AVAILABILITY GOES TOTALLY ONLINE ON MARCH 6!!!
Effective January 23, 2015, workers can no longer submit their weekly availability via e-mail.
Effective March 6, 2015, all workers will submit their weekly availability via the Online Availability Form that was first rolled out in August 2014.
For more specific information about these recent availability policy changes, workers should log in to the Backstage or read the January Cue Sheet which has been mailed. If you don’t already have access to the Backstage, request an invite from web (at) ia15.org.
With approximately 800 people on the Local’s work lists, this new policy will help Dispatch save time and money!
The IATSE Local 15 Executive Board is pleased to announce that we have hired Mylor Treneer to the position of Business Agent for IATSE Local 15. Brother Treneer comes to us with a wealth of knowledge and experience in our industry from both sides of the negotiating table, having served as Local 15’s President from 1982-‐1986, President of the Theatrical Federation of Greater Seattle, AFL-‐CIO from 1984-‐1986, and having held management positions at The 5th Avenue Theatre, The Meydenbauer Center, and Seattle Center.
The Executive Board wishes to extend a special thank you to Brothers and Sisters Bill Aston, Kevin Cuba, Jeremiah Foglesong, Betsy Harris, Al Hiskey, Kerry Korsgaard, Sue Masser, and Janos Szablya for their hard work and dedication to the candidate search committee and interview process.
Hollywood Labor Fight Looms as Money for Benefits Wanes
By MICHAEL CIEPLY
LOS ANGELES — Bitter disputes over health and pension payments to union members have created plenty of drama in states and cities this year. But do not look for a movie about it — Hollywood will be too busy dealing with a labor crisis of its own.
After three relatively peaceful years, the entertainment industry is bracing for a showdown next spring. At issue is an enormous projected shortfall in financing for some of the most jealously guarded perks in show business, the heavily gilded health and pension plans.
No one is talking of a strike yet. In fact, no one with official standing is talking publicly. Leaders of the industry’s craft and blue-collar unions and officials of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and other production companies, have all declined to discuss what will happen when several contracts expire July 31.
But in town hall meetings over the last two months, union leaders have told members that weak industry economics, a tough investment climate and, above all, sharp increases in health care outlays are expected to create a $500 million shortfall by 2015.
“We’re going to be asking for money, lots of it,” Matthew Loeb, the president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.), told a gathering at the union’s Local 80 here in late September. His union represents about 50,000 set designers, makeup artists, grips and other film workers.
To put things in perspective, the contract that in 2008 settled a three-month strike by Hollywood’s writers was estimated to include total pay and benefits increases of less than a third that amount over three years. A subsequent, hard-fought three-year deal with the Screen Actors Guild, with about 120,000 members, cost the companies only about $250 million. One person involved with the pension and health plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the situation, called the looming half-billion dollar shortfall “staggering.”
The workers represented under the stage employees’ contracts have been known more for making deals than picking fights. In years past, the union might have been at the bargaining table a year before the contract deadline; this time talks may not start until spring. The last full-blown craft strikes occurred more than a half-century ago, and involved a different configuration of unions; Hollywood’s Teamsters, the other major union headed for a 2012 showdown, have not staged a major strike since 1988.
But the current situation is volatile, partly because the Teamsters and some allied unions who share health and pension plans with I.A.T.S.E. aligned the expiration of their contracts with those of the larger theatrical workers alliance by shortening their last contract cycle to two years.
This time, those unions are expected to bargain jointly on health and pension issues. A walkout would instantly stop film and television production in the Los Angeles area, and would affect production in New York and elsewhere, because editors, camera crews and some others are represented on a national basis.
Hollywood’s guilds largely resolved their health and pension problems, at least for now, in several agreements over the last year or two. But the craft workers and other film laborers got caught in a whipsaw that involved the financial markets, changes to federal health care law, and some features that are peculiar to the financing and benefit structure of their plans.
In some ways, Hollywood’s blue-collar health plans are more generous than those covering actors, writers and directors, who are usually regarded as being higher in the pecking order.
At the gathering in September at Local 80, John Garner, a health care consultant with Levey, Garner & Isaacs, told I.A.T.S.E. members their plans matched or exceeded those of the guilds and others in deductibles, office visit co-pays, member contributions and other measures.
One chart showed that entertainment industry workers pay just $300 as a median per person deductible for services from a preferred provider group. But those in the plan covering craft workers and Teamsters pay no deductible for the same services.
Such generous coverage has come at a cost. The craft workers contribute their residuals payments from the rebroadcast of films on television and elsewhere to their benefits plans, while guild members typically receive the residuals as cash. At the same time, the blue-collar workers for years have been draining an enormous cash reserve in their own plans — once enough to finance 30 months of benefits — to meet outlays that have increased as the population has aged and more sophisticated medicine has raised costs.
But what advisers had said was a surplus in the reserve is almost spent. Investments never quite recovered from the market collapse of 2008. Hollywood’s residuals payments flattened as the DVD boom ended. Meanwhile, federal health care legislation required plans to cover children to the age of 26, and eliminated lifetime coverage maximums.
It added up to what David Wescoe, the executive administrative director for the health and pension plans for the craft and blue-collar unions, told union members was “a very dicey picture for the next three-year cycle.”
Speaking at Local 80, he put the pension financing shortage at $190 million. Increased health expenses, he said, would require an additional $180 million to stay even with current benefits. About $75 million would be needed to keep the reserves at a safe level of six to eight months. And falling contributions, if industry economics remain soft, will also hurt.
To some extent, the size of the shortfall may be affected by the decisions of the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on a challenge to the federal health care plan in March. “It’s in their hands,” read the legend of a photo of the justices in Mr. Wescoe’s presentation in September.
But even if the court were to overturn the new law, something must give when the companies and unions meet. “To leave it the way it is today, we need half a billion dollars,” Mr. Loeb said.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS POST HAD THE WRONG DATE FOR THE RALLY- THE MARCH WILL BE ON SATURDAY, JULY 30TH, AS BELOW (NOT THE 23RD)
March for a Decent Future
on Medicare’s Birthday
No cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
Saturday, July 30th, 12:00 n – 2:00 pm
Safeco Field (1st & Atlantic)
We’re facing an unprecedented attack on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – just at the point when our health care is most at risk.
Not only the right wing, but President Obama and some Congressional Democrats are talking about balancing the budget by raising the retirement age at which we can collect Medicare and Social Security, reducing benefits or eliminating cost-of-living increases and other mechanisms to place the burden for the national debt on working people.
Local 15’s membership has endorsed single-payer healthcare as the best solution for the problems that we’re facing in maintaining our own benefits, and extending affordable quality healthcare to all.
As with the hotel workers’ rally, let’s make sure that Local 15 has a visible presence at this action, part of a national campaign with rallies all over the country. If you’re planning to come, please let me know (206-441-1515, ext. 225; email@example.com) so that we’ll have enough Local 15 signs to show everyone that we’re in the house.
This event is sponsored by United for Single Payer-Seattle, Physicians for a National Health Plan-Western Washington, Health Care for All-Washington, and Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans.
There are two important actions coming up that Local 15 members should support if possible. There will be a separate post for the second rally, but on Friday:
Rally for Worker Justice at Seattle Luxury Hotels
Friday, July 22nd 4-6pm
Westin Hotel(1900 5th Ave, corner of Virginia, Seattle)
This rally is led by the members of UNITE HERE 8, the hospitality workers union. These workers have already staged one picket at the Westin. We will be joined by unions and members visiting and working in the hotel.
This summer, 1400 hotel workers whose union contracts have expired are joining together to fight for a better life. Most are workers of color, immigrant, women, or LGBT who are uniting to demand a share in the economic recovery that hotels have enjoyed. They are trying to transform hospitality jobs into middle class jobs for themselves and many thousand yet to be organized workers.
During the recession, hotels protected their profits by cutting staff and increasing workloads for already overburdened workers. According to the industry’s own projections, hotels will be returning to record profit levels by 2012.
Union contracts covering over 1,400 workers have expired in hotels and restaurants including the Westin, Edgewater, Seattle Hilton, Washington Athletic Club, Space Needle, SeaTac Hilton, and the Doubletree.
“Hotel workers can sometimes seem invisible,” says Erik Van Rossum, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 8, the union representing the workers in the campaign. “They create luxury in Seattle’s hotels by cleaning the rooms, washing the dishes, and cooking the food, among other thankless jobs. But now they are standing up with one voice to demand respect and fairness.”
Local 15 is hoping to work with UNITE HERE Local 8 to encourage more Union AV work in the hotels represented by Local 8, including the Westin. It’s important that we have a good showing with Local 15 signs, to let our sisters and brothers in Local 8 know that we support them! If you’re planning to go, please let BR Paul Bigman know (206-441-1515, ext. 225; firstname.lastname@example.org) so that we’ll have enough Local 15 signs.
More pickets and rallies are planned including one on August 4 at 4:30pm in SeaTac. Stay tuned for more details
For more information, contact Jasmine Marwaha of Local 8 at 206-470-2993