Wednesday, January 23, 2008

WHY WE PAY UNION DUES

Some time back, I received a question from one of my IBEW Local 1212 Brothers at WPIX regarding why we pay union dues, when the non-union guy editing in the edit room next to his did not.

Wow, where to begin?

First, while shared jurisdiction allows WPIX to hire both represented and non-represented editors, we, as IBEW members, are paid substantially more than the non-union freelancer. Recent meetings between management and the IBEW are generating serious positive movement in how WPIX manages shared jurisdiction.

The union raises the baseline wages and working conditions through collective bargaining.

That non-union freelancer is paid better because union rates bring up non-union rates to discourage organizing.

The union provides shop stewards help with workplace issues, the strength of collective bargaining (without which I wouldn't be getting a full paycheck while at home injured), and the grievance/arbitration process for larger problem resolution.

The union is only as valuable and useful as the commitment of it's membership. IATSE meetings get hundreds of members attending, IBEW meetings get less than a dozen most of the time, then we wonder why the situation is where it is.

Most of the engineers in our shop never read our contract, never ask questions, never participate in the process, then complain about everything. We have to organize the organized to make our IBEW better.

The fellow who asked the question is one of our best and brightest. Engineers like him are the ones with the wherewithal to facilitate the changes we need to make our union strong and responsive to our members. He, and others like him, are key players in our efforts to make WPIX the best place to work in Broadcasting.

We finally have some good people at the International and the IBEW Local 1212 hall, give them some feedback and support, and we'll all get even more value for our union dues.

Woody Allen said "98% of success is showing up". Our people have to start showing up, not just to work, but to union meetings. The challenges we face require everyone's help, not just the usual suspects.

We have a lot of work to do. We need salary parity with Fox5 and WWOR for both staff and freelance IBEW Engineers. We need a real Pension Plan, 401K with employer match, ESOP, and employer contributions to the IBEW Annuity Fund for both staff and freelancers.

Our freelancers need employer contributions to the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan so they can finally get health benefits. We need a minimum staffing clause and better work rules to keep us safe on the job. Seniority needs to be protected and we need a better severance package and better recall rights in the event of a layoff.

We need to finish addressing shared jurisdiction and deal with the company's drug testing policy issue.

We need to organize the non-union departments at WPIX. EDP/Traffic, Promotions, the Librarians, Production Assistants, Clerical Support Staff, and any other WPIX employee eligible for Union representation should all be IBEW Local 1212 members.

The success of the recent 18 day IATSE Local 1 stagehand strike is a great example of how trust, integrity, and solidarity really works.

It is nice to win one now and then. The support from the actors, musicians, ushers, box office staff, and porters that work in the theaters was great, but not surprising. If IATSE Local 1 stagehands had accepted a pay cut in the middle of the most profitable period in the history of Broadway, the Producers would have expected the same from all the other crafts as well.

The real surprise was the support from the public and the other people working in the theater district. Cab drivers and truckers honked to show support and stopped between fares to offer kind words. Waiters and deli owners brought coffee and food to the stagehands on the picket line. Hotel and restaurant workers came and walked the line with us.

I have always been a trade unionist and believe that we are indeed our brother's keepers. This most recent experience, while difficult and uncomfortable, proves what can be accomplished by workers standing together against the short sightedness and greed of big corporations.

I like to think that the lights on Broadway burn a little bit brighter tonight, as if the theaters themselves are as proud of us as we are to work in them.

Let's remember this lesson when issues come up at WPIX. Let's remember to be in solidarity with our staff and freelance AFTRA, DGA, IATSE, and Newspaper Guild brothers and sisters.

Remember what Benjamin Franklin said to the members of the First Continental Congress:

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

All the best,

BD

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob;

Keeping the following statement in mind:

"I have always been a trade unionist and believe that we are indeed our brother's keepers. This most recent experience, while difficult and uncomfortable, proves what can be accomplished by workers standing together against the short sightedness and greed of big corporations."


I wanted to recommend some reading for you, if you have not already read these books, both by John Perkins:

1) Confessions of an Economic hit man

2)The Secret History of the American Empire

Yeah, I know it sounds like more leftist babble, but it isn't. This clearly points out, the need for all people ESPECIALLY union workers to support unionization and wage support internationally.

The abuses that workers in (so called) developing nations throughout Latin America and Asia sustain in just trying to get by affects us here in the USA.

If we allow their wages to be minimized and their lives to be made worthless we will suffer for it.... job and benefit losses here, as well as increased violence, acts of terror and the further diminishing of international goodwill, which leads to more job and benefit losses.

The old adages "If everyone does well, then everyone does well" or "The World is my village" sums things up nicely. The simplistic view, yet supported historically: When someone (a family, clan or community) has their survival needs met, they seek to improve the quality of their lives by acquiring "things"


..... art, music, nicer garments, fixtures for the home (cave, hut, village, etc). Today that means consumer goods: TV's. radios, books, clothing... the list is endless. BUT ONLY when basic needs have been met.

So.... when we deprive people of living wages, when we force them to work in sweatshops, steal their natural resources, force them to live with pollution, disease and bad water, we force them to forgo participation in the global economy.

WE LOSE POTENTIAL CONSUMERS. The more people that can participate in REAL global trade, the bigger the potential and realization of the market.

THIS IS THE REASON UNIONS ARE IMPORTANT.

It would be great if everyone led comfortable lives. No one would be angry enough to use violence as an expression to get attention and gain property. (Yes, I know there are certainly those who would be careless of other people's lives, regardless of how pampered they were.... just look at the current occupant in D.C.) (a wee bit of my political color showing through ;-) )

So... i echo your sentiment.... unions are good, AND they force employers to behave well.

Best wishes,

Danny

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob;

I had an interesting experience:

I am on "Brave New Films" email list, http://bravenewfilms.org/
From time to time they send me notifications of things they are working on.

They are fighting Michael Savage, a hate monger who claims to be ultra conservative, (reactionary if you ask me).

They asked if I would write the companies and organizations that advertise on his show to request they pull their ads.


I did.

They did.

Every company I wrote to wrote me back, appalled at Mr. Savage's behavior. Or they wrote to tell me they had already pulled their ads and requested that their ad agencies do the same for other clients.

Pretty cool, eh? Here is what I wrote:

Your Organization (Company)advertises on Michael Savage's radio show.

I would like to urge you to stop doing so. The show is an outlet for divisive, incendiary rants featuring racial epithets and unabashed bigotry.

Mr Savage offers us such advice as to "kill 100 million Muslims" and states, among other things:

1) On MLK Day, Savage called civil rights a "racket" designed to steal "white males' birthright

2) "90 percent of the people on the Nobel Committee are into child pornography and molestation, according to the latest scientific studies"

3) U.S. Senate "more vicious and more histrionic than ever, specifically because women have been injected into" it.

And if this were not enough he is bringing frivolous lawsuits in order to bully people and organizations with the temerity to stand up to and dispute his invective and slander.

I am an advocate of free speech.
I also believe that those who utilize the nation's airwaves should exercise restraint.

The FCC concurs as any reading of
the Communications Act of 1934 will show.

If Mr Savage wishes to spew his particular form of hate, let
him do so over the internet, where he can pay for it
himself.

Do not support or encourage this type of behavior.

At the very least it is bad for your business and organization image.

Thank You.

So maybe being a big mouth has its place after all.

Cheers,

Danny

breakingnews said...

The PAs are already part of a union. However, we should be working more closely with IBEW... Since we've been forced to do IBEW work without training for the past 2 years.