Monday, November 03, 2008

Ask the Business Rep

Actual questions from actual TAG members to the semi-fictional guild business representative writing here.)

Q: My supervisor is discriminating against me, targeting me. He lets other people in our department take breaks, but won't let me. He doesn't like me and doesn't like my work, even though my work is better than anybody else's in the department. I want to file a grievance against him.

A: If the guild is going to file a grievance in your behalf, it's a good idea to know what part of the contract is being violated.

If your supervisor is really and truly not allowing you to take morning, lunch or afternoon breaks, then we've probably got a violation of state and/or Federal labor regulations, which are incorporated into the TAG Collective Bargaining Agreement because TAG and the employer agree to abide by Federal and State laws.

But if your boss is just being a pill and making you take lunch a little later than others, then it might not be a violation.

The rest of it, the "He hates my work even though it's great" stuff, is dicier. You have to be able to prove that you're being discriminated against in an illegal way, and that's usually next to impossible in "My work's great!" "No it's not!" arguments.

Very few third-party arbitrators will rule in a grievant's favor over those types things, because they are subjective, and (mostly) outside the scope of the contract. Grievance arbitrators deal with violations of contract language. (Was the overtime provision violated? Was somebody ternimated without getting a write-up? Is the employee being paid at the proper contract wage rate?). Those things are easy to quantify. The cloudier, political stuff? Not so much.

So what do I tell most artists who complain "My boss is an asshole and out to get me?"

Usually my spiel goes like this:

"No labor union in Hollywood is going to save you if your boss dislikes you and the work you give him. That's a problem that you'll have to solve. But if your boss violates the law or specific contract language, and we have evidence to back prove it, then we can help."

Labor unions and contracts are good at helping with quantifiable, legal issues, but less effective with ethical and political problems. If you work for an ogre who hates you, most times you've got to find a way to change the ogre's opinion without resorting to the filing of a grievance.


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