Cinemas in New York remain closed, but the still-furloughed employees at Alamo Drafthouse’s Downtown Brooklyn location are petitioning the company for increased pandemic protections that includ hazard pay and health insurance benefits for all workers.
Over 100 employees signed the petition, representing about half of the staff that worked at the theater before it closed in March. The workers sent the document to Alamo Drafthouse leadership last week; in response, the leaders invited the workers to a conference call September 10 to discuss the matter, according to one employee who shared the petition with IndieWire.
Here’s an excerpt from the petition:
First, we ask that health insurance coverage be provided, immediately to every single employee working during this time regardless of position or hours worked. Since Alamo may resume operations starting at 25% capacity, it won’t be likely that many returning employees would be able to reach or maintain the 30 hours/week minimum that was the previous requirement to qualify for coverage. Guaranteeing that staff will be covered as they put themselves and their families at risk is of utmost importance.
Next, we ask for hazard pay for the employees that are able to come back to work. Because we will be operating at significantly reduced capacity, we ask that all returning non-salaried employees receive time and a half, for all hours worked. Additionally, all employees earning above minimum wage must be promised their pre-furlough rates and salaries. We also request that the subminimum wage be eliminated for all employees in both tipped and non-tipped positions. This hazard pay must be in place as soon as Alamo Drafthouse reopens and until a vaccine is available and accessible to ALL.
Employees also demanded that the mask requirement for patrons be enforced by “sufficient security present at all times” who would, if needed, escort the guest from the building should they refuse. They also demanded that any employees sent home due to high temperature reading be granted sick pay; that employees be tested for COVID prior to returning to work; and increased attention given to air circulation.
Reached for comment, a company spokesperson offered this statement:
Alamo Drafthouse takes the concerns of our teammates very seriously, and we’ve strived to create and maintain open dialogue and consistent communication through these complicated times with regular updates to current and furloughed team members. We have been and will continue to be committed to reopening theaters in the safest possible way for both guests and teammates, while ensuring staff have the opportunity to earn strong wages and remain eligible for health care benefits.
The spokesperson told IndieWire that at reopened locations, those who need health insurance are being scheduled to meet the 30-hour threshold. The Affordable Care Act only requires companies to offer health insurance to employees who work 30 or more hours a week.
Additionally, the spokesperson said the company has seen employees earn wages comparable or above those earned prior to the pandemic. Any employee who tests positive for the virus will receive their full pay, for up to 14 days, and have full job protection during that leave.
Drafthouse is on a waitlist to pilot a regular (weekly or daily) pooled testing program that involves testing multiple samples at one time. It has not yet been approved in the US, but is in use in other countries for workers who come into contact with the public, according to the spokesperson.
The spokesperson did not address the workers’ ask regarding hazard pay. However, they added that in the short term, Alamo Drafthouse expects to continue posting losses as it begins to reopen amid the pandemic.
Drafthouse’s companywide rules require that patrons wear masks unless eating or drinking, mandatory temperature checks, social distancing measures inside and outside of auditoriums, and exit-by-row plans for theaters. The chain is also a signatory of NATO’s industrywide theater safety plan, which covers everything from sanitation to ventilation.
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