Unemployed workers in live events industry rally at City Hall for extended benefits, reopening guidance

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 8 rally
Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — About 100 stagehands, electricians, sound techs, tour managers and other live events professionals wheeled roadie equipment cases around City Hall Friday, highlighting the economic hardships they’re still facing during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The newly formed group of professionals in the live events industry is demanding benefits and rules for those out of work because of COVID-19 — and guidelines for when work resumes.

“Right now, I am on unemployment,” said Allie Barwick, an electrician for Opera Philadelphia and the Dell Music Center. “I had to fight twice with unemployment because I have been booted off twice due to the (Paycheck Protection Program) loans that my companies have gotten, and then on top of that, I have bills due. My mortgage didn’t let me forbearance. My Chase credit card didn’t let me forbearance. My car loan didn’t let me forbearance. 

“I am kind of in water and hoping that I don’t lose my house.”

#LiveEventsCoalition rally at city hall raising awareness to the financial impact brought on by the pandemic. They’re the stagehands, electricians, tour managers & other event pros. Eased credit restrictions, option to reapply for PPP & safe reopening guidlines among needs. pic.twitter.com/uK7x6HFIzr

— John McDevitt (@JM1060) July 24, 2020

The Live Events Coalition, a national organization, is asking for extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an updated Paycheck Protection Program, an improved Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and, when it’s safe to go back to work, viable and safe reopening guidelines.

Michael Barnes, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 8, also joined Friday’s rally.

He said a dedicated COVID-19 officer will have to be at each venue to make sure safety guidelines are present and being followed, once live events are permitted again.

“Is it disinfected? Is the ventilation systems correct? Are the floors marked for social distances? Are the entryways set up where we don’t have to herd together into the facility? Once in the facility, are the schedules set up that we can maintain social distancing? Are the handwashing and disinfecting practices in place?” he questioned.

In Pennsylvania alone, there are 584,000 live event employees who are likely out of work.