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Union Roundup – March 2003

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UNION ROUNDUP
By
Mark London Williams

SAG-AFTRA: The 800-pound gorilla of union news this issue is the return to the front burner of a potential merger between SAG and AFTRA, though staunch advocates of their respective union’s unique characters prefer to view more as an AFL-CIO type merger with a single umbrella organization overseeing fairly autonomous locals. Nonetheless, as readers of this paper know, the two unions have been close to melding before, only to have SAG’s membership (60% from each guild must approve) nix the idea, last time out. From a BTL perspective, the angle to watch is whether the current economic/political climate induces the unions to two-step. Which is to say, whether the increasing merger and consolidation of media corporations forces a response in kind on the labor side. And then, if such a mega-union does come about, like the AFL-CIO, it will have the potential to shape the debate on labor issues in Hollywood (and its allied locales) simply by deciding which issues to take a stand on – and which to avoid. In other words, if these unions get bigger, the other unions will be affected on everything from the efficacy of strikes, to what kind of benefits or residuals to expect.

TEAMSTERS: If you were asked about a “drive to use the national emergencies we face today to grab more power,” you might think someone was rightfully talking about either the White House or the Justice Department. But no: If you’re a member of the Teamsters or an AFL-CIO affiliated union, they’re talking about you. Or rather, Tom DeLay, the Texas Congressman and most powerful member of the GOP House delegation, was talking about you in a controversial fundraising letter for the “National Right To Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation,” which promised potential contributors that money would be used to take on “big labor bosses.” Once backlash to the leaked letter started – no less a labor activist than James P. Hoffa pronounced himself offended by the matter – DeLay predictably disavowed any knowledge of its contents, dispatching spokesman Stuart Roy to claim the House Rep never lay eyes on the material before affixing his signature to it. Since the broadside also takes on NY firefighters and policemen – claiming they manipulated the World Trade Center tragedy for political gain – and then goes on to accuse all unions of taking unfair advantage of World War II (!!) for their nefarious organizing purposes, DeLay was in a painted corner over the matter. Labor activists might note for future reference, though, that a state of more or less permanent emergency may be used against them whenever the notion of striking might cross their minds.

IATSE: The Music Video Production Association
(MVPA) has signed a deal with the
International Association of Theatrical and
Stage Employees (IATSE) January 1, 2003.

The MVPA is a non-profit trade organization
that addresses today’s highly competitive,
ever changing music video industry. The
MVPA represents the people responsible for
the vast majority of the music videos produced
in the world – production companies and
individuals, suppliers and service providers.

The “goal of the deal is to give benefits to the
IATSE crew members while not adversely
impacting the music video industry” Pam Tarr,
,MVPA President, Squeak Pictures.

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