Art Directors Guild Chief Says Below-The-Line Workers Are “Bearing The Brunt” of Ongoing WGA & SAG-AFTRA Strikes

Chuck Parker, national executive director of the Art Directors Guild, IATSE Local 800, said that “it has become frighteningly apparent” that below-the-line workers are “bearing the brunt” of the ongoing strikes by actors and writers. He is reminding his members that help is available for those struggling to maintain their union health coverage and to make ends meet.

“I understand that most of you are frustrated by the condition that our Industry is currently in,” he wrote in an email to members on Friday. “Both the writers’ and actors’ strikes have brought our industry to its knees. I also realize that many of you have passed the point of frustration and find yourselves in despair, and for some, borderline desperation.

“While the writers and actors have the right to strike over what they feel (and have consistently communicated that) they deserve, they also feel that the employer is not engaging with them in a meaningful way.” The Writers Guild has been on strike since May 2, and SAG-AFTRA since July 14.

“However, it has become frighteningly apparent that the ones who are bearing the brunt of the resultant economic fallout are the rank-and-file members of the IATSE, the Teamsters, the Basic Crafts and our valued vendors that we rely on, on a daily basis,” Parker wrote.

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“If I could make a phone call to anyone who is responsible for this situation and get us all back to work, I would,” he wrote, saying that Matt Loeb, president of IATSE, and Mike Miller, head of the union’s West Coast office, would, too. “The truth, though, is that we have no standing in this dispute. The only thing we can do, the only action we can take, is to find ways to help each other that have consequence.”

“We know that many members are heading into this Labor Day weekend facing uncertainties, with many finding it increasingly difficult to manage financially,” he continued. “Many more are worried about maintaining health care coverage for themselves and their families. Therefore, I want to remind all members about the strike assistance being offered by the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan.”

Earlier this week, he noted, the MPIPHP began offering up to six months of “no-cost” COBRA coverage for participants currently enrolled in its Active Health Plan if they have worked or banked a minimum number of hours during the qualifying period.

“No-cost,” he explained, “means that the COBRA premiums will be waived during the applicable Benefit Period. However, payment of the premiums otherwise due for Active Health Plan coverage will still be required.” Participants who are eligible for this benefit will be contacted by mail by the MPIPHP approximately 30 days before their loss of health coverage and given the opportunity to fill out a COBRA election form.

And the pension plan is now allowing participants to access up to 20% of the accrued balance of their Individual Account Plan, not to exceed $20,000.

“These strikes will pass,” Parker wrote. “In the meantime, please take advantage of any of the above listed sources of help should you need it. Emergency assistance also continues to be offered by both MPTF and the Entertainment Community Fund, and the IASTE has made two separate donations of $2 million each to help fund these efforts.

As Local 800 President Nelson Coates said last week, Parker noted, “We will weather this situation together by remaining a strong fabric of interconnected Guild members.”

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