On March 13, 2020, live entertainment workers were instantly put out of work.
In Chicago alone, that means tens of thousands—through no fault of their own—became unemployed due to the pandemic shutdown. Across the country, more than 150,000 stage employees—stagehands, wardrobe, hair and make-up artists, script writers, editors, ticket sellers and treasurers, scenic artists, cinematographers, studio mechanics, projectionists and more, faced one of the darkest periods of their lifetimes. We work alongside musicians, ushers, theater managers, directors, stage managers, trade-show carpenter, electricians, Teamsters, riggers, and more, who found themselves facing the same peril.
Some behind-the-scenes workers were able to find jobs over the summer once the vaccines were in place, but for more than 16 months, these tradespeople endured 100% unemployment.
It’s show business, but these are not celebrities or rock stars. These workers are middle-class people. Many are parents raising families. All are dedicated to our craft, extraordinarily involved in the cultural fabric of our communities, while creating innovative and engaging events for the world to enjoy. Our work helped establish Chicago as one of the cultural capitols of the world.
And we don’t just create art, we contribute significantly to the economy. Our employers, large and small—cultural institutions, theaters, corporate producers, festivals, concert stadiums, television and film producers, convention centers, and music halls—all partner with live entertainment workers, to create an $877 billion economic engine that makes our industry a major contributor to the United States GDP.
Our forefathers in the labor movement instilled in us the belief that there is dignity in hard work, that hard work brings honor and commands respect, and that hard work should be acknowledged by all, and rewarded with safe working conditions, fair wages, and meaningful benefits for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual identity.