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Michigan workers demand $600 unemployment from U.S. Rep. Huizenga

By Tom Burke |
July 24, 2020
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Grandville, MI - Stagehands held signs and rallied outside the office of U.S. Representative Bill Huizenga in this suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Huizenga, like all but one Republican, voted against the HEROES Act in the House of Representatives.

Joining workers in other states, stagehands across Michigan are gathering outside politicians’ offices to demand extending unemployment into next year. The stagehands, who are normally working behind the scenes, were out in front on June 23 chanting, “They say cut back! We say fight back!” and “What do we want? $600!”

Stagehands, like other entertainment and hospitality workers, are surviving on unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis. In West Michigan nearly 100% are out of work until March 2021, when arena concerts, Broadway tours, big church events, and conventions resume.

If the $600 boost runs out on July 25 in Michigan, the average worker will go from making 98% of their pay, down to 35% of their pay. Then around September, the regular unemployment will run out for most.

“We paid into unemployment our entire working lives. It is our money and we need it now to pay our bills, pay for housing and pay for healthcare,” said Josh Roskamp, IATSE Local 26 business agent.

Roskamp continued, “There are no sports. No concerts. No theater. No work. Economists and industry leaders are telling us our jobs will not come back until spring of 2021. We need Representative Huizenga to tell Senator Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators that we need the $600 now until we can get back to work.”

The action was well received by the thousands of people in cars passing through the busy intersection on Rivertown Parkway in Grandville where a large shopping complex sits. The majority gave thumbs up, waved and honked their horns. Many raised fists in solidarity and shouted support at the stop lights.

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