November/December 2014

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7 NOV-DEC 14 / CINEMONTAGE by Rob Callahan I f you're going to fight for what is right, it's important to be strong. But it's perhaps even more important to be tough. Our union is both. Since I last penned this column, IATSE has won two high-profile organizing campaigns led by post-production employees. Together, the Survivor and Shahs of Sunset victories present a study in contrast: One was a near instantaneous win against a hugely successful broadcast television institution, the other a protracted and hard-won bout against a lesser-known basic cable series. In conjunction, these two wins reveal our organization as a well-rounded fighter. We are a power-puncher capable of landing knockout blows early in a fight, and we also have the stamina to take hits and keep swinging into the late rounds. The Survivor campaign offered up relatively little news to report; the crew secured its contract too swiftly and decisively to leave much to say about the contest. Over the course of many quiet conversations, the post crew of Mark Burnett Productions' long-running series overwhelmingly decided that they wanted union representation. Survivor was no sweatshop; the show's employees had good jobs. They enjoyed working on a wildly successful show that has, over the span of its 14-year run to date, done perhaps more than any other to define the genre of reality television. But these employees, while happy in their gigs on Survivor, were also keenly aware of the larger trends in the industry. They had seen colleagues on other successful unscripted shows earning health and retirement benefits with increasing regularity. Together, the employees of the show's post crew decided it was time Survivor came under an IA agreement. It took many years for the Survivor post crew to reach the conclusion that it should be a union show but, once the decision was made, change came quickly. The IATSE sent a letter to the crew's employer, demanding an immediate start to contract talks. When the company failed to respond right away, the post crew walked off the job on August 13, calling into question the scheduled premiere of the show's 29th season. Our picketers barely had time to apply sunscreen before the strike was over. Within hours, management agreed to recognize the union in order to bring the crew back to work. A few days later, we had a union contract, winning retroactive benefits and eight-hour workdays. The fight for a contract at Shahs of Sunset began similarly. The show's post crewmembers had no unusual complaints about their jobs, but they had been following our recent momentum in organizing unscripted television; they shared the general enthusiasm for a future in which folks GET TING ORGANIZED Solidarity 2, Stubbornness 0 "SHAHS" AND "SURVIVOR" SUCCUMB TO ORGANIZING EFFORTS CONTINUED ON PAGE 10 California State Senator Holly J. Mitchell is flanked by IATSE International Vice President Thom Davis and Editors Guild Western Executive Director Cathy Repola as she joins picketers outside the offices of Ryan Seacrest Productions in Los Angeles. Photo by Preston Johnson Union members and supporters distribute leaflets and erect a giant inflatable rat outside of 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, headquarters of the Bravo network. Photo by Paul Moore

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