Hollywood’s biggest stars will take home golden trophies during the 84th Annual Academy Awards, but the Teamsters who manufacture and polish the coveted statues are being handed something far less glamorous – gutted benefits and wage cuts.
Fifty Teamsters on Chicago’s North Side have reached a stalemate during contract negotiations with R.S. Owens & Company, the longtime producer of the Oscar and Emmy Awards. Owens denied wage increases to its workers from 2007-2011, and is proposing wage freezes for the next three years. Such action would leave employees without any new wages in nearly a decade.
Owens also wants to cut vacation and bereavement benefits prior to the Oscars on Feb. 26, 2012.
“From the Screen Actors Guild to the Directors Guild of America, most celebrities who get an Oscar are in a union themselves,” said Donnie Von Moore, president of Teamsters Local 743, which represents the men and women behind the Oscars. “They know how crucial unions are to protecting livelihood. What the workers at R.S. Owens need now is union support.”
The Chicago Teamsters are reaching out to industry unions and organizations in several states for support. Illinois has experienced a boom in blockbuster film and television production in recent years thanks to its significant film tax credit, generating hundreds of jobs for local Teamsters.
As contract negotiations with Owens stall, the union is also preparing for federal mediation. Owens seeks to reduce vacation benefits for the majority of its workers, increase health care costs and cut wages for family medical leave, despite taking in revenue this year of $31 million.
“No matter the economy, R.S. Owens can count on the Oscars ceremony kicking off in February each year,” said John T. Coli, president of Teamsters Joint Council 25. “This company needs to bargain in good faith with the workers who make these award shows possible in the first place.”