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After its worker group publicly questioned whether a previous voluntary recognition announcement was official, International Documentary Association management has signed a voluntary recognition agreement with the union backing their organizing workers.
Both IDA and the worker group, Documentary Workers United, which is associated with the Communications Workers of America Local 9003, announced the development Wednesday. DWU says both IDA executive director Richard Ray Perez and CWA Local 9003 president Marisa Remski signed the voluntary recognition agreement. According to the worker group, all of the roles they originally asked for in their initial request for voluntary recognition will be included in the bargaining unit.
In a statement about the agreement, Perez said, “A group of IDA staff has successfully formed a union — one that has been recognized with historic speed. The IDA believes this is a positive step forward that will help forge a new direction for the organization and its staff.” He added that management is “committed” to collaborating with the union on “the collective bargaining process, further articulating our respective roles and responsibilities, and establishing processes that enable us to strengthen the IDA, grow our shared vision for a more equitable and inclusive documentary community and fulfill the organization’s essential obligations to the field.”
Members of DWU, which had previously expressed skepticism about management’s announcement March 16 that they were voluntarily recognizing the union before paperwork was signed, celebrated the news in their own statements. “This is a historic day for the IDA workers who worked tirelessly to get a union at our organization,” DWU Organizing Committee member Hansen Bursic said. “We are excited to get to work to accomplish the goals laid out in our mission statement and fight for a contract that benefits staff.”
Added fellow DWU Organizing Committee member Eddie Hustleby, “The support we’ve received from the members of our community, our unionized colleagues in other media organizations, and industry leaders have kept us going. We look forward to the continued support of the community as we embark on this next step of bargaining for a fair contract — as resilient as ever.”
The agreement signatures arrive several weeks after the IDA board first stated in a letter to staff and in a press statement that they were agreeing to the workers’ request that CWA Local 9003 be voluntarily recognized as their representative in collective bargaining. In the letter, the Board said it recognized the Local as “the representative of an appropriate bargaining unit of employees at IDA.” In the days that followed, the DWU group raised concerns that management had not signed either a letter of recognition presented by CWA or the staffers’ mission statement. “We are hopeful that IDA management will follow through on their written promise to voluntarily recognize our union,” one member who opted to remain anonymous said in a statement at the time. “But until we receive this signature we are not officially recognized as a union.”
Days after the initial voluntary recognition announcement, the workers filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. (The NLRB website states the petition was withdrawn April 4.) The executive committee of the IDA board subsequently responded in a Medium post. The committee wrote, “To make it absolutely clear, we enthusiastically support and recognize workers’ right to unionize” and said, “we look forward to taking the next steps through a process guided by mutual respect and understanding.” They added, “When we were contacted by the Communications Workers of America, there was no mention that signing a mission statement was a prerequisite to recognizing the union.”
The union campaign emerged not long after a staff exodus at IDA. In the last few months, nine staffers have left the nonprofit. In late March the organization announced the addition of two new hires, a director of Artist Programs and director of the IDA Funds and Enterprise Program, and a new consultant to analyze programs, operations and planning.
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