Cathy Repola: Crisis Shows Us How Resilient We Are

by Cathy Repola

Wow. As I sat down to write this, that was the first word that came right out.

What a surreal phase in the history of the world this has been. And yet at the same time, the pandemic of COVID-19 has been all too real. Certainly for most of us, the last few months rank among the most unsettling and emotionally impactful we will experience in our lifetimes — at least let’s hope so. The loss of jobs, income, and businesses; the threatened economic collapse; and above all, the loss of lives as reflected in the official death tolls have been devastating for all of us. What has become so apparent is how vulnerable we are, and at the same time how resilient we are. The latter has been what continues to move us forward through the path of healing. I look forward to the time when we are on the other side of this, or at least far enough along that we may look back and celebrate our resilience.

Turning the focus specifically to the membership and the inevitable return to work in the entertainment industry, we must be diligent in ensuring that work sites are completely safe, and that all safety and health protocols now being newly established are adhered to without exception. It is absolutely an employer’s obligation to provide a safe working environment for its employees. We have been working with the leadership of the IATSE and other IA Locals, along with other industry affiliates, to develop enhanced safety guidelines specific to what we have all learned as a result of this virus. Because Local 700 members don’t usually work on sets, we are making sure that specific needs in places where they do work are being addressed and included in the agreed-upon industry guidelines. Depending on when you read this and where we are in the process at the time, you either have received or soon will receive additional information about this. When work returns to some form of normalcy, we of course want business to thrive, but we also want natural fears of another wave of COVID-19 to be overshadowed by a sense of comfort that all is being done to protect workers and their loved ones. That is ultimately more important than anything else.

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As members safely return to work sites or continue to work from home, much of the focus turns to the ramifications this unprecedented industry shutdown and overall economic turbulence will have on next year’s IATSE Basic Agreement negotiations. Many of you have been asking me about this, but the impact is impossible to predict at this time. However, tragic as this pandemic has been, an unexpected positive legacy may be to identify what to fight for to secure the future well-being of the membership and the long-term financial stability of the MPI Pension & Health Plans. There will be much more to say about this in the coming months.

I want to relay my deepest appreciation to our union staff. They really stepped up during this trying time in a way that makes me so grateful and proud for their unwavering commitment to assist members and provide essential services.

I am equally proud of and grateful to our officers and board members. We have worked together as a cohesive team for many years with the shared goal of always doing right by the members. Personally and professionally, the officers’ and board’s concern for the health and well-being of members and their families has always been at the forefront of all discussions and decisions.

I hope the resources we have provided about unemployment filing, mental health resources, and industry relief funds have been helpful. We also created a Volunteer/Donation resource page at EditorsGuild.com, as we recognize that many members want to help others, and that some and other members need help. In addition, we have made it a priority to continue to build a sense of connection among the membership, albeit virtually. We will continue to do all we can.

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Our members have demonstrated over the years how to come together for the greater good. Your extraordinary responses to this crisis have revealed so much about who we are as a community. If anyone among us is suffering, then we all are and pitch in however we can to lift up those in need. It has truly been remarkable to witness. I hope you will look upon your union with even greater pride than before. I certainly do.

Cathy Repola is the National Executive Director of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.

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