IATSE, the union that represents the workers behind the scenes, has reached out to the White House and its COVID Response Team offering their venues and workforce to help build and convert vaccination sites.
A few weeks ago, IATSE tweeted, “Turn live venues into COVID vaccination sites and use union labor to set it up.”
With the new administration laying out a National Strategy and Response to the pandemic, Matthew Loeb, IATSE’s international president, shared an open letter to the White House offering its infrastructure and labor in the effort to build or convert vaccination sites across the country.
The letter said, “As the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), we are the largest labor union in America representing stagehands, certified riggers, and other craftspeople who work behind-the-scenes in conference centers, arenas, theaters, and other live events venues.”
“As you know, these workers have been unable to return to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they stand ready to do their part when they are called upon,” the letter went on. “IATSE workers throughout the country have been working alongside the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA in arenas and convention centers for years in disaster response situations.”
The letter referred to IATSE’s efforts last April as to how stagehands across the country helped to convert idle venues and arenas into field hospitals. Those hospitals treated patients suffering from COVID-19 with oxygen and whatever else was needed, such as lighting and electricity. IATSE members in Philadelphia transformed the Liacouras Center and innovatively used rock and roll rigging techniques to deliver oxygen and utilities.
IATSE’s letter to President Biden’s White House continued, “The skills required to convert these facilities are not much different than those required to load in rock and roll concerts and other live events. Working with the field hospital installations designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the IATSE and its contractors can typically pre-install the rigging, lights, and electric, quickly and efficiently. IATSE Locals throughout the country have even developed a series of pre-designed rigs to allow variations based on venue size. The equipment can be power washed, sanitized, shrink-wrapped, and can be delivered to locations for installation. Together, we have a unique opportunity not only to help beat this virus and save lives, but also to get these skilled union technicians back to work. Let’s build back better, together.”
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