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IA Convention Wrap

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For Thomas C. Short, it’s four more years as president of the International Association of Stage and Theatrical Employees.Short, who has for over a decade captained what is the mothership for most of Hollywood’s below-the-line guilds along with a broad swath of other entertainment unions, ran unopposed for the fourth consecutive time since first being elected IA president in late 1994.He and his team emerged from the 65th national IATSE convention held in mid-July on Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach solidly backed by most of the 830 delegates in attendance.“Obviously a vast majority of the delegates and members of the IA in both the US and in Canada think that things have been going very well from a union standpoint,” said Ron Kutak, executive director of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.Short is praised for success in organizing during his tenure, which has boosted IA membership from 65,000 to over 105,000 in 10 years, running counter to the national trend of declining union participation. Another plus is the explosion in multi-year term agreements. These set basic contract minimums for different areas, and are often subject to renegotiation when they expire. The IA now has over 1,100 term agreements with employers in the entertainment industry, nearly double the total in 2003.Most of the candidates up for the 17 seats on the IA’s General Executive Board ran unopposed, so nomination amounted to election in most cases.James Wood will serve another term as IATSE general secretary-treasurer. International vice presidents are Rudy Napoleone, Timothy Magee, Michael Barnes, Walter Cahill, Thom Davis, Matthew Loeb, Anthony DePaulo, Mimi Wolch, Damian Petti, Brian Lawlor, Michael Miller, John Beckman and Daniel DiTolla. New to the executive board is DiTolla, son of Alfred DiTolla, the IA president who passed away in 1994 and was succeeded by Short.The only contested race was for the three trustee posts, where four candidates ran. Winners were C. Faye Burns, an incumbent, and two new members, John Ford and George Palazzo. The latter is head of IATSE Local 729, the Set Painters and Sign Writers union. Incumbent Albert Burns was defeated. Incumbent Ronnie Cunningham, business agent for Local 44, the Affiliated Property Craftpersons union, did not stand for re-election as trustee.But all was not sweetness and aloha in Hawaii. Some sharp exchanges took place at the convention on subjects like the IA’s role in Hollywood blacklisting during the 1940s and 1950s (see Union Roundup on page 2 of this issue).With the convention out of the way, next on the calendar for Short is setting a strategy and priorities for negotiating a new minimum basic agreement with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers to replace the existing three-year deal that’s set to expire at the end of next July.Preliminary talks with AMPTP are expected to begin this fall. But the only time the subject came up on the floor was when Jay Roth, the national executive director of the Directors Guild of America, delivered a speech to the delegates affirming solidarity between the DGA and the IA. Though speaking retrospectively, he hinted that the IA might be better off striking an agreement with AMPTP sooner rather than later.“Many believe that the only way to get the best deal is to negotiate right up to the last minute—we do not agree,” said Roth addressing the delegates. “We believe that this tactic not only results in a de facto strike, but also increases the likelihood of a real one,” added Roth, who is also a veteran labor lawyer.He cited the case of the Writers Guild going to the brink three years ago before negotiating a contract. “It happened in 2001 and no one took responsibility for the homes and health coverage that was lost, and everyone was the loser,” said Roth. “We have come to understand that employers to avoid the apparent cost of uncertainty may be willing to pay a premium on an early deal. So why waste the leverage?”Organizing workers in the burgeoning $50 billion-a-year video game business was discussed at one of the General Executive Board sessions. “It’s acknowledged that this is a difficult workforce to organize because of their high-level skills and generally high level of compensation,” a meeting summary observed. “Nevertheless, there are severe abuses in the workplace, mostly centered around the overtime hours that go uncompensated, but are the expected norm in the industry.”Short “will visit the West Coast offices in September 2005 and will help develop the overall strategy for organizing throughout this industry,” according to the statement.

Written by Jack Egan

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