The long-running strikes by the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA are having a devastating impact on union health plans throughout the entertainment industry.
With a lack of contributions and a slew of claims pushing its Health & Welfare reserves to the breaking point, IATSE Studio Mechanics Local 476 in Chicago is taking drastic measures, including freezing banked hours and changing eligibility while threatening to leave many of its 2,000 members without coverage. “I’m unable to pay the self-pay rate, and I’ll get kicked off the plan on October 1st and lose all my banked hours,” a Local 476 member posted on social media earlier this week. “My wife’s pregnant too and due in February.” Local 476, representing crew members who work on films and TV shows shot in the Windy City, might be the canary in the coal mine for what’s to come.
According to a September 8 letter sent to members by the local’s Health & Welfare Fund, which acknowledges the “unprecedented job loss and economic suffering” created by the strike-related production shutdown, employer contributions to the much larger health plan covering IATSE’s West Coast locals “are reportedly down $150 million” during the strikes.
Employer contributions to the local’s health plan – which is not part of IATSE’s West Coast Motion Picture Industry Health Plan or its National Benefits Fund – are based on hours worked, and with little or no work, reserves for the Local 476 plan are quickly drying up, and trustees have had to take action to keep it going. “As we are all well-aware,” the letter says, “the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are having a detrimental impact on bargaining unit work, and as a direct consequence, on the Local 476 benefit funds.Read more on deadline.com