IATSE 488 faces near total job loss

By Don McIntosh

Several hundred Oregon members of IATSE Local 488 were already facing a scarcity of work: Grimm and several other locally-produced TV shows ended, and in general, the shift to streaming television has meant shorter shoots and seasons with fewer episodes. COVID-19 made matters worse, shutting down projects statewide by mid-March.

“Our entire membership is out of work,” said Local 488 business agent Cdavid Cottrill.

At a television studio space in Clackamas, about 120 members were expecting another six to nine weeks of work on a TBS series called “Chad,” while 80 to 90 more were gearing up to produce a pilot called “Crazy For You” for NBC. Now they’re out of work, along with smaller crews who were expecting to work on a Marvel Hulu series called “Omens” in Portland and a Netflix project with Sandra Bullock at a correctional facility in Madras.

Cottrill is meeting online weekly with a COVID task force with representatives of the Oregon Media Production Association and Oregon Film. Of their own accord, nearly all the employers in the industry decided to keep those who were already employed on the payroll for two weeks. But they’ll need to go on unemployment after that, and there’s no telling when their projects will resume production. Some members, classified as independent contractors, haven’t been eligible for unemployment benefits, but Congress has temporarily expanded unemployment compensation to them as well.

The union is surveying members about the impact of the crisis, and on April 2, helped Labor’s Community Services Agency deliver food boxes to members who are most in need.

Meanwhile, the IATSE international put out a call for members who work in costume and wardrobe departments to volunteer to produce protective masks for health care workers and others who need them. It’s also launching a nationwide mutual aid initiative called CARES (Coronavirus Active Response and Engagement Service) in which younger members deliver groceries, prescriptions, and other necessary supplies to older and more vulnerable members and retirees who face greater risk going out.

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