Q2 2023

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Union CONTINUED FROM PAGE 26 took a chance and let me look over her shoulder and learn on a TV show. A month later, I quit my job, got married, and the show got canceled. My newly minted wife, JJ, encouraged me to continue to pursue music editing. She saw how happy it made me. Two months later, Lesley invited me to be her assistant music editor on a film — "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" – and I was sponsored into the union. I was sure this was my life. And so it has been. I've been a music editor for over 20 years and have had the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the industry. I believe I have the best job in the world for me and how my brain is wired, and I am beyond thankful. Though I work with music all day every day, I always have music playing when I'm cooking in the kitchen. Music has made me a vastly better human. I hope that shows in the work I do. ■ Michael Brake, MPSE, is a music editor in Altadena, California. He won two Emmys and a Golden Reel for "Barry." Michael@ 57 S U M M E R Q 2 I S S U E York. More than three years later, those workers still don't have a first contract, and NBCU has shown little sign of taking their contract talks seriously, despite the company's having been cited by the NLRB for failure to negotiate in good faith over mandatory terms of bargaining. The ongo- ing ordeal of NBC News workers was and is an object lesson in just how little effective legal recourse there is for employees whose employers refuse to take their obligation to bargain seriously. The SNL editorial crew is close-knit and built for speed, and after only a few weeks of NBCU's foot-dragging, they decided they would need to take matters into their own hands. In late January of this year, the crew gathered over Zoom to review what prog- ress had been made in talks; there had been effectively none. After some discussion, the crew took a vote and unanimously decided that they were willing to strike if needed to achieve a fair deal, at a time when such a strike would have the most leverage. We printed up shirts emblazoned with "CONTRACT NOW" and every crew mem- ber wore them to work at 30 Rock each week as a visible manifestation of their growing impatience. Stories about the prospect of an editorial strike at SNL began to appear in the trades, and NBCU immediately started to take notice. Within hours of the first ar- ticle appearing in The Hollywood Reporter, NBCU responded to a prior request from the Guild for management's availability to meet for future bargaining sessions. Management scheduled more frequent meetings, responded to union proposals more quickly, and began to reach agreement on some of the less consequential, more standardized elements of a union contract — what negotiators refer to as boilerplate. Perhaps as importantly, colleagues in other departments also took notice, and many took to donning "CONTRACT NOW" shirts in solidarity with the editorial crew. Several cast members posted messages of support on social media and even wore the "CON- TRACT NOW" shirts on camera at the end of one episode in February. Still, on the substantive issues of great- est import to the crew, management and the union remained far apart. Management felt enough pressure to make a show of going through the motions of negotiations, but they remained in little rush to reach an ac- tual deal. Meanwhile, the end of the season was approaching, which meant that there was limited time during which the crew would retain real leverage. So, on March 9, the crew announced a date. If an agreement wasn't in place before the crew returned from a scheduled hiatus to work on the April 1 show, they would walk off the job and picket to disrupt the scheduled broadcast. Suddenly, with the deadline looming, m e d i a a tte n t i o n i n te n s i f i e d , t h e p a ce of negotiations increased dramatically, and management exhibited a newfound urgency to get a deal done. More progress was made over the course of the next week than had been made in the previous months of talks. Cathy Repola, leading the Guild's negotiating team, said that she had never seen such an abrupt change of attitude from management in all her decades of union negotiations. On March 17, eight days after the declaration of a strike deadline, we had a tentative agreement — and a good one. In addition to significant movement on other issues of importance to them, the SNL editorial crew scored real money: immedi- ate raises ranging from 7.5% to 33.5%, and cumulative increases of up to 60% over the life of the contract. When the crew met the following week to ratify the tentative agree- ment, the vote in favor was unanimous. The lesson of the "SNL" campaign is straightforward. Corporations are set up to manage and modulate legal action. Reliance on the law or upon the conventional routine channels of labor-management relations will prove limiting with respect to incen- tivizing a recalcitrant employer to reach a deal. But where legal action is manageable, direct action has the potential to create a crisis for the employer, and the prospect of such a crisis is often the only route through a logjam. It's not a subtle or sophisticated lesson, but it's a helpful reminder that our ability to get what we want, on our timetable, ultimately comes down to our ability to twist arms. And however much our culture may teach us that authority is invested in people who tote briefcases and wear suits, truly transformative power comes from the solidarity of folks who can handle tools and who sport T-shirts. When we want real change, on our own schedule, we need to look not to the law or to bureaucrats but to one another. ■ Rob Callahan is the National Organizer of Motion Picture Editors Guild, Local 700, IATSE.

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