Wishing our brothers and sisters happy holidays. As we end this decade and start a new one, this is a good time to take stock of where we are as a union and our industry. 2019 started off slowly but as the year ends, we are looking at another record year of work hours being reported to the Motion Picture Pension and Health Plans. We are on track to surpass one hundred million hours (again) by the end of this year.
Looking beyond our industry, we have seen a lot of news reports that the low unemployment rate points to great promise for middle-class jobs. That data might suggest that we’re in a period of economic prosperity, but a closer look reveals a darker reality. The truth is, many of these are low-paying gig-economy jobs—such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash drivers; jobs that lack safety protections, insurance, workplace standards, and a path toward advancement. Some of these jobs don’t even meet minimum wage requirements because they have been classified as Independent Contractors where the companies have zero liability or responsibility for wages and benefits. We must support all workers who are disadvantaged by employers who exploit them only to enhance their company’s bottom line.
That’s why the California IATSE Council (CIC) lobbied this past year for Assembly Bill AB5 to stop the abuse of corporations misclassifying workers as Independent Contractors. It’s not just how many jobs are available, but the bigger issue is what kind of jobs are they? More than 55 million women and men, from ages 18 to 64, representing 44 percent of all U.S. workers, earn hourly wages too low to support a family. Since 1990, the available jobs have significantly declined in quality, as measured by the income earned by workers. These low-wage, low-quality jobs are not just coming from the gig-economy but also from the service sector, such as healthcare, leisure, hospitality, restaurants, and others. This trend coincides with the decreased need in the once-flourishing skilled labor and manufacturing sectors. These low-quality jobs offer an average of only 24.6 hours of work per week at $14.65 an hour. That’s just $360 per week.
The middle class is indeed getting squeezed. The question is, what happens next? People are pushing back. More progressive candidates are running for office. Union membership is growing. New union members are younger and more energetic, with over seventy-five percent under thirty-five years old. More women are joining Local 695, as well as all the other locals and unions. The voice of working women and men is growing louder and stronger. That means we have more impact over policy, and laws, and what happens next. Unions do make a difference and that’s why I’m very optimistic about how we can help to make things better. I’m looking forward to a very good year ahead and I sincerely wish prosperity and good health to you and to your family in the new year.