Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Information and Disinformation

We're currently working with the IATSE to organize various visual effects houses, the one part of Hollywood that (mostly) works without benefit of union contracts or accompanying pension and health benefits. One of these effects houses recently handed out the following letter with the following information ...

(We've inserted clarifications between the indented info.)

... Even if the Union manages to gather enough authorization cards to petition the Labor Board for an election, and thereafter wins that election, all they win is the right to negotiate -- the right to ask the Company for what they want ...

True enough. The Union triumphs, the union goes in with a set of proposals, and the haggling begins. The company is under no compulstion to do anything other than "bargain in good faith." (Which of course it will do, like all law-abiding corporations.)

No one knows and no one can predict what will happen as a result of bargaining. The Union cannot guarantee the outcome of negotiations, which means that they cannot make and keep promises about health care, retirement or leave benefits. ... Collective bargaining is a process of give and take. As a result of bargaining, your wages and working conditions could go down, up, or stay the same.

Sort of true, in a theoretical sense. In a real-world sense, not so much. Employees, you see, have the right to ratify negotiated contracts, and if they don't like the specimen that's negotiated, they vote it down. (This is what we call in the labor biz a "ratification vote.") So it's kind of difficult for a bad deal to end up as a contract under which employees are worse off. The employees give it the big "thumbs down."

The only thing the Union can guarantee is you would pay Union dues every month -- which according to the Union's last filing with the federal government is $76.50-$101.11 per quarter, per employee.

Sadly, this one is false. In that real world thing again, the union would collect no dues if there is no contract. (After all, who would pay them if they're getting nothing in return?) So, if union and company don't reach agreement, or union and company reach agreement and the employees says "ixnay, no way," then there are no dues because there is no contract for them to work under.

Hope this clears up a little of the disinformation found above. Thanks for your time.


Steven Kaplan said...

I was just pointed to the crafty play on words in the last paragraph you highlighted. The author points out the dues are paid monthly, which is false. Then quotes the quarterly rate and claims them to be quarterly.

Its a nice attempt at setting a false expectation with the reader. Although, this *is* a management response so it should be expected.

Anonymous said...

So Steve, now that Titmouse has a union contract for one of its shows, will you be stopping by there?

Anonymous said...

Oooh, I look forward to reading Steve's gossipy scoops on which major VFX players are thinking of jumping to another shop.

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