Spring 2016

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6 CINEMONTAGE / Q2 2016 by Rob Callahan W hat makes you a Guild member? Is it principally about a transaction, the remittance of quarterly payments for membership? Or is it about your relationship to your colleagues, your shared commitment to the post-production community's mutual interests? In other words, do we conceive of union membership in terms of dues or in terms of duties? How we collectively answer that question may well determine whether we flounder or flourish in the face of concerted attacks upon organized labor. My admittedly dour column in the last CineMontage addressed the recent spate of successful assaults upon labor waged by proponents of so-called "Right to Work" legislation and policy. To recap, "Right to Work" advocates seek to weaken organized labor by outlawing union security clauses in collective bargaining agreements. Such clauses specify that employees represented by a union will join the union as members or otherwise contribute towards the monetary costs of their representation. "Right to Work" effectively encourages a kind of piracy by incentivizing individuals to reap the benefits of unionization without sharing in any of the expenses. By mandating representation without taxation, "Right to Work" ultimately aims to make collective bargaining untenable. "Right to Work" and other anti-union laws have had harsh and profound impacts upon the clout of organized labor. In states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, long considered labor strongholds, union membership has dropped precipitously in the aftermath of anti-union laws passed in recent years. And unions' anemia has a material effect upon employees' earnings. Studies show that workers in "Right to Work" states earn 12 percent less than their counterparts in other states, controlling for other factors. My previous column was written in the context of a case then pending before the Supreme Court, Friedrichs vs. the California Teachers Association, in which "Right to Work" advocates were expected to score a dramatic victory. The case concerned union security clauses in public-sector collective bargaining agreements, and a ruling against the teachers' union would have resulted in "Right to Work" being imposed upon all the nation's public employees — roughly seven million of whom are currently unionized. All evidence indicated that the Court was prepared to discard decades of precedent and decree public-sector employment "Right to Work." Although such a decision would of course most immediately and directly affect those working in the public sector, it would also dramatically ratchet up pressure on private-sector employees and their unions in the 24 remaining states in which "Right to Work" is not yet the law of the land. Since I last addressed this topic in this space, some specific circumstances have changed. Much, however, remains the same. Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly of a heart attack on February 12 (coincidentally, the same day that last quarter's CineMontage was published). Among its other consequences, Scalia's unexpected passing changed the anticipated outcome of Friedrichs and several other cases that had been predicted to be decided by five-to-four majorities. On March 29, a divided Court, unable to rule conclusively for or against "Right to Work," affirmed a lower court's ruling upholding the teachers' union's ability to collect fees from represented teachers who opt out of membership. The labor movement, having faced the certainty of a devastating setback, received a surprise reprieve. One might easily draw the wrong lessons from this sudden reversal of fortune. The plot twist of Scalia's death has all the hallmarks of a deus ex machina event, in which our protagonists' fates hinge upon a random, improbable occurrence outside of their control. We've seen this scene before: our hero, cornered and helpless, faces certain doom, only to evade his fate when the bad guy's gun misfires. This version has the labor movement eluding looming catastrophe thanks to a septuagenarian jurist's poor cardiovascular health, but the trope is structurally familiar from any number of action movies; the imperiled good guy catches a lucky break at the last minute. Such a telling of this story, though, gets it wrong on two counts. Firstly, this narrative suggests that we in the labor movement have escaped catastrophe, when, in fact, we may have only postponed it. Secondly, the focus on an effectively random event over which we have no influence (a 79-year-old man's abrupt heart failure) obscures the broader and more systemic problems that have placed the labor movement in such a precarious position — problems we can and must address if our movement is to withstand future attacks upon collective bargaining. The push for "Right to Work" policies certainly did GET TING ORGANIZED A Bullet Dodged, but Labor Remains a Target for Attacks CONTINUED ON PAGE 8

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