Citing Concerns That "Union Is Not Unified," IATSE Local 871 Recommends Ratifying New Contract

While the contract is not "perfect,' the local's business rep Leslie Simon says "it's in our best interest to accept this deal."
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IATSE Local 871 — representing such workers as script supervisors, production coordinators and accountants — has joined Local 700 in expressing concern about IATSE's tentative contract but it isn't recommending a "no" vote, as Local 700 has done.

While the board of Local 700, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, voted unanimously Saturday to urge members to vote against the agreement, Local 871 business rep Leslie Simon sent a letter to members (published below) saying that it's "not a perfect contract" but recommends a vote to ratify while addressing concerns about other issues.

But given that the other 11 affected locals have signed on to IATSE  international president Matthew D. Loeb's letter of endorsement for the tentative contract, ratification of the deal seems likely. 

In the letter to its members, Simon writes: "I did not sign on to the letter that you all received yesterday from IATSE President Matthew Loeb. As I stated in my July 26th email, this contract includes numerous improvements, some of which are on breakthrough issues. As a result, though it is not a perfect contract, I believe that ultimately it is in our best interest to accept this deal, continue working, and move on to fight the next battle.

"I am concerned that our union is not unified and speaking with one voice. I am concerned that this does not set the conditions for a successful strike," she warns, concluding, "Let’s do our best to promote union solidarity, both within and outside our Local. In this way, we can become an important force that the industry will need to take seriously." 

Regarding the details of the tentative contract, Simon says that "we achieved quite a bit in these negotiations, including breakthroughs on work hours, new media, and the funding of our health and pension plans," while pointing out that "for the majority of our Local 871 membership, the gains on work hours don’t apply, as you are classified as on-call employees" and "the industry has, to date, refused to take seriously our Pay Equity Study and has refused to begin a serious dialogue on this very real, important issue."

Simon advises: "Our issues will be best addressed by our current public campaign for Pay Equity and not by voting No on this contract." (In any event, a "no" vote doesn't amount to a strike authorization, which must be voted on separately.)

The tentative deal on the new three-year contract, which was reached last week between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, now goes to a vote in which each individual union member casts a ballot. When the votes are tabulated, the process works like an electoral college: The members' votes are counted on local-by-local basis, and the majority determines whether that local will vote in favor or against ratification. Each local will cast a certain number of votes depending on the size of the local, just as the electoral college gives the most populated states the most votes.

The full letter to Local 871 is below. 

Dear All:
 
I have been asked why, since I am recommending a Yes vote to ratify the Agreement, I did not sign on to the letter that you all received yesterday from IATSE President Matthew Loeb. As I stated in my July 26th email, this contract includes numerous improvements, some of which are on breakthrough issues.  As a result, though it is not a perfect contract, I believe that ultimately it is in our best interest to accept this deal, continue working, and move on to fight the next battle. 
 
As stated in yesterday’s letter, we achieved quite a bit in these negotiations, including breakthroughs on work hours, new media, and the funding of our health and pension plans, which were key priorities for our union. I agree that these were major gains for the IATSE crew and that we should be proud of these achievements. 
 
However, for the majority of our Local 871 membership, the gains on work hours don’t apply, as you are classified as on-call employees. This means that, for example, our Production Coordinators who work in television earning as little as $1,250/week, will continue to work long days with no overtime, and no additional MPI contributions above their 60-hour weekly guarantee for their five-day workweek.  (The 12-hour MPI contributions for 6th and 7th days — which we did achieve — is an improvement that has been sought for years.) In addition, the industry has, to date, refused to take seriously our Pay Equity Study and has refused to begin a serious dialogue on this very real, important issue.
 
I believe that our issues will be best addressed by our current public campaign for Pay Equity and not by voting No on this contract. I am concerned that members will be voting No because they are dissatisfied and believe that simply voting No will force the industry to move further in our direction, without the need for an actual strike. I am concerned that members believe that if we do have to strike, it will be over very quickly and are not ready for what could be a protracted work stoppage. I am concerned that our union is not unified and speaking with one voice. I am concerned that this does not set the conditions for a successful strike.
 
The reaction to the Tentative Agreement has begun a dialogue among our members about the very real issues we face. I do believe that this is a good thing. It means that we have just started the organizing that is needed if we are to win on these larger issues. I encourage everyone to vote Yes to the agreement before you because of the numerous achievements outlined in my previous email, and in yesterday’s letter from President Loeb. 
 
I would then urge that we take the energy that has started, and begin the hard work of developing a well-educated membership throughout the West Coast Locals. Get involved in our Pay Equity Campaign.  Speak with your cast and crew about the rates we get paid, and ask them to sign our Open Letter. Speak with the majority of members who are not actively involved in helping with this work. Let’s become an organized Local.

While good faith disagreements on these crucial issues are of course fine, and to be expected, let’s try our best moving forward to avoid ugly bickering and name calling. Everyone involved in these difflicult negotiations, from Predisdent Loeb on down, are all doing their best to represent the diverse interests of our membership against a very powerful industry.

Let’s do our best to promote union solidarity, both within and outside our Local. In this way, we can become an important force that the industry will need to take seriously. 
 
In Solidarity,
 
Leslie Simon
Business Representative
IATSE Local 871

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