Read IATSE Letter to President Joe Biden Offering Union’s Help to Build Vaccination Sites

Biden wants FEMA to build as many as 100 vaccination sites and IATSE wants to help.
Screeners register residents of the William Reid Apartments at a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination site at the NYCHA housing complex, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool)
A vaccination site in Brooklyn.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) is taking a big step towards helping the Covid-19 vaccination rollout by offering to help build or convert vaccination sites across the country. In a letter sent to Joe Biden and signed by IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb, the organization offers the White House COVID Response Team and FEMA its assistance, noting IATSE members have worked for years with federal agencies in arenas and convention centers to help disaster response teams. Loeb added that the skills needed to convert spaces into emergency response hubs is not that different from the skills needed to load in live events.

As the mass vaccination campaign ramps up across the U.S., sports arenas and other large venues have become choice spots to get as many people vaccinated as possible. In Southern California, that includes Dodger Stadium and Disneyland.

Biden, in his first day in office last week, announced a draft plan that would see FEMA operate up to 100 vaccination sites across the country, getting the federal government more involved in distribution than under President Donald Trump. The largest of those sites could administer 6,000 doses a day and require spaces as large as 15,000 square feet, according to the Washington Post. Up until now, the vaccination effort has been led by state and local governments.

IATSE represents the vast majority of TV and film production crew as well as people working in theater, trade shows, and live music. Its membership exceeds 140,000 who are a part of over 375 locals.

Read Loeb’s full letter to Biden in its entirety below.

Dear Mr. President:

This letter is to formally offer the White House COVID Response Team and FEMA our infrastructure and labor in the effort to build or convert vaccinations sites across the country.

As the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), we are the largest labor union in America representing stagehands, certified riggers, and other craftspeople who work behind-the-scenes in conference centers, arenas, theaters, and other live events venues. As you know, these workers have been unable to return to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they stand ready to do their part when they are called upon.

IATSE workers throughout the country have been working alongside the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA in arenas and convention centers for years in disaster response situations, and in April we helped convert numerous facilities into field hospitals in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The skills required to convert these facilities are not much different than those required to load in rock and roll concerts and other live events.

Working with the field hospital installations designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the IATSE and its contractors can typically pre-install the rigging, lights, and electric, quickly and efficiently. IATSE Locals throughout the country have even developed a series of pre-designed rigs to allow variations based on venue size.

The equipment can be power washed, sanitized, shrink-wrapped, and can be delivered to locations for installation. Together, we have a unique opportunity not only to help beat this virus and save lives, but also to get these skilled union technicians back to work. Let’s build back better, together.


Matthew D. Loeb
IATSE, International President

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