Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su hosts “Making Equity Real” panel with Local 22 member Frank Brown, Jr. and visits Local 720 Training Center

11 January  2024  - Las Vegas, NV - Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su visits the Stagehands Union local 720 training center. ***Official Department of Labor Photograph*** Photographs taken by the federal government are generally part of the public domain and may be used, copied and distributed without permission. Unless otherwise noted, photos posted here may be used without the prior permission of the U.S. Department of Labor. Such materials, however, may not be used in a manner that imply any official affiliation with or endorsement of your company, website or publication.   Photo Credit: Department of Labor Shawn T Moore

When President Biden nominated Julie Su to serve as Secretary of Labor following the departure of Secretary Marty J. Walsh last year, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) joined worker advocates across the country in praising the nomination of our close ally. We highlighted her extraordinary track record of protecting workers’ rights, pioneering job creation, combatting wage theft, and asserted that she would be a champion for working families as the head of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). She has demonstrated that time and again since assuming the role.

“Making Equity Real: Creating Career Pathways and Good Jobs in the Arts”

On February 28th, Acting Secretary Su invited Frank Brown Jr., IATSE Local 22 member and Kennedy Center Production Shop Steward, to participate in a discussion at DOL celebrating this year’s Black History Month national theme, “African Americans and the Arts.” Acting Secretary Su moderated a panel that highlighted the importance of good jobs, equity, and job quality in the arts, particularly for Black workers. The conversation addressed the critical role that unions play in achieving equity for workers of color and creating career pathways in the arts and entertainment industries.

“At the Department of Labor, we’re making sure in every industry, including in the arts, that workers can get good jobs…When I talk about good jobs, I mean jobs that allow people to live full lives and where they don’t have to scrape by to do the things that they love,” said Acting Secretary Su in her opening remarks. She continued, “unions are one of the most powerful forces that exist for combatting racial and gender wage gaps.”

Also participating in the event were Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson – Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Congressman Maxwell Frost (D-FL), and union representatives from Actors’ Equity, AFM, AGMA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC.

IATSE Local 22 member Frank Brown Jr. shared his journey from growing up in Prince George’s County just outside of Washington, DC, discovering a passion for theater in high school, working part-time for low wages in the theatre while attending community college, getting the opportunity for a union call with Local 22, becoming a union member, establishing a career in the industry he loved, and ultimately getting a job at the Kennedy Center where he has been for 15 years.

“I accepted my fate, I was like, I’m in this theatre making eight dollars an hour but at least I’m happy right?” said Brown, Jr. After working a call with Local 22, he continued, “the wage itself just made a difference. Then I started learning about…pensions, annuities, healthcare. People really don’t understand how collective bargaining and unions really help . . . I’ve been able to flourish [at the Kennedy Center] through a union contract.”

The event underscored the arts and entertainment as a viable and secure career path for individuals, especially for marginalized communities. As Dr. Jackson remarked, “Through our work with union leaders in this room, we are able to help advance arts careers that provide family-supporting pay and the ability to have retirement security. At the NEA, we are committed to valuing arts professionals as workers and to valuing not only art products but the creative process and the people without whom we would not have art.”

A full recording of the event can be viewed here.

Visit to Local 720 Training Center

On January 11th, Acting Secretary Julie Su visited the IATSE Local 720 Training Center in Las Vegas. This visit was an intentional follow up by DOL to check in with the local following previous Secretary Marty Walsh’s visit in the fall of 2021 when they were still experiencing significant unemployment due to COVID. President Loeb, General Secretary-Treasurer Wood, and several IATSE Department Directors were able to participate in this meeting as it took place during CES and the AFL-CIO Labor Innovation & Technology Summit, which the IATSE leadership was attending.

Acting Secretary Su received a tour of the training center from Leon Morris, IATSE Local 720 Training Manager and then sat down with Local 720 and International leadership for a conversation. International Vice President and Local 720 Business Representative Apple Thorne and Local 720 President Phil Jaynes were able to report an influx of work for the local since the visit of Secretary Walsh and highlight IATSE union made events in Las Vegas. President Loeb updated Secretary Su on IATSE’s national organizing momentum in VFX, gaming, production, and animation. He thanked her and the Biden-Harris Administration for their complete support of workers and their unions, making it easier to organize previously unrepresented workers. The discussion also touched on the impacts of artificial intelligence on the entertainment industry and IATSE crafts. Acting Secretary Su highlighted the new DOL independent contractor rule to crack down on misclassification and DOL’s Worker Organizing Resource and Knowledge (WORK) Center.

Following the conversation, Acting Secretary Su recorded digital content with Local 720 leadership to highlight IATSE behind the scenes entertainment workers who bring union made events like the Super Bowl Halftime Show and CES 2024 to life. That video was posted on her social media and amplified by the International.

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The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees or IATSE (full name: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada), is a labor union representing over 170,000 technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, including live events, motion picture and television production, broadcast, and trade shows in the United States and Canada.

For more information please contact:
General: comms@iatse.net
Press: press@iatse.net


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