(Photo: Joan Marcus)

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees urged its members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after the Broadway League set an industrywide mandate last week. 

The Broadway League policy requires all cast, crew and theater staff, as well as audience members, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with exceptions for children under the age of 12 or individuals with medical conditions or closely held religious beliefs that prevent vaccination. The announcement came as employers across the U.S. set vaccination mandates in the face of rising cases related to the delta variant. 

IATSE, which represents technicians, artisans and craftspeople, said in a statement to Broadway News that the union cannot comment on Broadway’s specific policy at this time, but that it supports vaccination, as well as other health measures such as mask-wearing, as a means to protect against the virus and get back to work. 

“We have seen first-hand the devastation COVID-19 can inflict on our industries when it spreads uncontrolled. We can’t afford to go back and allow new variants to force our theaters closed and our events cancelled,” said Jonas N. Loeb, director of communications for IATSE. 

After consulting IATSE’s in-house epidemiologists and public health experts, we are strongly urging every IATSE member get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they can to protect themselves, their families, their union sisters, brothers, and kin coworkers, and the very work we love.”

U.S. labor law give employers — here, members of the Broadway League — the right to mandate vaccines for their employees, so long as the mandate does not run afoul of discrimination laws. Employers are also required to provide a safe work environment, under rules established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Unions, meanwhile, negotiate the terms of collective bargaining agreements with the employers, which can include provisions to keep workers safe. 

Actors’ Equity released its safety agreement with the Broadway League Thursday and also spoke in favor of vaccinations. 

“Vaccines work, and those who are vaccinated will protect both themselves and those who can’t be at this time,” Mary McColl, executive director for Actors’ Equity Association, said at the time. 

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio set a mandate for all city employees, which includes teachers, as well as police and fire departments, to be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing by Sept. 13. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set a similar mandate for employees of the state’s MTA and Port Authority and issued a blanket mandate for state hospital employees. 

Unions including the New York State United Teachers union have spoken out against the possibility of a mandated vaccine, without the alternative option of weekly testing. 

Last week, a number of companies issued vaccine mandates, including Walt Disney Co., which set a vaccine requirement for salaried and non-union hourly employees.