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.