The Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans — which provides benefits to a significant number of union members in the entertainment business — is offering health insurance eligibility assistance amid a double strike that has made qualifying challenging for many workers in the business.
Certain industry workers will be granted additional qualifying hours so that they can remain eligible for health insurance during the work stoppages, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Typically union members who are already participants of the Plan must work at least 400 hours in a six-month period to maintain their benefits. With two strikes having essentially shut down scripted union production in the U.S. since May, this criteria has become increasingly difficult for many to meet. Per the changes, workers will receive up to 201 credited hours to qualify for health insurance, depending on the qualifying period that applies to them.
To qualify, workers must be enrolled in the Plan prior to their benefit period and pay health premiums. “MPIHP is in the process of identifying eligible Participants and implementing the credit/grant of hours,” IATSE Local 600 wrote in an email announcing the changes to members. “Participants who are eligible will receive a letter informing them of the hours that have been credited/granted.”
Moreover, MPI is allowing members to make a single “hardship withdrawal” from their defined contribution retirement plan starting September 1. Participants can withdraw up to 20 percent of their 2022 account balance, an amount that cannot exceed $20,000. The onetime withdrawal offer will expire on Dec. 31, 2023, Local 600 told its members. “IAP hardship withdrawal applications will be reviewed by Plan staff and approved for processing within 30 days of receipt of the application and all supporting documentation,” the Local added.
The MPIPHP’s board is divided equally between representatives of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — including AMPTP president Carol Lombardini and HBO’s evp labor relations and chief labor counsel Natasha Shum — and labor unions whose members participate in the Plans, such as Teamsters Local 399 secretary-treasurer Lindsay Dougherty and IATSE vp and director of the motion picture and TV department Mike Miller.
The MPI’s move is just the latest to offer assistance to entertainment workers who are affected by the strike. IATSE and the Teamsters unions have each launched financial aid initiatives for members during the stoppages, while the Entertainment Community Fund — the nonprofit charity devoted to the entertainment workforce — has reported that calls for assistance tripled in Los Angeles and doubled nationally during the first month of the writers’ strike.