Leaders of Hollywood’s Teamsters Local 399, who have been taking part in industrywide talks about reopening the film and TV industry, said Monday there is still no date set for members to return safely their jobs. They note, however, that they’re hopeful it will be by sometime this summer, with “prepping in June or July.”
The issue of reopening was the No. 1 question at the local’s recent digital town hall, which was attended by more than 600 members.
“Throughout the presentation we shared that unfortunately, there currently is no date we can confidently share with the membership” about the resumption of production, the local said in a posting on its website. “We are hopeful that it will be over the course of the summer, perhaps as early as prepping in June or July, however nothing has been confirmed at this time.”
Also discussed at the town hall, they said, “was all of the work happening behind the scenes, discussions around ensuring safety for all cast and crew, as well as some of the possible new protocols for conducting business. We also discussed the importance of having industry standard guidelines that can be followed on every production, no matter how large or small. Studios, companies and labor are focused on coming up with the best global solutions. The guilds, unions, studios and production companies have a lot at stake here in terms of finding the right solutions so that we can go back to work and keep everyone safe.
“The truth of the matter is, our industry will look different when we return. Things like masks, gloves, cleanliness, wash stations, separation when possible, oversight, safety monitors, the most up-to-date testing, etc. – these are all the types of discussions we are having for each and every classification. The first step in this process is getting basic guidelines from the City, County and State that will allow us to begin working again. We have many meetings coming up with the County Public Health Department and the CEO of the City and County of LA to determine those safety regulations. When, what, where, how-are all conjecture at the moment. We know everyone wants to go back to work but no one is willing to do so without detailed safety precautions in place.”
Local 399 leaders vowed that “we will be doing all within our power to ensure that our members and our members’ jobs are protected to the best of our ability. We understand members concerns as we navigate an uncertain future. Rest assured that we are doing all we can to help our members return to work as soon and as safely as possible. We’ll be fighting and advocating along with our membership every step of the way until we get there. We will be meeting with each of our Steering Committees to get feedback from our members regarding their suggestions and concerns about returning to work. We will host more frequent digital meetings in order to outline what going back to work looks like as new information becomes available.”
And once members do return to work, they noted, “The employers are the ones responsible to provide PPE for members and a safe working environment.” Even so, they noted that the local’s executive board has approved an expenditure for one free mask and one bottle of hand sanitizer to be distributed to each member when they do return to work.
Many members at the town hall also expressed concern about the viability of the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans – which also cover the West Coast members of IATSE and the Basic Crafts unions. Local 399 business agent Joshua Staheli, who serves as a Trustee on the Plans’ Finance Committee, “shared that based on the most recent numbers, the plans are down but weathering the storm better than the overall markets. The reasoning for this is that The Plans are diversified in way that was stress tested a couple of years ago to protect against the downside. Fortunately, we entered the current crisis well-funded with months of reserves in both the Active and Retiree health plans. As of end of March, our losses were in the low teens compared to the US equity market which was down about 20%.”