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Actors Equity Association President Kate Shindle Reveals There Has Been Progress Made in Health Insurance Issue

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Actors Equity Association President Kate Shindle Reveals There Has Been Progress Made in Health Insurance Issue

From Broadway to Hollywood-and everywhere in between-COVID-19 has paused, postponed and cancelled productions, performances and events leaving most of the country's four million creative professionals out of work. Arts, entertainment and media professionals and their unions have united to ensure all workers in the industry can access economic relief. With the expectation that arts and entertainment professionals will be some of the last workers able to return safely to their jobs, creative professionals and their unions continue to advocate for government-provided economic support.

This morning, Actors' Equity Association President Kate Shindle joined other entertainment union professionals to speak to how they are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our members are hurting," says Shindle. We went from record unemployment last season to 100 percent unemployment. For anyone who doesn't know, Actors Equity association represents about 52 thousand stage managers and actors working in the live theatre. Now those people are worried about the basics."

What will the future of the performing industry look like? "Historically there is no such thing as social distancing for our members, particularly the actors," says Shindle. "Regardless of the size of the audience so we know we're gonna need some new standards going forward. It's one of the only work places where it's not only legal but expected that you will kiss your coworker as a condition of your job and so I think we're going to see if theaters and employers being creative, our director and choreography colleagues being creative with how they use our members in new and innovative ways but we have to know that it's safe on stage and backstage in addition to in the audience before we are comfortable that it's safe to go back to work."

AFL-CIO's Liz Shuler spoke to how the industry might change in the future as a result of current events: "Here's the reality... because of the nature of the industry, the arts and entertainment professionals may likely be some of the last workers able to return safely to their jobs. And when they do, they're not going to be returning to a 'normal'. It will be a very different approach to the industry. It's gonna change dramatically."

Shindle spoke to the progress being made in providing health insurance to members who are lacking the necessary hours to qualify. "We have been advocating very aggressively on two fronts. The Cobra subsidy and also advocating as the union to our pension health fund, to find as many creative solutions as possible to avoid dropping members from healthcare in the middle of a moment when no one can acquire additional weeks." she explains. "We've been lobbying our own folks to find creative solutions to that problem. It seems like there has been some progress made on that front, but nothing that we can announce yet."

On what factors are being considered to decide when it might be safe to return to work, Shindle added: "We are moving as quickly as possible to determine when it is going to be safe. It would probably be premature to attach a date to it."

Actors' Equity Association, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. #EquityWorks

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