While performers are struggling with shuttered productions and loss of income, SAG-AFTRA’s broadcast members face significant challenges of their own.

Keeping the public informed plays a crucial role in the crisis, and although many broadcasters are able to work from home, others must still venture into the field, and that means there is an increased risk they could contract COVID-19.

As the emergency ramped up, the responses by media outlets across the country varied significantly and shop stewards, in partnership with local management, worked together to respond and protect members.

In order to share these best practices, SAG-AFTRA’s News & Broadcast Department facilitated the creation of a team of radio and television journalists to create a list of recommendations that could be distributed to members and shared with employers. The team included experienced broadcasters such as Vice President, Broadcasters Bob Butler and Seattle Local Vice President, Broadcast Deborah Horne. The union also consulted an industrial hygienist to review the document, which used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as a starting point.

Among the recommendations was a proposition that reporters be given the latitude to work remotely if they are in a high-risk group or care for someone who is.

“The main goal was to make sure every reporter’s desires were taken into account and that no one would be penalized for whatever decision they made to ensure their safety and that of their family,” said Horne, who serves as KIRO-TV shop steward.

Other items on the list include: Bring your own makeup, brushes or sponges; limit sharing equipment and sanitize equipment between uses; and man-on-the-street interviews should be avoided but if not, conducted six feet apart.

Union staff members regularly check in with members and employers to make sure members have everything they need. For their part, employers have responded well thus far, and most have been making sincere efforts to accommodate their staff.

The situation continues to evolve. Member leaders and union staff are staying abreast of the latest news about the virus and staying in contact with SAG-AFTRA members nationwide, ready to make adjustments as needed.

This item originally featured in the SAG-AFTRA magazine spring 2020.


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