In early September, IATSE Local 479 sent out an email to their membership addressing the most important aspects of their return to productions. The letter is written by Business Agent, Michael Akins, who begins by recognizing the tone shift from assisting members with unemployment issues to managing the influx of new productions in Georgia. Akins addresses the fact that the employment opportunities are returning quickly, advising that approximately 20% of the IATSE membership has already returned to work.
“There are debates out there about whether it is the right time to be returning to the work environment. Some people are still very concerned about contracting COVID-19, either due to existing health issues or because they have family members who are vulnerable,” Akins wrote. “These concerns are valid, and it is important for all of us to acknowledge the health risks that still exist and that some are at a higher risk than others.”
Akins also addresses mental health issues that have come hand-in-hand with the pandemic. “While these health challenges aren’t physical, they are still very real and must also be acknowledged and validated.”
“IATSE’s negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) regarding COVID protocols have made good progress over the past several months,” Akins wrote. Akins addressed the protocols established involving COVID testing, PPE, quarantine, sick leaves, zone protocols, safety training, and much more. The majority of these topics have been discussed with Georgia’s studio executives in the September/October issue of Oz Magazine, but Akins does an exceptional job at breaking down the ins and outs of these protocols and the anxieties and trepidations that might come with returning to projects in Georgia.
Akins concluded the letter with the subhead, “Take Personal Responsibility.” “If you decide to ignore the CDC guidelines during your free time, then you are obstructing the success of this industry and the livelihood of your brothers and sisters,” Akins advised. “We are in this together. The producers and labor unions are working together to enact protections. Our industry cannot afford to shut down again.”