Hollywood’s Labor Force Relies on Charitable Foundations for Financial Survival Amidst Strikes

by Ryan Lee
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Hollywood Strikes Nonprofit Support

In the sweltering heat of August, on the 100th day of the writers’ strike, Shawn Batey proudly displayed her “IATSE Solidarity” sign as she participated in a picket outside Netflix’s New York offices. A props assistant and documentarian, Batey is part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a union that represents a broad swath of workers in the entertainment sector across the United States, not just in Hollywood and New York. Batey, who has lent her expertise to shows like “Pose” and “Russian Doll,” has been grappling with financial difficulties since the initiation of the writers’ strike in May, exacerbated when actors joined the strike on July 14. To alleviate her financial constraints, she sought assistance from the Entertainment Community Fund.

The application process for this emergency fund is extensive, requiring proof of union membership, income, and years of service within the union. Despite the complexity, Batey insists that the effort is worthwhile. “It is crucial that people apply. Patience is key,” she advises.

Batey is among the 2,600 workers in the film and television sectors whom the Entertainment Community Fund has assisted during these labor disruptions. As of August 25, the fund, formerly identified as The Actors Fund, has disbursed $5.4 million. This charitable organization has a long history of providing support to the labor force that underpins the entertainment industry—individuals who were essentially temporary workers even before the term gained popular currency. This support extends to both union and non-union members, and to those who have either gone on strike or lost work due to the ongoing strikes.

Based on application data, the fund has been most sought-after in California, followed by Atlanta and New York. So far, it has raised $7.6 million and is distributing roughly $500,000 each week. Presently, the fund issues one-time grants of up to $2,000 for single applicants and $3,000 for families.

Tom Exton, Chief Advancement Officer for the Entertainment Community Fund, outlined the diverse occupations of those seeking assistance, including craftspeople, wardrobe assistants, makeup artists, set carpenters, painters, and electricians. The organization, he mentioned, has been a stalwart support in past crises such as the AIDS epidemic and the financial recession, and continues to solicit funds to address current needs.

Operating in a parallel capacity, the Motion Picture & Television Fund, established over a century ago, collaborates with unions to offer emergency aid exclusively to their membership. Although they chose not to reveal the amount of financial aid procured from these unions, they offer both financial and emotional support to workers unaffiliated with any union. They also offer accommodation to industry veterans aged 70 and above.

The severity of the situation is evident. Bob Beitcher, President and CEO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund, indicated that numerous lower-income entertainment workers, who had little to no financial buffer after the pandemic, are losing their homes, vehicles, and health insurance. The foundation has been fielding 200 calls per day, a tenfold increase since before the strikes. The majority of these calls are from “below-the-line” workers, meaning those who are not actors, writers, directors, or producers.

As the labor disputes persist, increasing numbers of union members are expected to lose their health insurance coverage due to insufficient work hours. To mitigate this, a group of showrunners has initiated a specialized fundraising effort in conjunction with the Motion Picture & Television Fund to cover healthcare costs for crew members.

In summary, the ongoing strikes in Hollywood have precipitated a financial crisis among the labor force, necessitating increased reliance on nonprofit funds for survival. These charitable organizations continue to play a vital role, offering much-needed financial relief to the struggling workers who constitute the backbone of the entertainment industry.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hollywood Strikes Nonprofit Support

What is the main issue discussed in the article?

The article focuses on how the working class in Hollywood, especially those represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and other unions, are turning to nonprofit funds like the Entertainment Community Fund to cope with financial hardships during ongoing strikes.

Who is Shawn Batey and why is she highlighted?

Shawn Batey is a props assistant and documentary filmmaker who is a member of IATSE. She is highlighted as a representative example of the kind of entertainment industry workers who are currently facing financial difficulties due to the strikes and have sought assistance from nonprofit funds.

What role is the Entertainment Community Fund playing in this situation?

The Entertainment Community Fund has provided $5.4 million in emergency financial assistance to around 2,600 film or television workers affected by the strikes as of August 25. They grant one-time financial aids of up to $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for families.

How are other charitable organizations involved?

The Motion Picture & Television Fund is another key nonprofit that has been supporting entertainment workers. While it specifically provides support for union members, it also offers financial and counseling aid to non-affiliated workers and housing to industry veterans over 70.

Who else is supporting the striking workers?

Celebrities and high-profile individuals have made significant contributions. For instance, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation raised $15 million through initial donations from big names like Dwayne Johnson, Meryl Streep, and George and Amal Clooney.

What are the most affected geographic locations?

The most requests for financial assistance from the Entertainment Community Fund have come from California, followed by Atlanta and New York.

How have the strikes impacted health insurance for workers?

As the strike prolongs, more and more union members are expected to lose their health insurance coverage due to insufficient work hours. A dedicated fundraising effort is in place to specifically cover health care costs for these crew members.

What actions are being taken by industry members to support the workforce?

Aside from financial contributions, initiatives like the “Strike Force Five” podcast and The Union Solidarity Coalition are actively raising funds. Auctions and benefit shows are also being organized to generate funds for affected workers.

What is the sentiment among the striking workers?

Despite the hardships, the striking workers appear to support the action. They see it as an opportunity to stand up for their dignity and rights, even if it means enduring financial struggles for a more significant cause.

More about Hollywood Strikes Nonprofit Support

  • Hollywood Strikes: Current Status
  • Overview of the Entertainment Community Fund
  • Motion Picture & Television Fund: How it Helps
  • SAG-AFTRA Foundation: Recent Initiatives
  • Impact of Strikes on Entertainment Industry
  • Financial Crisis in the Entertainment Sector: A Historical Context
  • Strikes and Health Insurance: What You Need to Know
  • Profile of Striking Workers in the Entertainment Industry
  • The Role of Nonprofits in Labor Strikes: An Analysis

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