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A new Michigan rally for ‘HEROES Act now’ set for July 15

By Tom Burke

Stagehands and gig workers demand extension of benefits for the unemployed.

Grand Rapids, MI – After a lively rally on June 24 with nearly 100 workers, the stagehands union IATSE is calling a new rally on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol for July 15. The stagehands and other gig workers are demanding the passage of the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act by the U.S. Senate. July 25 is looming as the $600 per week unemployment boost that keeps people paying their bills is set to run out. Tensions are rising not just in Michigan, but also for stagehands from New York City to Hollywood, across the whole country.

“The U.S. House of Representatives gave us hope by passing the HEROES Act,” said Josh Roskamp of IATSE Union Local 26. “Unfortunately, the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate, leader Mitch McConnell in particular, is stalling on giving us what we need. They say $600 is too much. They claim we don’t want to work, but they know full well that we cannot work!”

Roskamp continues, “We all saw the disaster of opening bars and restaurants in June. Now people are suffering and dying from COVID-19 at high rates. The events and entertainment industry is shut down until the COVID-19 pandemic is treated as a serious public health crisis. Most touring concerts and theater shows are not going back on the road until after March 2021. Millions of us are unemployed. We need to pay our bills and feed our families. This is our fight to live!”

Lindsey Katerberg of Local 26 said, “We are speaking out for non-union workers too. We are in this fight together. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits those in our industry who cannot claim unemployment. It will continue to remain vital past the current expiration of July 31. We need to raise base benefits at the state level in Michigan, to extend state unemployment, and set minimum wage for essential workers at $13 per hour.”

Joe Miller of Local 38 in Detroit said, “Most of us have never filed for unemployment, never had to. You are looking at people that would rather be working. We don’t want to sit home. Now due to mishandling of the crisis, we do not see a particularly good way forward until next March 2021.”

The IATSE Local 26 statement says, “Union or non-union, performers, musicians, ushers, ticket takers, security, concessions workers, stagehands, gig workers, hospitality, and travel. We are reaching out to everyone to join forces with us as we recognize the need for extending the $600 FPUC as well as unemployment benefits and raising the maximum base payment of $362 per week at the state level.”

The stagehands are planning to mobilize their members to call both Michigan and U.S. representatives and senators to demand backing for the HEROES Act. It will clarify which politicians support stagehands and gig workers in the events and entertainment industry, and which do not. At their rally on June 24, the crowd chanted, “Extend to the end!” and “They say cut back! We say fight back!”

The rally begins at 10 a.m. on July 15 and brings together IATSE Local 26 of West Michigan, IATSE Local 38 of Detroit Metro, IATSE Local 274 in Lansing, the Michigan AFL-CIO and other union locals throughout Michigan.

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