WGA West President Meredith Stiehm and SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Joely Fisher were in Sacramento last week lobbying California legislators for passage of Senate Bill 799, which would make striking workers eligible to collect unemployment benefits. The bill passed through the Assembly Insurance Committee on Thursday and the Legislature has until September 14 to send the bill to the Governor’s desk.
WGA & SAG-AFTRA Join Labor Organizations Calling On California To Grant Unemployment Benefits To Striking Workers
California Labor Federation Chief Says It’s “Shameful” State Doesn’t Offer Unemployment Insurance To Striking Workers
Striking workers in New York and New Jersey are eligible to collect unemployment benefits, but strikers in California are not. Addressing the California State Assembly Insurance Committee in Sacramento, Stiehm and Fisher, who are both up for re-election later this month, called unemployment insurance a much-needed safety net for striking workers. The WGA has been on strike since May 2, and SAG-AFTRA since July 14.
“Writers have had to rely on strike loans from our union, donations, philanthropy, and second and third jobs to pay for their basic needs since May 2,” Stiehm told the committee. “Four months without work is emotionally brutal and financially disastrous. I’m proud to report that our members have held strong and kept their resolve throughout this long hot labor summer, but they are suffering.”
“It’s time for California to catch up and meet the demands of the time,” Stiehm added. “Writers are the present-day example of workers who could greatly benefit from UI, but we’re really here for the workers in the future who will need this protection if they make the difficult decision to go on strike.”
See Stiehm’s testimony here:
Fisher, in her remarks before the committee, said that “Denying UI to striking workers is another way employers hold an unfair advantage over workers fighting for what’s right. CEOs play the waiting game, knowing workers living on the margins have rent to pay and groceries to buy. SB 799 gives workers a chance to fight for what’s fair. We are in the fight of our lives — for our jobs, our industry, our future. We cannot wait any longer for UI benefits that will help us survive and will help all workers who stand up to fight for a better future.”
RELATED: SAG-AFTRA Interim Agreements: Full List Of Movies And TV Series
Authored by Assemblyman Chris Holden and state senators Anthony Portantino and Maria Elena Durazo, Senate Bill 799 has the backing of more than 40 unions as well as the California Labor Federation.
Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2530, which provided subsidized health coverage to striking workers whose employers terminated health benefits. Portantino said that “That bill has already provided a vital lifeline to workers on strike but does not help with the loss of income. SB 799 will provide another lifeline by allowing striking or locked out workers to be eligible for much needed UI benefits for the duration of the dispute.”
RELATED: SAG-AFTRA Tells Members It’s OK To Promote Their Movies With Interim Agreements At Film Festivals
Here are Fisher’s full remarks to the committee:
Dear Committee Members:
My name is Joely Fisher. I am a working actor and serve as the Secretary-Treasury for SAG-AFTRA. I am here today to speak about the SB 799, a bill that would provide unemployment insurance benefits to striking workers who are off the job and on the picket lines for more than two weeks. This vital piece of legislation will make a real impact for our members and for millions of workers across California.
A proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO, SAG-AFTRA is an American labor union representing members working together to ensure protections for entertainment and media artists into the 21st century and beyond.
We represent approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, influencers and other entertainment and media professionals worldwide, almost half of whom live and work in California.
As I speak to you all right now, our members are marching on picket lines across the country as we approach our 50th day of striking against our employers who refuse to offer us a fair deal on our television, theatrical and streaming work.
For most actors right now, contracts are a one-way street. Studios, networks and streaming platforms hold all the power, call all the shots, and most actors, me included, are still unable to negotiate sensible contracts that allow us to earn enough money to qualify for health coverage, let alone sustain California’s continuously rising cost of living.
But when an employer refuses to fairly compensate someone for their work, that worker should have the freedom to negotiate a fair deal without the pressures of worrying whether they can afford to feed their families, or take their sick child to the doctor. Right now we have thousands of members who are forgoing a paycheck and potentially their health insurance. This is in addition to the thousands of members of the WGA who have been on strike for over 100 days.
As a working actor, I understand fundamentally and personally the stresses that arise when one is out of work. The stress of being out of work during the strike has directly impacted my own family including my five children. I fear that I will not earn enough to qualify them for health coverage. As parents, our jobs are to shield our children from the harsh realities of the real world, yet I worry that my kids will begin to feel the adverse effects as my husband and I struggle to support our family on a single income.
Despite the hardship, I am on strike because we are fighting to negotiate a fair and sensible contract that allows us to earn enough money to qualify for health coverage, keep a roof over our heads, and keep up with California’s cost of living. I am on strike to fight against artificial intelligence in the workplace and other company practices that increase worker precarity and threaten the sustainability of jobs in the overall industry.
The research has demonstrated this time and time again: when union members win strong contracts, they lift up wages and labor standards for workers across the entire industry.
Unemployment insurance benefits for strikers will have a minimal impact on the UI fund, but it will make a huge difference to our members and communities. Actors will have enough money to buy groceries and school supplies, pay bills and rent, and even bring donuts or coffee to the picket line. They’ll spend that money at the businesses that are struggling in our areas—the restaurants, grocery stores, nail salons, hairdressers, drugstores and so many more that rely on the entertainment industry to stay afloat.
Denying UI to striking workers is another way employers hold an unfair advantage over workers fighting for what’s right. CEOs play the waiting game, knowing workers living on the margins have rent to pay and groceries to buy. SB 799 gives workers a chance to fight for what’s fair.
We are in the fight of our lives—for our jobs, our industry, our future. We cannot wait any longer for UI benefits that will help us survive and will help all workers who stand up to fight for a better future.
I urge your support for SB 799.
Must Read Stories
Linklater Interview & ‘Hit Man’ Review; Ava DuVernay’s ‘Origins’ Deal; More
Disney-Charter Battle Makes Pay-TV Bundle’s Fadeout A Stark Reality For Many
CBS Will Have ‘NCIS’ Originals On Fall Sked With Paramount+’s ‘Sydney’ Spinoff
‘Equalizer 3’ Hunts Down Second-Best Labor Day Opening Ever With $42M+
Read More About:
Source: Read Full Article