in a statement. “This means that when it’s time to sign legislation that supports organized labor, you can count.”