Stage hands rally to extend jobless aid in Michigan

The Detroit News

Lansing — About 35 unemployed stage hands and their supporters rallied Wednesday at the Michigan Capitol to urge lawmakers to extend the maximum length of unemployment benefits to 26 weeks.

Michigan is among six states that provides 20 weeks of jobless benefits.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 26 President Jessica Westra of Grand Rapids urged Michigan lawmakers to extend unemployment benefits to 26 weeks on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

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Representatives of Stagehands Local 26 and their backers said workers in the live entertainment industry have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and restrictions on entertainment events. Local 26 said 90% of stage hands remain unemployed, many of them for as long as a year.

IATSE union members, including, local 38 member Jim Achatz, center, of Berville, listen to speakers during the rally calling for 26 weeks of unemployment pay instead of the current 20 weeks, Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

In late December, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits from a maximum of 20 weeks to 26 weeks through April. The maximum has been 26 weeks throughout most of the pandemic.

Walter Shink, of Grand Rapids, IATSE Local 26 co-chair for the political action forum, stands on the Capitol steps as he tells members of call their representatives and ask them to support Michigan Film Tax Credit House Bills 6504 and 6505, Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Leaders of the Republican-led Legislature argued the unemployment extension couldn't take effect because Whitmer vetoed another bill tied to the jobless extension that appropriated $220 million to bolster the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which is traditionally funded by businesses. Whitmer called the proposed taxpayer infusion of cash into the trust fund a corporate "giveaway."