GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Dozens of union leaders and workers in the theater industry held a Labor Day rally on Monday in Grand Rapids.
They hope to get more financial help from the government as they struggle during the pandemic.
It’s called “Push for $600.” Union stagehands are gathering near the Gerald R. Ford Museum with the goal of getting unemployment benefits extended until they say it’s safe enough to work again.
Last month, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders to extend financial relief to tens of thousands of Americans. One of the orders would extend unemployment benefits at a reduced rate of $400 per week, when previously those who qualified got $600.
Organizers say they want Congress to step in to help theater workers financially survive during the pandemic.
“When COVID hit, we were the first ones to shut down and we’ll be the last ones to open up. So, this push for $600 would sustain a living wage for some of us until we’re able to open back up,” said Joshua Roskamp, business agent for IATSE Local 26, a union that represents stage employees. “There’s far more unemployed than there are jobs, and then the reality is nobody wants to train us for a job that’s going to pay a living wage when we’re just going to leave to go back to our careers.”
The rally started around 11 a.m. at the Spirit of Solidarity labor monument near the Grand River.