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COVID-19 theatre and event venue closings hit Stagehands union hard

Guthrie Theater

The Guthrie Theater is among the theatres closing due to COVID-19 and putting IATSE Local 13 members out of work. The Guthrie has canceled the remainder of its 2019-2020 season, including a production July 25-August 29 of “Sweat” — a Pulitzer prize winning drama about the economic and social impacts caused by NAFTA for a Pennyslvania factory town and its union.

Photo credit: Guthrie Theater

Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review, March 27, 2020

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — Just a few months ago, members of Local 13 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees shared in a festive celebration the local’s 125th anniversary. “Last year we had over 1,200 people who made some money working under a Local 13 contract,” reported Mat Terwilliger, Local 13 business agent.

Then came COVID-19. “Thursday, March 12 we had the first show canceled for Friday the 13th,” Terwilliger said. “That was the domino that got it all started. Over the next 36 hours… every other show that had been scheduled canceled.”

Theaters across the Twin Cities as well as the Minneapolis Convention Center and major sports arenas have gone dark, putting almost all Local 13 members out of work.

“Everyone who works under a Local 13 contract is eligible for unemployment,” Terwilliger said. “Right now their job is to file for unemployment insurance.”

For Local 13 members, filing can be more difficult because “a lot of our workers might have as many as 25 employers in a year,” Terwilliger noted. “We can give them a list of everyone they worked for in the last 18 months.”

But entering that information into the state’s online unemployment insurance application is difficult. Attempting that process, Terwilliger said, about one-half of his members have reported that the system crashes on them as they try to enter multiple employers. And, he added, “with the extra load on the system, it’s that much worse.”

Nobody knows at this time when shows and bands will start touring again or when professional sports will resume or when convention business will return.

“It’s going to be quite a while before we get back to our line of work,” Terwilliger said.




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