Actors’ Equity Association Lauds Senators Durbin and Cortez Masto for Introducing the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act

New York-- Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, commends Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), for their introduction of the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, which will offer 100% COBRA health insurance subsidies for those who have lost their health insurance due to the pandemic.

“While the HEROES Act remains shamefully stalled in the Senate because Mitch McConnell would rather ram through a Supreme Court nominee, we are grateful for the leadership of Senators Durbin and Cortez Masto. They understand how important health care is for all workers, especially those in the arts industry,” said Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity Association. “We were among the first to shut down and will be the last to fully return. Without further action, too many in the arts and entertainment sector - which provides a larger share of our national economy than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing - face the prospect of losing their health care while the industry is shut down. The Senate must act.”  

Background: In April, Equity called for a COBRA subsidy as unemployment began to skyrocket in the arts and entertainment sector. In May the House passed the HEROES Act, which includes a 100% COBRA subsidy for displaced workers. The language is modeled after similar efforts during the 2008 financial crisis, when the federal government offered COBRA subsidies to workers who were laid off through no fault of their own. In May, Equity called for the U.S. Senate to pass a COBRA subsidy without delay. Since then, Over 4,900 Equity members and supporters have signed a petition calling for the subsidy. Thousands more have signed a petition supporting the HEROES Act. 

Equity members' health insurance is tied to how many weeks out of the year they work on contract. As lost work for Equity members stretches on, more lose access to their insurance each month. COBRA allows them to maintain their union health insurance, and a subsidy waives cost-prohibitive fees to do so. 

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks  

September 25, 2020