There’s a large conference at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston this week- a gathering of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
They’re a colorful cast of the people behind the scenes of television, movies and theater- technicians, artists, stagehands- and they’re politically active, too. They’ve flown into the city from Toronto, Hollywood, New York.
John Gates, the president of Local 481 Studio Mechanics in Woburn, stood in a giant ballroom of hundreds of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Most were in business attire, but some had wild hair colors and sleeves of tattoos. The union meets once every four years, and they’re clearly a friendly group.
Leon Morris, of Local 720 in Las Vegas, said the highlight of this day wasn't the caucus for people who work in wardrobe or animation, for example. It was listening to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“She’s been such a supporter of our labor movement across the country and in her state," he said. "That’s why we invited her here as a guest speaker. I, for one, could see her being the first president of the United States.”
Warren received a huge standing ovation at the event. Her speech was one of thanks and praise for unions.
But, when I spoke with members of the union afterward, they said they’re still very concerned about another issue: student loan interest rates.
Warren has been a lightening rod on the issue. Local 232 union member Brenda Shepard, of Sudbury, is concerned.
“I want her to battle against the banks for better rates on student loans. 'Cause it’s scary," she said. "I have a daughter who’s almost 10 and she’ll be going to college hopefully some day. So when she does I want her to be able to afford it.”
Parents like Shephard got a reprieve last week when the Senate reached a compromise to avoid the loans from doubling.