In news that could have larger ramifications across Hollywood’s unions, Studio Mechanics Local 52 in New York has entered into a settlement agreement with union member James Harker that states it will not discriminate against nonunion workers who are trying to get jobs in the entertainment industry.
Local 52 is IATSE’s largest production local in New York, and after Harker filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, it has agreed that it will no longer require nonmembers to obtain work through the union or obtain the union’s approval before applying for union-represented positions or accepting offers of employment.
The settlement, which has been approved by NLRB Region 29 in New York, sees Local 52 agree that it “will not threaten union members with internal union discipline if they hire nonmembers without first obtaining approval from the union; will allow union member department heads to staff their crews with nonmembers without first obtaining approval from the union hall; will not interfere with employers and their agents hiring nonmembers without first obtaining approval from the union, and will not require employers to allow members to bump nonmembers off of productions because of the nonmembers’ lack of membership with the union.”
The charitable non-profit organization National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation agreed to provide Harker with free legal assistance throughout his case after he alleged that Local 52 had tried to prevent him from working for companies signed to the local’s contracts and that in an October 2021 membership meeting, Local 52 President John Ford “threatened the membership with internal union discipline if they hire nonmembers without permission of the union.”
Though Local 52 denied both of those charges, it agreed, under the terms of the settlement, to publish a notice of the terms of the settlement in its newsletter; that “a responsible official” of the local “will read the notice to members at the next regularly scheduled general membership meeting,” and that the local’s officials and business agents “will receive training on employee rights, hiring hall procedures, and the rights of nonmembers.”
The NLRB also ordered Local 52 to text or email the notice to all production companies that have employed workers covered by any of its collective bargaining agreements since Jan. 1, 2021, as well as any and all members since that time, and individuals who worked under the local’s contract as nonunion “permits,” “applicants,” and “over hires” since Sept. 15, 2020, so long as those people have contact information on file.
What’s interesting about this ruling is that if unions can’t discriminate against nonunion members when it comes to hiring for jobs, then what’s the point of being a member? Isn’t it so you’ll get jobs ahead of nonunion members? Interesting, indeed…