Haskell Wexler, ASC, the Oscar-winning director of photography, announced he is seeking to be the president of the International Cinematographers Guild, known as IATSE Local 600. With nearly 6,000 members, the ICG is the largest union in the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees.Wexler is running against cinematographer Steven Poster, ASC, the current president of Local 600. Poster was voted into office last summer by the union’s national executive board after the NEB ousted Gary Dunham, who was elected president in 2004.Wexler, 81, is not so much throwing his hat into the ring as he is tossing out DVDs of his 2005 documentary Who Needs Sleep. He has distributed over 1,000 screeners of his documentary to members of the union. “I sent out as many as I could afford,” said Wexler. He has made the issue of crew sleep deprivation a cornerstone of his campaign, though the problem affects not just cinematographers but members of other below-the-line crafts.Wexler is currently second national VP of the ICG. Besides cinematographers the ICG represents camera operators along with other members of the camera crew, and also publicists. In 2004, Wexler was elected to office on a slate headed by Dunham that opposed the ICG’s traditional leadership. He has subsequently been critical of the way Dunham was removed from office.But in an interview with Below the Line, Wexler said it was time to move past the episode, in which Poster was the one of the main prosecutors in the case against Dunham. Dunham was removed following charges he had exceeded his authority when he opposed ratification of the Hollywood Basic Agreement, which he had helped to negotiate. The ICG, along with Local 44, were the only two Hollywood guilds to vote down the agreement.Wexler also spoke positively about IA president Tom Short, whom he has criticized in the past for being slow to move on the sleep deprivation issue and for stifling union dissent. “I think Tom Short does a tremendous job of trying to get the most he can for all the members of the Hollywood guilds,” said the contender for the presidency of Local 600.”If I thought Haskell was right for the job, I’d support him,” Poster said in a statement. “Unfortunately, I don’t think he has the kind of agenda that’s needed at this particular time.” Poster said that in the eight months he’s been in office, he has encouraged special craft meetings “that addressed members’ concerns with regard to working conditions, long hours and health benefits.” Wexler meanwhile complained that the current regime was intolerant of dissent. “We are told not to rock the official union boat, because those who deal for us with the employers will not like us,” Wexler said in the statement he mailed to members of Local 600. “Let us not forget it’s our boat. Open discussion, questioning authority, is labeled ‘factionalism.’ Top-down corporate unionism, even the benevolent kind, has never benefited the workers.”Others who are running for office in the ICG elections include: Douglas C. Hart and Barry Wetcher for national vice-president; Rusty Burrell and Tony Magaletta for first national vice-president; Michael Frediani, Kristin Glover, Robert Primes, ASC and John Toll, ASC for second national vice-president; and Paul Ferrazzi and Alan Gitlin for national secretary-treasurer.Election ballots are being sent out April 10, with ballot counting set for May 11. Official results will be available May 16. The national executive board of the ICG then gets the official report from the election committee for certification at a meeting set for June 9.
Written by Jack Egan