IATSE Internal Feud Intensifies Over Contract Ratification

Matthew Loeb - Getty  - H 2018
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The war of words between IATSE and its own Local 700, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, escalated Thursday with an exchange of angry letters.

Despite the rancor, which centers on the newly-negotiated contract between IATSE and producers, that contract is likely to be ratified, given that 12 of the 13 Locals are recommending a "Yes" vote. Although ballot materials haven’t yet been sent out, that is expected to happen shortly and the results of the vote should be known by the end of September, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

On Thursday evening, Local 700 president Alan Heim sent a letter to IATSE international president Matthew Loeb, calling it a "sad day for IATSE when its leadership calls defending our rights and voicing our opinions a divisive act."

This was in response to a letter that Loeb sent Local 700 national executive director Cathy Repola on Thursday, arguing that "her ongoing propaganda campaign is born of motivations beyond the interests of the membership. An activity which is selfish, divisive and irresponsible." Local 700's board is recommending nonratification to the membership.

In his letter, Heim wrote that Local 700 executive board members "are dismayed that rather than addressing the legitimate issues raised by Cathy regarding the recently negotiated tentative basic agreement, you have chosen to attack her personally. The allegations in your letter are morally and legally baseless and only serve to distract attention from the serious problems in the proposed agreement."

He added that Repola's "brave stance" received "overwhelming support and positive reaction from our membership, as well as from members of other Locals. Unfortunately, instead of engaging in constructive dialogue, you have chose to make this a personal battle."

In Thursday's letter, Loeb condemns Repola, alleging that she "skewed" facts and violated federal labor law by "entering these negotiations acting with authority reserved only for democratically elected union officials."

Criticizing her assessment of the pension and health plan contributions in the tentative deal, he adds, “I urge you to consider who exactly you are supporting — employers or the members. Not only is your position a conflict of interest, it is likely a breach of your fiduciary duties as a Director of the [Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans]."

This follows an Aug. 8 letter sent to Loeb by Local 700 legal counsel, accusing him of "unprofessional and potentially illegal acts."

Schwartz Steinsapir Dohrmann & Sommers contends that Loeb "ridiculed and threatened" Repola at an Aug. 6 IA executive board meeting because she is recommending that her members reject the tentative contract. The letter also accuses Loeb of stating to “assembled union leadership and lA representatives present that Local 700 ‘is not your friend.’ You claimed that the only reason Ms. Repola is recommending a rejection of the proposed contract is that at she wants to ‘unseat’ the officers at sister lA Locals.”

The letter concludes: “None of the statements made are true. However, your public comments — not to mention their sexist undertones — serve not only to undermine Ms. Repola, but also infringe upon her freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. Thus all of your comments violate the law.”

The full texts of Thursday's letters from Heim to Loeb and Loeb to Repola, as well as the Aug. 8 letter from Schwartz Steinsapir to Loeb are below.

Aug. 16, 2018

Dear Sister Repola:

I write to address a number of serious and troubling matters arising from your statements and certain activities surrounding the recently concluded negotiations for the Producer-IATSE Basic Agreement.

Local 700 was the only one of thirteen IATSE locals present in negotiations that had no elected officers or bargaining unit members present for the general negotiations. This raises a number of concerns. Most importantly, no working members from 700 had access to the actual facts, developments, and proposals, which you have repeatedly skewed. Furthermore, you entered these negotiations acting with authority reserved only for democratically elected union officials under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) and in so doing violated federal labor law.

You have repeatedly complained (including at the recent General Executive Board meeting — in open session) about Local 700 member-owned companies paying their fair share of contributions to the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans (MPIPHP). The additional $0.75 per hour in each year of the new agreement from companies that do not meet the residual threshold of $15 million will shore up funding of the plans securing a dignified retirement for our members. Your public complaints to such a provision are antithetical to the principals of trade unionism. I urge you to consider who exactly you are supporting— employers or the members. Not only is your position a conflict of interest, it is likely a breach of your fiduciary duties as a Director of the MPIPHP.

Your ongoing propaganda campaign is born of motivations beyond the interests of the membership. An activity which is selfish, divisive and irresponsible.

Sincerely,

Matthew D. Loeb

International President

***

Aug. 8, 2018

Dear President Loeb: 

This office is counsel to the Motion Pictures Editors Guild, lATSE Local 700. We have been advised by our client that you have engaged in a number of unprofessional and potentially illegal acts. 

At the lA Executive Board meeting on August 6, 2018 you ridiculed and threatened Cathy Repola, Local 700's National Executive Director because she recommends that her members reject the recently negotiated tentative industry collective bargaining agreement. 

In addition, you stated to assembled union leadership and lA representatives present that Local 700 "is not your friend." You claimed that the only reasonMs. Repola is recommending a rejection of the proposed contract is ^at she wants to "unseat" the officers at sister lA Locals. 

Finally, you claimed that Ron Kutak, National Executive Director Emeritus, Ms. Repola's predecessor, is responsible for the position Ms. Repola has taken regarding the contract. You made other comments about Mr. Kutak as well, potentially damaging his reputation. 

None of the statements made are true. However, your public comments — not to mention their sexist undertones — serve not only to undermine Ms. Repola, but also infringe upon her freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. Thus all of your comments violate the law. 

Accordingly we demand that you 1) publicly apologize to Ms. Repola and Mr. Kutak; 2) withdraw your false statements; and 3) affirm your support for Ms. Repola's right to exercise freedom of speech as a Union member and leader. Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. 

Sincerely yours, 

SCHWARTZ, STEINSAPIR, DOHRMANN & SOMMERS LLP

Michael R. Feinberg