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HomeColumnsIATSE Quadrennial Convention Curtain Raiser

IATSE Quadrennial Convention Curtain Raiser

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The curtain is about to rise. Soon it will be showtime in Honolulu for the 65th national convention of IATSE, or the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicans, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, its Territories and Canada—as it’s formally known these days.The IATSE convention’s main event will take place July 18 to 22. Prior to that there are two separate sessions where lots of prep work gets done prior to the official four-day meet. There’s an IA general executive board meeting from July 11 to 15 and IATSE district conventions are held July 15 to 16.Top of the agenda, delegates will vote on who will lead IATSE. Thomas Short is running for his fourth term as IA president. There’s no doubt about the outcome. The only suspense is about who may try a quixotic run against him.The most important discussions to be held in the advance meetings are what individual guild issues will be on the table when the IA and the Alliance of Television and Motion Picture Producers (AMPTP) start negotiations this fall on renewing the three-year old Basic Agreement that expires next summer.But before the Honolulu meeting even begins, sharp-elbowed skirmishing has gone on in recent weeks, especially on the controversial issue of “runaway production.”Exhibit A is a letter signed by international president Short and sent to the leaders of all of Canada’s IATSE locals. In the letter, which has circulated widely on the internet, Short questioned whether Tim McHugh, the head of the Film and Television Action Committee (FTAC) practices what he preaches in his firm opposition to runaway production (see Union Roundup on page 2).McHugh, who had been an alternate but found out just days ago that he will be an official delegate to the IA convention, told Below The Line that “I’ll be the one there with a big target on my back.”Gerry Rafferty, business agent for IATSE Local 669, the International Photographers Guild, in Vancouver, said Short’s letter was shot across the bow to IA members who support FTAC’s strategy of asking for the US to file a trade action against Canada and other foreign countries for violating trade laws by subsidizing film and television production.“The letter I got was a clear message from president Short,” said Rafferty, “that the Canadian unions in the IA are on exactly the same footing as the American unions, and that he’s not going to be drawn into a discussion over FTAC-like proposals.”This will be the first IATSE quadrennial convention ever. Four years is the longest stretch between such confabs in recent history, so there’s sure to be a jam-packed agenda, as well as a few dust-up debates on the convention floor.The last convention took place in Chicago in July 2001. There, a resolution, spearheaded by IA chief Short, was passed to increase the span between meetings from three to four years as a money-saving measure. Some delegates would like to return to the more-frequent triennial format.Another constitution-changing resolution passed at the IATSE meeting in 2001 is likely to have a considerable impact on what actually gets discussed in the big open sessions. Only resolutions that have been submitted in advance to the IA after they’ve been approved by a majority of a local’s delegates to the convention can be introduced. Resolutions can’t simply be offered from the floor for consideration, as they were in the past; they’ll have to be pre-approved.It remains to be seen what has actually made it through the vetting process. Resolutions from Local 600, the ICG, including one FTAC-like proposal, were supposedly rejected by the IA on the grounds they weren’t filed properly and arrived late.Four resolutions from Studio Electrical Lighting Technicians Local 728 look like they’ve made the cut, according to Michael Everett, an executive board member of the lighting union.These include resolutions to return to a three-year interval between conventions; have IATSE “make a public acknowledgement of its involvement and leadership in the Hollywood Blacklist” and remove a section still in its constitution commonly known as a “red clause”; and have the IA post on its website “Union Member Rights” as promulgated by the federal Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.A fourth Local 728 resolution could stir up a hornet’s nest of a discussion, if it actually makes it to the floor.Claiming IA officer salaries “are now among the highest in the labor movement” while hourly wage rates of IATSE members have fallen “precipitously” in recent years, it proposes to freeze all IA officer salaries at January 2005 levels. And they will stay frozen until the issue is “revisited at the next International convention.”But don’t bet on this getting passed.

Written by Jack Egan

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