Thank you to the almost 600 Members that joined us last Wednesday for our Digital Town Hall! There were a lot of important topics discussed, as well as some great questions asked by the Members. Below is a recap of just some of the items discussed.
We have been working to answer follow-up questions with Members that left additional comments or questions and we’ll continue to do so until we have responded to everyone. If you have any immediate questions, please reach out to your Business Agent directly.
- GETTING BACK TO WORK:
Each Business Agent spent time giving updates from the Studios and Companies they represent with the most recent information that they have been provided at this time. At this time, there are still a lot more questions than answers, however as more information is made available, we will continue to share with our Members. If there is a specific Studio you are interested in learning more about their reopening plans, please touch base with the assigned Business Agent. Many of the Studios have plans to slowly open back up soon, with some that have a more concrete plan and date than others at this time. Each of the Business Agents have been in touch with the Transportation Offices and are working closely to understand the safety and sanitation measures that are being put in place to protect Members when they come back to work.
Another key aspect in getting our Members back to work is around the Safety Guidelines that have been developed. As many of you have already seen, we have now shared the State approved Safety Guidelines, the Los Angeles County approved Safety Guidelines and the ‘Safe Way Forward’ Safety Guidelines that were developed by the Guilds and Unions. We will begin negotiations this week over some of the items presented in these Guidelines to ensure the safety of our Members and the responsibility of the Employers in this process. Two important points that were stressed during this Town Hall were:
- It is the Employer’s responsibility to provide PPE to its’ Workers.
- You are not to sign any sort of waiver of liability form in returning to work. If anyone asks you to do so, call the Union Hall or your Business Agent immediately.
The Business Agents will be continuing to meet with their Steering Committees to get feedback regarding return to work protocols for each classification and any proposed changes to our Members workflow.
For now, we ask our Members to continue to be patient. We are getting closer however this process of getting our Industry back to life will still take time. If you do get a call for work and you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your Business Agent immediately. Click here or head to your Local 399 App for Business Agent contact information based on Studios and Companies.
Though it is the responsibility of the Employer to provide PPE, Local 399 will be mailing each Member a Local 399 mask with a commitment to safety card with useful information for our Members the first week of July. The mask and safety card will serve as a reminder to our Members that the Union is here to help navigate this unprecedented time in our Industry, especially as we slowly return to work. The safety card will also have the phone numbers to our Harassment and Discrimination Hotline as well was a Safety Hotline. Small bottles of hand sanitizer are also available for pickup for free once the Local is open to the Membership. Additional Local 399 masks will be available for purchase at the Union Hall.
- Union Hall:
We will be opening the Union Hall back up to our Staff after the 4th of July holiday weekend and will be seeking to open the Union Hall up to our Members and the public mid-July. Office Manager Greg Karson and Business Agent Joshua Staheli have been compiling our own office safety protocols to ensure the safety of our Staff and Members when they visit.
- MPIPHP Financial Update:
Business Agent Joshua Staheli provided an update on the hours being reported and on the IAP Hardship Withdrawals. As far as the investments go, he mentioned it’s tough to say how the Plans are doing financially from day-to-day in such a volatile market, but it has been up lately. The good news regarding the Plans is that the investment strategy is designed to perform consistently over time and protect against the down periods. Also, some good news is that we just got the number of hours being reported into the Plans for the first quarter and even with the closure in mid-March, we were up above our all-time highs of the last few years. Obviously, the bad news is that we expect the hours to fall in the second quarter.
As a reminder from the last meeting, what is currently shown on your pension benefit statement won’t be affected by short-term fluctuations in the reported hours and the investment returns. Your defined benefit is a product of negotiations and we are committed to preserving it. Your IAP balance will be a reflection of the Investment returns and hours worked but because of the way it is reported you won’t see the effects, good or bad, for some time.
- IAP Hardship Withdrawals:
As far as the IAP Hardship withdrawals go, this is the program that was approved to allow participants to withdraw up to 20% of their IAP up to a maximum of $20,000. There have been about 3,000 applications approved industry wide equaling approximately 48 million total. The average withdrawal has been approximately $15,000. If you are considering taking the withdrawal, you still have about 6 weeks as it closes July 31st. The Local is advising against taking money from your retirement unless you find it absolutely necessary. You will be taxed on the amount as income if you don’t pay it back and you will lose all the growth on those monies over the years between now and your retirement. The plans just informed me yesterday that they received a new form from the IRS and going forward, you will need to have your spouse’s signature witnessed by a plan employee or notarized.
The application for the MPI IAP Hardship withdrawal is online and is open to apply through the end of July.
- HEROES ACT:
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or ‘HEROES’ Act has passed Congress and is now sitting in the Senate. There are a lot of important things in the stimulus package. This “HEROES” Act gives aid for State and Local governments, public schools and pension relief, continues to keep workers on payroll to avoid mass layoffs through the current programs established beyond July, extends unemployment insurance, provides more direct stimulus payments to working people, extends health care coverage such as COBRA, and provides housing and food benefits.
In terms of our Members, the most important aspect would be the extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act until the end of December, 2020. Currently it is set to sunset on July 31, 2020.
There is a lot of relief to multi-employer pension plans across the country that is within this proposed legislation should it pass the Senate, however embedded in this legislation is one extremely devastating measure to multi-employer pension plans, called the GROW Act. The GROW Act is opposed by numerous Unions, pension plan participants and retirees, AARP, and the Pension Rights Center. The GROW Act hurts workers, should not become law and should be removed from the ‘HEROES Act’.
The GROW Act would allow multi-employer plans through collective bargaining to “refinance ” their obligations to workers and retirees in their existing plan over 25 years instead of 15 years, the trustees must then divert that money to start a new composite plan with fewer benefits for new employees in the future. What it really does is reduce benefits for all workers. We must oppose provisions that reduce benefits to our Members.
We are asking our Members to reach out to your Senators and support the ‘HEROES’ Act with the removal of the Grow Act language. That information is on the website for you if you need it. Click here to contact your Senators.
- FILM & TELEVISION TAX INCENTIVE:
The new Film & TV Tax credits and the 5-year 3.0 program begins on July 1, 2020. We are still looking at adjustments to the regulations that might take place when the legislature comes back to session in August. Due to the $52 Billion dollar shortfall the pandemic has brought the state, all tax credits have been affected. Though we have not lost any of our $330 Million annual credits per year, it did put a $5 Million dollar yearly cap on each production for the next 3 years. They then have an additional 5 years to utilize the awarded tax credits. The discussions on these issues are still ongoing but we shall see if any modifications will happen.
- CDL, MEC, & DMV:
DMV will accept Members with expiring CDL’s without an appointment. CDL and MEC are required to be renewed by September 30th if they expired after March 1. Upload your medical forms at DMV.CA.GOV they will respond and you do not need to go to the DMV.
Post cards will go out informing Members they can now opt in for email correspondence through CSATF.
Please check your Roster Status on the CSATF website. Classes will reflect BLUE if you are eligible for an extension. At some point there will be an additional COVID-19 required class that will be about 30-40mins long.
Lastly, we get this question a lot – being on Withdrawal from the Union has nothing to do with removing yourself from the drug and alcohol-testing consortium from CSATF. If you emailed CSATF and asked to be removed from the Drug and Alcohol Testing program, then you need to take a return to duty test required by CSATF not the Union. Members should email or call CSATF well before going back to work to ensure you get back a negative drug test result before going back to work. Again, this is only if you removed yourself at CSATF, this has nothing to do with anything you did at the Union.
- MPTF LOCAL 399 EMERGENCY FUND:
It was shared that we have had more than 250 Members approved for the Local 399 Emergency Recovery Fund, which is about half of the fund at this point. If you are in need of additional financial assistance, please contact: (323) 634- 3888 for assistance. Please note, due to the high volume of calls it could take 5-7 Business Days to get a response from MPTF. They will return your call. If you have any questions about the Fund, please contact your Business Agent.
- RECOMMIT TO THE TEAMSTER OATH
We have started a campaign to have our Members recommit to the Teamster Oath. We have seen almost 1,000 Members recommit at this time and we will be sharing some of our Members stories over the next couple weeks. During this time, we feel it is essential that each and every Member be reminded of the importance and expectations of being a Teamster.
We recently had a situation in which the actions of a handful of our Members brought harmful attention on our Local from all around the Country. The Union received hundreds of emails, phone calls and was flooded with messages and comments on our social media channels about the actions and words of a few of our Members. Freedom of speech is important, but we want to remind Members that you are representing an organization that does not stand for or tolerate racism, harassment or discrimination. It is a crucial part of our Teamster Oath to actively stand against such actions.
We have a long way to go in our Industry and our Union to eradicate racism and instill true equality for our Black and Brown Brothers and Sisters, our LGBTQ+ Brothers and Sisters and any and all marginalized groups in our Nation, Industry and our Union.
As a Local Union, we will continue to take steps in the right direction, recognizing there is still a lot more work to do. We expect our Members to abide by your Teamster oath and the very foundation this organization was built on – fighting for racial and economic justice for ALL Union Members and all working people.
As your Administration, we will continue this conversation and make whatever necessary steps to help create a more inclusive, diverse and safe working environment for all, especially our Members of color and women in our Industry.
We are a Union family and we must ensure at all times that we treat each other with dignity and respect. This is not the end of this discussion, however something that at this time needs to be stressed and continually reiterated. We welcome feedback, suggestions and input from Members that would like to be involved. Racism, White Supremacy, Discrimination and threats have no place in our Union, Industry or Nation.
- DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION TASK FORCE:
Business Agent Lindsay Dougherty discussed that we will be recruiting Members that wish to be part of the Local 399 Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. This group will not only help to come up with ways that our Local can continue to improve but will also take feedback and ideas to deliver to the Studios. If you are interested in getting involved, please email email@example.com.