Thanks, Dave, for your recent and gentle comments about our campaign.
As an industry veteran, I’m hoping that the relationships I’ve built over the years will lead to the Major Studios agreeing to cover their Visual Effects Artists under the AMPTP/IATSE Basic Agreement. And, as our message gets disseminated over the visual effects community, I’m also hoping that affected workers will reach out to me for information; which will lead to their signing the requisite authorization cards, which will in turn lead to coverage by those Labor Agreements.
By holding meetings every few days, we are seeking out those individuals who will agree to take on a leadership role; in communicating with their co-workers, building awareness, and eventually achieving majority status.
You asked a number of great questions in your letter to VFX Soldier. I’ll try to answer as many as possible:
Would it be possible for a health care system that crosses the border?
Frankly, No. But, if we can get Labor Agreements covering US based workers as well as parallel labor agreements covering workers in Vancouver, Toronto, and Eastern Canada, we can substantially level the playing field making runaway production less financially enticing. That’s one reason why we are working so closely with Local 891 in Vancouver.
Details of retirement, and healthcare:
As you know, upon working 600 hours in a six month qualifying period, one becomes eligible for coverage in the Industry Health Plan. Covered workers can choose between The Industry Health Network of the Motion Picture and Television Fund (referred to as “TIHN”), Blue Shield of California, Kaiser, or Health Net.
TIHN and Kaiser provide for no-out-of-pocket-cost medical benefits. The employee pays no monthly premiums. The benefits are pretty complex, but a copy of the Summary Plan Description (which runs 195 pages!!!) is available on-line.
After five years, an employee is “vested” in the Industry Pension Plan; with benefits based on hours and dollars contributed.
Each employee is also covered by an Individual Account Plan (referred to as “IAP”), equal to 6% of their earnings and set aside in an account for their sole benefit.
(VFX Soldier: You can view the full details of the retirement plans here.)
Employers also contribute a percentage of wages for unworked holidays, and vacation, so that employees can receive pay for holidays (worked and not worked) and for vacation.
How much will the fees be to join??
ZERO. The IATSE will waive any initiation fees for people affiliating with our Visual Effects group, or for any other applicable local union which represents Visual Effects Workers. Dues vary from local to local but generally run between $400 and $1000 per year, depending on the earnings of the worker.
How will we elect our leaders??
In a secret ballot election/democratically. Each local has local autonomy and governs itself. We currently anticipate that Visual Effects workers will have their own local.
How do I sign up without fear?
I keep all e mail addresses in a locked drawer in my office. No one else has access. I communicate with employees via a “blind cc” so their name and address don’t show up on an outgoing email. The email comes from my gmail account, so no one receives an email from the iatse.
Authorization cards are also kept in a locked drawer. At such time as we have a majority of employees at a company or facility we will seek recognition, but WE WILL NEVER SHOW THE CARDS TO THE EMPLOYER!! We would allow a neutral observer such as a Priest, Minister, or Rabbi to verify and validate the cards and cross-check them against the company’s list of eligible employees. If necessary, we would petition the National Labor Relations Board for a secret ballot election. The NLRB does not show the cards to the employer, and the employer does not know how any invidividual votes.
If intimidation (including threats of layoff or discharge) occurs, the NLRB investigates those charges. If they find them true, they issue complaint, go to trial and can eventually get a Federal Court of Appeals to enforce the order. If the employer still doesn’t comply, they can be held in Contempt of Court.
If we ever did go on strike, how would we pay our bills?
The IATSE has a pretty impressive track record and has not had to strike the Major Studios in over fifty years!!! We’ve come close a few times, but have always worked out a satisfactory deal without having to resort to a labor stoppage. We have, of course, had to resort to work stoppages when individual productions such as “The Biggest Loser” refused to recognize the union even when nearly 100% of the work-force signed authorization cards and requested a union agreement. That strike lasted a few weeks. Often the work stoppage is only one or two days. And the IATSE maintains a defense fund to assist members in the event of an industry-wide strike.
Let’s pause here. I’ll send more info later. By the way, we’ve engaged the services of a consultant to put together a plan for a presence on the web; we hope to have a site up and running soon. In the interim, feel free to share this with the soldier, or anyone else you feel would be interested. I’ll discuss immigration and work permit issues next time we talk.