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Michigan stagehands to rally June 24 for unemployment extension

By Tom Burke |
June 22, 2020
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Michigan stagehands to rally June 24 for unemployment extension

Grand Rapids, MI - Union stagehands and gig workers are rallying to extend unemployment at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on June 24 at 10 a.m.

“We need unemployment to ‘Extend to the end!’” said one of the organizers, Walter Shink, a union stagehand. Shink is worried that there is no end date for the COVID-19 crisis. For stagehands who work at large concert arenas, inside theaters or at corporate shows, there is no return to work. Most events are not set to come back until 2021.

“Workers are the ones who pay into unemployment. That money belongs to us. In this crisis it should be paid out to those who need it. We are going to be out of jobs for many months and we need income for stagehands and all gig workers in this economy,” said Josh Roskamp, business agent for the stagehands’ union IATSE Local 26 in West Michigan.

Roskamp continued, “There is a lot of anxiety for stagehands and gig workers. This includes ticket takers, security, catering, bartenders and the whole hospitality and entertainment industries. We need the HEROES Act passed by the U.S. Senate and something to replace the CARES Act so we can pay our bills. We need to pay mortgages and rent, we need to feed our children, and health insurance is in jeopardy as rates are about to skyrocket. We know the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Senate already gave away billions to Wall Street. We want President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell to give us the unemployment money we already worked and paid for. At least we earned it.”

The union’s press release states: “IATSE is the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the labor union behind entertainment. We are the people in black moving behind the scenes of events great and small; more often than not you do not see or hear us. But on Wednesday June 24th we plan to gather at the Lansing State Capitol because in this time of crisis we must be seen and heard.

“Our industry relies on the gathering of large crowds and whether it is a full-scale arena tour, trade show, theatrical performance, comedy show, music festival, community event, or symphony performance there is a large crew of industry professionals who make it all possible. We know the importance of moving back into normalcy with the greatest precautions and understand our industry will be the last to return. We seek to inform the public and our representatives in the house and senate of our dire situation:

- The CARES Act ends July 31
- Michigan unemployment ends at 26 weeks+ 13
- The HEROES Act is in the hands of a skeptical Senate
- Numerous tours are postponed or canceled
- Many events are tentatively looking to Summer/Fall 2021

“We will not be returning to our craft when the financial relief we have been given thus far is set to expire. The uncertainty of our future weighs heavily on all gig workers, as the necessity of financial assistance is undeniable. Please work with us to extend unemployment benefits during this unprecedented crisis that leaves our profession at a standstill.”

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