Leaders of the DGA, SAG-AFTRA and IATSE have sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to work with President Joe Biden to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, saying that it will provide “much-needed relief for the current crisis and address long-standing vulnerabilities in our economy.”
The House Rules Committee held a virtual meeting today to consider the relief package.
Signed by DGA national executive director Russell Hollander, SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White and IATSE international president Matthew Loeb, the letter was sent on Wednesday to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
“The American economy, including the film and television industry, remains at less than full strength,” they said. “Across the country, many families continue to struggle to with the costs of rent, food, and healthcare – and the harsh winter storms of recent weeks have only heightened the crisis for vulnerable populations and frontline workers.
“Our members live, work, and retire in all fifty states. Despite popular media portrayals, red-carpet celebrities are a tiny fraction of our membership, the vast majority of whom serve in lesser known roles such as assistant directors, costume designers, background actors, hair and makeup artists, set builders, and sound and lighting technicians.” Together, the three unions represent nearly 330,000 members: SAG-AFTRA 160,000; IATSE 150,000 and DGA 18,000.
“Our industry supports 2.5 million U.S. jobs and 320,000 businesses in cities and small towns across the country,” Hollander, White and Loeb told congressional leaders. “As guilds and unions, we have negotiated strong collective bargaining agreements that allow our members to earn decent wages, a secure pension, and high-quality healthcare. Due to these agreements, our industry provides a pathway to the middle class for working people of all levels of skill and education.”
The American Rescue Plan Act, the union leaders wrote, “contains vital help for our members, and we urge its prompt passage.” Key elements of the Rescue Plan include:
• Increasing the federal weekly Covid-19 unemployment supplement to $400;
• Extending the Covid-19 unemployment programs (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation) through the end of August;
• Partially subsidizing COBRA premiums, so that members who have not yet returned to work can remain on our multi-employer health plans and temporarily expanding healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Healthcare Act for those not eligible for COBRA;
• Delivering long-needed support to troubled pension plans and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, without jeopardizing healthy pension plans like ours;
• Providing direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, bringing the total relief to $2,000 following December’s $600 payments; and
• Ensuring that labor unions and guilds can apply for Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans so that we can continue to provide important support and assistance to our members, despite significant Covid-19-related decline in revenues.
“When paired with other important provisions included in the American Rescue Plan Act,” they said, “these policy changes serve to make significant strides in the right direction for working-class Americans. We urge you to act promptly to enact the American Rescue Plan Act now.”