Out-of-work entertainment industry crews offer help in Biden’s vaccine rollout

Gov. Gavin Newsom watches as ICU nurse Helen Cordova receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Gov. Gavin Newsom watches as ICU nurse Helen Cordova receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Dec. 14 in Los Angeles.
(Getty Images)

Starbucks, Walmart and Amazon have offered to help in President Biden’s plan for a federal vaccine rollout.

So why not Hollywood crews?

Entertainment industry workers, from stagehands to riggers who’ve been out of work since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down productions and live events, are ready to lend a helping hand.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — which represents below-the-line Hollywood crew members and other craftspeople who work behind the scenes in conference centers, arenas and theaters — has written to the president, proposing that its workers assist in the vaccination effort because they have the knowhow to do the job.


The union said that these workers have been working alongside the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in arenas and convention centers for years in disaster response situations. They already stepped in to convert facilities into field hospitals for COVID-19 patients in April.

Despite safety protocols, film producers and unions are still grappling with how and when to get back to work after a holiday pause.

Jan. 8, 2021

An agreement to hire from IATSE’s ranks would not only help get the country back to work faster by speeding up the vaccine rollout but provide much needed income to thousands of unemployed workers. The federal plan would pay for the costs of employing the crew members.

Tens of thousands of workers who drive the entertainment industry, in live events as well as film and television, have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic which has hit Los Angeles and California hard.

“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,” IATSE International President Matthew Loeb wrote in his letter sent Monday.

Biden earlier this month detailed a plan to throw the weight of the federal government behind getting Americans vaccinated against COVID-19. The sweeping initiative includes funding for community vaccination centers and other ways to expand access to shots, invoking the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing of vaccines and supplies.

Loeb said that IATSE members can typically pre-install the needed 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, with equipment that can be power washed, sanitized, shrink-wrapped and delivered to locations for installation, Loeb said.