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Union Roundup

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Here we were all set for a slow summer at Union Roundup—sure, there were the global-warming-sparked wildfires, election fraud in Mexico, and the now-concluded World Cup—but then things sparked up over at IA 600, where suddenly that local’s president, Gary Dunham, finds himself impeached!Yes, dear readers, some presidents are easy to impeach.And though we used the word “suddenly,” of the six charges brought against Dunham, the most serious may have been his authorization of a letter posted to the 600 website advocating that members vote down the IA contract Tom Short had negotiated with producers, which would have ostensibly allowed a cutback in camera operators, as previously reported in these pages by Jack Egan.Jack, by the way, has the full story on these star chamber proceedings over at 600 on page 1 of this issue. It is there that you will read of the supreme irony that the only recourse left to Dunham is to appeal to the IA, which is presided over by non other than… Tom Short!And since the Short-negotiated contract went sailing through with an overwhelming majority of IA support, the whole impeachment affair may have simple boiled down to, at root, the consequences of being on the wrong side of history. Which, as has been famously stated, is usually written by the winners.Further inveighing against assumptions of “summer slowness,” there’s another pretty good IA brouhaha brewing right now up Canada way. Our redoubtable north-of-the-border Below the Line columnist Scott Lehane drew our attention to an official pronouncement from AQTIS, the Montreal-based film labor union.AQTIS stands for “Alliance québécoise des techniciens de l’image et du son,” which is written in what a Bush acolyte might call “Freedom talk,” but even if you pulled a Presidential “C” or worse in high school languages, you can read enough to know that a union that represents “techniciens” of “l’image et du son”—image and sound—seems to be a union very much like… IATSE.And therein lies the rub.An indie version of Journey to the Center of the Earth is being shot in the area, and according to AQTIS, they “denounce the fact that IATSE went to the Quebec Labour Board last week to try to certify nearly 300 Quebec technicians—all AQTIS members—presently working on an independent American film… being shot in Montreal under AQTIS contracts.”“IATSE’s total refusal to compromise for months now has caused a major crisis in our industry. AQTIS accepted the responsibility to find a solution likely to protect its members’ interests and bring back labour peace.”Yes, that’s “labor-with-a-U,” and AQTIS, feeling the weight of the Canadian French-language film world on its shoulders, took that responsibility seriously, taking a mail-in vote of its members, and announcing the results, in which “Quebec film technicians decided to give IATSE the ‘majors’ (AMPTP members), their affiliates and all independent productions financed at more than 51 percent by a ‘major’, but to let AQTIS continue to represent all other independent films, a formula similar to IATSE’s representation elsewhere in Canada.”But there were a few broadsides, too: “IATSE’s action is dishonest and greedy. Walden Entertainment has been here for months in total peace on that show. Why do this now, especially after IATSE’s very strong public position that the producer should be allowed to decide the union to work with—which is against the Labour Code in Quebec, by the way. The producers had made their choice when they came to Quebec. On top of that, IATSE is trying to certify workers who are protected under the ‘Law on the Status of Artists,’ further displaying its total disregard for the laws of Quebec.”Strong words indeed; ones you might suspect would be followed by strong action: “In the event the American union decides not to respect the result of the opinion of the technicians, we will let the representatives of the industry in this province decide which conclusions to draw,” the announcement states.This may or may not leave the IA quaking in its rival boots. The AQTIS board of directors is likewise meeting “to study its options in order to counter such a dishonest action (on the part of IA). We have the mandate to defend the interests of our members. IATSE has once again acted to destabilize the industry,” concludes the AQTIS president.A fairly confrontational conclusion, but now that AQTIS has essentially conceded all big studio films to the IA, asking only to retain representation on indie fare, it’s hard to imagine the IA wanting to risk a strike to poach the last areas of AQTIS representation.Then again, AQTIS never stated explicitly that a strike would be the consequence, so it remains to be seen how much is bluster, and how much is brass tacks (union) business in Montreal.We’ll let you know of any updates—pertinent or impertinent—as we hear them at UR. Oh, and the Canadian dollar has slipped, as of this writing, ever so slightly against the US buck, dipping to just under 90 cents per. That’s far from the 60 cents to the dollar ratio of the golden days of production flight.Still, at least one major US investor is betting the buck will continue in a downward direction: This investor has dumped “$10 to $25 million in a European bond fund which tells us that he is counting on a steadily weakening dollar,” according to the pro-business Kiplinger magazine. The investor they describe is none other than vice president Dick Cheney—the one continually telling the rest of us we have nothing to worry about.Enjoy your summer. Send us a postcard: [email protected]

Written by Mark London Williams

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