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Stagehands to hold Labor Day “Push for $600” in Michigan

By Tom Burke |
September 4, 2020
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Stagehands “Push for $600” in Michigan.
Stagehands “Push for $600” in Michigan. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Grand Rapids, MI - Joining other unions across the United States on Labor Day, IATSE union stagehands are holding a “Push for $600” on Monday, September 7, 11 a.m. near the Gerald R. Ford Museum. Currently there are 29 million workers receiving some form of unemployment across the U.S.

“There are no concerts, theater performances, in-person meetings or conventions for stagehands to work at and we need the $600 to pay our bills. Economists and industry owners are saying we cannot start work again until spring 2021 or later,” said Josh Roskamp, business agent for the stagehands union IATSE Local 26.

Roskamp continued, “We are pushing for $600 now because Congress returns from vacation on September 8. We need the Republicans in the U.S. Senate to take action now! Mitch McConnell knows there are no jobs because we sent McConnell hundreds, probably thousands of postcards, emails and letters. We need unemployment extended until it is safe for us to work. We need the $600 so we can stay in our homes, pay for health care and feed our families.”

Workers across the country see the bailouts for the rich while being told to find non-existent jobs. Workers, especially in specialized positions like stagehands, know there are 29 million out of work and resent being told to “find something new” by White House spokesperson Ivanka Trump back in July.

There are 140,000 IATSE union stagehands across the country, with 95% out of work. They know they cannot return to their jobs in the entertainment industry until it is safe. They also know they paid into unemployment insurance on every paycheck over the years. So now there is an expectation for a $600 extension until their jobs restart.

The current economic downturn brings mass unemployment now, but is likely to have long lasting negatives for the working class. The boom and bust cycle of monopoly capitalism is driving the current economic crisis. The downturn is comparable to the Great Recession of 2008.

States like Michigan continue to lose manufacturing jobs, with workers replaced by high tech machines and robots. These jobs are not coming back. Meanwhile, politicians will continue to bail out big companies and owners, boosting the stock market.

Joining stagehands across the country, IATSE Local 26 in West Michigan will be pushing road cases, the symbol of their industry, around downtown Grand Rapids. They will pass by the U.S. Post Office in solidarity with union postal workers and to oppose President Trump’s efforts to close USPS down.

The road cases will have signs reading, “Push for $600” and “Extend unemployment now!” The stagehands and gig workers will gather at the Spirit of Solidarity monument near the Grand River for speeches and to celebrate unions and the workers’ struggle in the 21st century. The union monument commemorates a four-month strike by furniture workers in 1911.

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