It’s late and it’s summer, here at Union Roundup. By which we mean: we’re filing this before we head out on the Western highway—globally-warming, sky-high-priced gas awaiting us at every filling station—with our young ’uns. But the stories in this column aren’t the kind that one “leaves behind” (apologies to the similarly-named apocalyptic book series).Rather, these are stories that are developing, as Mr. Drudge likes to say on his utterly, accurately, fact-based news site. So we know they will be waiting for us when we return.So let’s get started, and let’s paraphrase some Faulkner while we do: It’s going to be a long, hot summer, and either of these items could turn into real barn burners:The first has to do with events leading up to IATSE’s upcoming convention in Hawaii (held there, not because it’s Hawaii, per se, but because—that’s right—the hotels are union) and as our estimable reporter, Jack Egan, writes elsewhere in these pages, one item roiling the waters in advance of the gathering is a certain letter being circulated, bearing the signature of Tom Short. The letter—or more accurately, memo—attacks Tim McHugh, one of the leaders of FTAC, as being, essentially, a hypocrite. Or to quote from Mr. Short:“This so-called champion of the ‘Runaway Production’ cause obviously has no trouble offering his expertise to the very same companies he claims have wrongfully relocated domestic jobs.” The epistle goes on to say that McHugh—one of the folks who runs Burbank-based FX shop Area 51—a “champion of the entertainment industry worker serviced the production The Crow: Salvation which shot non-union in Salt Lake City. IATSE organizers attempting to obtain a contract were repeatedly threatened with arrest for engaging in legally protected activity. The voice of Mr. McHugh was nowhere to be heard then.”The missive—and you can see it all online, at rascally website Dropline.biz—ends with a postscript listing all of McHugh’s allegedly errant production involvement, including SciFi Channel miniseries Dune, shot in Italy, Prague, and the Czech Republic, and The X-Files, which started in Vancouver and eventually relocated production to LA.It’s an interesting tack—pun?—for Short to take, sending the epistle to the executive boards of various IA locals. But when you realize that every single local listed in the memo’s “to” column is in Canada, it becomes more interesting still. Short, then, would seem to be attacking non-unionism rather than “flight to Canada”-ism as the most grievous of McHugh’s sins. Yet in listing productions like The X-Files, which, though Vancouver-based, was hardly a non-union shoot, has McHugh signed on to anything different than the very IA that Mr. Short oversees?Most likely, the idea is to get McHugh off his perceived high horse, since the memo indicates that despite public utterances that the quadrennial IA get-together will be relatively placid, Short may be expecting some trouble when folks from the floor introduce motions to support FTAC’s “trade remedy” in Washington, i.e., filing a petition against Canada for “unfair trade practices.” Short, in other words, is saying, “let he who is without sin cast the first trade grievance.”And wouldn’t you know, just as we were about to shut off the office lights and file this, Mr. McHugh got back to us with his comments:“I’ve read (and re-read) the letter from Mr. Short and have yet to find the accusation that I have outsourced work, which is something I have never done. He never mentioned Area 51 in the letter.“His accusation seems to be that I have worked on productions that were filmed in foreign countries, and that is something that I have done. Most people I know have done some work on productions that were filmed out of the country. These days that would be hard to avoid. However, no claim can be made that my work enabled any productions to leave the country.“I guess the fact that they have now resorted to personal attacks means that they have no way to attack our political position. They know, as we do, that the 301(a) is the correct way to counter runaway production. That assumes, of course, that we share the same goal.”McHugh is also preparing a response to Short that he will send out in a few days. Whether that will be judiciously “leaked” to the web remains to be seen, but from all appearances, the IA gathering in Hawaii may be about as placid as one of the state’s active volcanoes.UR also recently received an aggrieved call from a member of Local 700, the Editors Guild, who had been watching Fox News, and found Bert Boeckmann on the air. Boeckmann is the owner of Galpin Motors—one of the largest car dealerships in the world—and while we weren’t watching Fox News at the time, we’re guessing our IA 700 friend had Neil Cavuto’s show tuned in, since Boeckmann is a recurring guest of the conservative talk-show host.What had our 700er so riled was when car-seller Boeckmann was asked about GM’s recent financial troubles, and predictably, Boeckmann—who started out selling Fords, when he first bought Galpin from its founder, but now also vends GM’s Saturn line, among other makes—blamed the unions! “He just really bashed us,” our caller said, and by “us” he meant union folk everywhere.What Boeckmann said, evidently, was that the health plans and pensions of UAW workers were what was dragging GM down—not, say, continuing to make gas-guzzling behemoths in an era of soaring fuel prices.But while there was no surprise Boeckmann would shade his comments thusly—he donates routinely to conservative groups like the Christian Coalition and the Parents Television Council, to name but two—what our BTL-reading, Fox-viewing caller was most upset about was how Galpin, in the guise of Boeckmann, could “turn around and stab us in the back like that.”What he meant was the thriving business Galpin has set up in Hollywood, renting production vehicles to people all over town—both working trucks and “picture cars.” These are mostly still unionized productions, so Boeckmann might not want to badmouth folks in organized labor overmuch.Still, as this is being written after Galpin’s executive offices have closed for the weekend, we look forward to hearing what the Galpin folks have to say in response to the call for a “boycott.”And to bring this full circle, and to note how politics always produces surprising bedmates, Boeckmann was also a supporter of recently defeated incumbent LA Mayor James Hahn. Of course, the AFL-CIO officially supported Hahn, too—only the IA strayed from the reservation and supported Villaraigosa. Which is to say, the local branch of the UAW’s outfit and Boeckmann were on the same side of that particular match.Meanwhile, no one has gone after the IA directly on Fox News yet—that won’t happen until some conservative spinmeister figures out a way to blame 10-buck-a-ticket movie prices on the healthcare and pension benefits received by Tinsel Town’s below-the-liners.The open road calls, compadres. More soon.
Written by Mark London Williams