From the Business Representative

A Day Longer, a Day Stronger

Perhaps we didn’t see it coming, but now that this pandemic is with us, I think that Local 695 members are taking it on like a film or TV crew might face a production challenge. Figuring out what needs to be done and making it happen.

I’ve been speaking with a lot of our members, and many throughout the industry. They are asking two questions; When do we get back to work? And, what is it going to look like when it does?

Safety is the key, and the answer to those questions requires the creativity and participation of everyone involved in film and television production, including crew, actors, writers, and producers. Everything will need to change. The process of figuring out those changes is bringing together leaders from each organization. At the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee, we’ve been bringing together all of the unions and guilds across the country with all the major production studios. To keep everyone on track, an epidemiologist from UCLA has been brought in to review all safety recommendations and ensure that no one is cutting corners or taking undue risk.

To provide Local 695-specific input to this process, we formed a working group consisting of roughly forty-five members from all of the crafts we represent, and all of the production areas where we work, including live broadcast, sports, narrative, reality, sitcoms, and projection, to focus on their unique disciplines, to develop recommendations for protocols and workflows that will enable us to get our work done without compromise to safety or to the integrity of our crafts.

The eventual goal for the combined committee is to develop a single set of guidelines that will apply to productions shooting throughout the US and Canada, allowing us to return to work in a safe and productive workplace. Production companies have always relied on Local 695 and the IA to find innovative ways to do our work, which is not entirely new to us. We’re accustomed to change and always willing to adapt every day to meet the needs of production. Big changes lie ahead, but we can do it.

Anxious as we are to get back to work safely and quickly, we also need to take care of ourselves right now. The Local has been working with many of our members to help them get their severance pay and to provide guidance in signing up for unemployment insurance. We also have been working with our membership to help guide them through programs such as the MPTF, offering both financial and emotional assistance to our members.  

The MPI’s new COVID Hardship Assistance Program allows our members to apply to withdraw up to $20,000 or twenty percent (whichever comes first) of your 2018 IAP balance. Although normally taxable, there is no ten percent early withdrawal penalty—that would be on retirement accounts, and you can avoid the tax altogether if you are able to return those funds to your retirement account within three years of withdrawal. If you want to take advantage of this program, you must apply at on or before July 31, 2020.

MPI is also providing our membership with a waiver of health premiums, telemedicine with no co-payments, and no-cost COVID-19 testing. If you have questions about these or any of the other available assistance programs, please be sure to reach out to us at the office.

The one thing we can be sure of is by the time this goes to print, much of what we know now, will have changed. But what will remain unchanged is the commitment of our membership and your union to protect our families at home and our union family as well. We stand together, and together we will bring back the magic!

In Solidarity,
Scott Bernard
Business Representative