Monday, January 14, 2008

The Writer's Strike - A View From Below The Line

Let me say this ONE MORE TIME.

I am a below the line guy, a little cog in the machine that makes it all go. I am a proud member of IATSE, Local #52, New York City. Like all of us, I am extremely proud of my small contributions to our collaborative art. I also pay attention to the forces that affect my "industry".

I had a great summer. I was fortunate enough to work on "For One More Day" in Conn. My deal was a great one and I was able to put away some serious cash. I also worked on Damages and Blueblood. Prior to that I worked on "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead" and "Enchanted". I'm one of the guys that has been either fortunate enough or good enough to work almost constantly on Features and TV.

Now to the point. Our Local's officers have been warning us for over a year that this was going to happen. Every letter we received, every meeting we attended, every time one of our Officers visited a job we were told that a strike was likely. We were told to prepare for a long period of inactivity. We were warned to take all the overtime we were offered. We were encouraged to save our money. WE KNEW WHAT TO EXPECT A YEAR BEFORE IT HAPPENED!

Like everyone-else, I too, am affected by this strike. Two shows that I expected to work on are on hold. My Christmas bills are coming in and the savings I was farsighted enough to stockpile are slowly eroding. I may end up delivering pizza's or slinging burgers just to make what I have stretch. That aside, I am either smarter or luckier than a lot of folks because I took the storm warnings to heart and prepared as best I could. To those who didn't, well, whose fault is that?

Maybe because I work in the Construction end of our business I am able to understand what must happen for a strike to take place. Maybe my blue collar roots make me the Union man that I am. I've seen this before. I've been here before. I was a major factor in Organizing the City of Philadelphia for our industry. I know what it's like when Employers tell you, "Here's your deal. Take it or leave it." It's the grand "Fuck you! We own you and you will work for what we think you are worth." To that I say Horseshit!

The Writers are right here, folks. I dream of the day when all of the Entertainment Unions can bargain under an Alliance type umbrella, taking on the conglomerates as One United Front, as they are able to do to us. Until that day happens though, it is critical for all of us to support each other's efforts to better our lives through good faith negotiating, and when that fails, through the only other avenue open to us - the strike.

So Tommy Short's shortsightedness aside, this is one Union Man who will not cross a picket line. ANY picket line, ANY where. I know that my future, like all of our futures is tied to the outcome of this strike. If the conglomerates can beat the very people who provide the "blueprints" the rest of us work from, what can I expect when it is our turn to negotiate a new contract? We all know that we who work btl have watched our own deals slowly erode over the years. No more "Golden Time". Lower rates, longer hours to earn the same Pension Credit we used to earn in a much shorter period of time. Can we expect any different in the future? If they can beat the Writers their smug arrogance will surely carry over to our own negotiations in the future.

It is our future at stake here folks. Most of my Brothers and Sisters in Local 52 that I have spoken to feel the same way I do. We in New York City have traditionally set the standard for all btl Unions. It is only when Tommy Short forces an "Internationally negotiated Contract" down our throats that our rates fall, our hours grow and our benefits suck. It seems everyone except President Short realizes that you can't live in New York on Philadelphia money, and you can't live in Philadelphia on Baltimore money. So I am willing to "suck it up" for as long as it takes for the Writers to win. I am prepared. I am dedicated. I am willing to go without to see this through. I will NOT cross a legal picket line established by the very people who give me the opportunity to do what I love to do, my Brothers and Sisters in the WGA.

I am after all, a Union Man, a real Union Man, and if my future and the futures of my children and all those who come after me aren't worth fighting for, what is?


Note: Below The Line refers to those who are not Producers, Directors, Actors or Writers. In short, the "crew": grips, shop craftspeople, scenic artists, hairdressers, costumers, props, set dressers, gaffers, lighting techs, electrics, etc.

Tommy Short is the President of our International Union and as far as I can see, does not support the Writers. That's fine. He is entitled to his opinion. He is not entitled to force his opinion on me. Speaking of opinions, the above represents my opinion and my opinion only and is not meant to represent the position of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, it's locals, officers, or members other than myself .

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