Friday, December 16, 2005

The Union

I posted a comment over at Totally Unauthorized regarding an experience I had on set and a few commented on my comment basically saying, well if it's a rule, they have to follow it and if it's Union thing they have to follow it.

I could get all snarky here and say something like, I guess those people haven't been in the business that long, but I won't. (though I do find it a little hard to believe that anyone could actually, seriously say that if it's a rule, the producers have to follow it, and keep a straight face.) But they may be in a different Local and in different Locals things work differently (in the film business, all the grips are in one local (80) the Camera Assistants in another (600) and so on with each job classification having their own locals and their own rules but all operating under the banner of IATSE.) The truth is - and I'm not trying to hide it - I'm bitter about the union. Or, at least, I'm bitter about my union (600.) Actually that's not true, while I'm kind of bitter over all the money I paid them over the years, really I'm disappointed. But since I'm no longer in it I guess I really shouldn't complain. Though I could. I could complain on and on and on and on for page after page talking about all the things the union did for me (or failed to do.) But I won't. I won't talk about how in my experience being a member of the union was like paying AAA for roadside assistance for 10 years and the one time you need your car jump-started no one ever shows up. But I won't. I posted a great example over at the other blog and that's where I'll leave it.

All right, you talked me into it. One story. But this'll be a mild one.

I was starting a film and we were in prep. It was a fairly low budget film, under $10 million, so the Union had cut one of it's low budget contracts with the producers to cover it. Let me pause here to point out an absurdity in the film business and a great example of free-market economy. A few years ago to combat the flight of production jobs to Canada the union started cutting special deals with production companies that essentially resulted in lower and lower pay for it's members. Now the reasoning was that it was better to work than not and we were keeping the jobs here, damnit! Besides it was only supposed to be for the small companies that couldn't afford the big union contracts. But guess what? Pretty soon those big companies (like DISNEY) started saying, hey - why can't we have that deal - I guess we'd better go to Canada.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was starting a job with a new contract and of course every time we asked for something or asked about something production would say, "It's in the contract." But we had never seen the contract so we would call our local and they would say, "Well that must be what the contract says." But after a while it started getting ridiculous so we asked our union to fax us the contract (at Panavision H'wood) so we could see it. So they said,

Sure, we'll call the IATSE and see if we can get it.

and I said,

Aren't YOU the IATSE.

But I guess they meant the main office.

And ---- it never came. I called back and left a few messages but it never came (not to mention the fact that no one ever called me back.)

AND THEN - five days later, while we're out on set, I call Panavision to get a few extra pieces of gear and they say, "hey, you know a fax came in for you guys today, should we toss it in a case and send it with the gear?"

Of course I say yes.

And then it comes. Our fax from the union.

It was the crew list.

No contract.

**By the way I changed the setting on comments so anyone can comment now. Sorry about that - didn't know it was set that way.


D 728 said...

What you speak is so true of The IADontknow.... things are suposedly going to be getting better with the new saftey training but I believe it actually is a way to be able to place blame back on the worker if anything dose happen.
these courses relate to your dust mask story.(previous post)

Also there is the old "if you dont show up on tuesday morning we will have someone else here within the Hour(to fill your void) hope that other show is a better...."
This business definitely has an addicting effect however, like most addictions they usually can kill you.....

Peggy Archer said...

I'd have to check with my own BA, but I'm fairly certain it's not a union rule that they have to offer hotel rooms. I think they started doing it to stop OSHA from investigating the hours we work and regulating it after Brent died (RIP).

The whole thing about them not offering rooms because it makes them liable is horseshit, of course - offering rooms actually releases them from liability.

Seems to me you just got a shitty, worthless producer.

RJ said...

I think you're right, it isn't a union thing. The liability thing only came up when we asked if they would find us a hotel that we could pay for ourselves. It was a weird movie. Not the best job I've ever had.

Tay #2 said...

Jesus Christ, man. Didn't you ever learn from me that UNIONS are USELESS - they have served no purpose since the Thirties, when they got the little kids out of the factories. Nowadays they just take your money & whine and snivel about it. It is a damn pleasure to bust them whenever I can; one of my many joys from the legal industry.

Peggy Archer said...

Tay, while you have the right to your opinion (it's a free country - for now), I have to tell you that some of us are proud to be union members and fully support and believe wholeheartedly in the labor movement.

RJ said...

Although I'm a little down on my particular local, I've worked enough low budget, non-union stuff to see what Hollywood would be like without the unions and I do think they're a necessary and important part of the equation. In fact, I think I'm going to make this a post.