Last month, thousands of TV commercial production workers formed a new union called Stand with Production under the umbrella of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). This group includes line producers, production supervisors, assistant production supervisors, production assistants and others working in commercial production departments.
The new union seeks to address working conditions that have “worsened dramatically” in recent years. In its mission statement, the new union said, “We have found that our working conditions have worsened dramatically over the past decade. We are in a historic time. Production timelines have shortened while agencies and clients have expanded their expectations. All this while cost consultants and clients work diligently to defund the working capital to produce these projects. The pandemic has only exacerbated these changes. The greatest burden of the responsibility for Covid has also fallen on the shoulders of the production teams. There are no longer the time, resources, or tools that we need to be safe and successful on our employers’ projects.”
Stand with Production asked the Association of Independent Commercial Producers to recognize them and was met with resistance. AICP released a new document to its members called, “What to do When There is a Union Organizing Campaign.”
IATSE has responded and now claims that those workers are facing “heavy resistance to their organizing efforts.” The union goes further accusing AICP of distributing “union-busting materials to its member companies.
In the document, the AICP appears to give its companies a license to blacklist union supporters, stating: ‘Companies can refuse to hire union members as supervisors and can fire supervisors that engage in union activity so long as certain safeguards are met…’”
“This is a slap in the face to every IATSE member,” said IATSE president Matt Loeb. “All workers should be able to make their voices heard without threats or fear of retaliation. In response to this escalation by the AICP, we will safeguard the democratic process with a variety of counter-retaliation measures, including publicly tracking instances where workers believe they have been retaliated against, and referring these cases to the National Labor Relations Board in cases where Federal Labor Law is violated.”
Loeb also claims that AICP has now repeatedly indicated its intent to undermine this unionization effort by fighting to exclude certain positions, regardless of the will of the workers. The union also released a TikTok video:
Loeb continued, “IATSE stands with production, and we share in the goal to have production positions from PA’s to Producers recognized under a single union. The truth is, once these workers present their cards, the AICP could voluntarily recognize their union with all positions included. And if they don’t, the only party that would be responsible for creating divisions and exclusions would be the AICP.”
AICP Email to Members
Reel 360 News obtained an email sent Wednesday from AICP President Matt Miller to its members. Here, Miller says that IATSE omitted a clause that the NLRA (National Labor Review Act) excludes statutory supervisors from protections of the Act, “NLRA authority on this issue clearly states that an employer is ‘at liberty to demand absolute loyalty from his supervisory personnel by insisting, on pain of discharge, that they neither participate in, nor retain membership in, a labor union.’”
Miller also states in the email that many employees of AICP companies are apprehensive or against forming a union, “AICP member companies continue to widely share reports regarding their employees’ concerns and distress about this effort being driven by a small vocal group, many feeling that SWP and its leadership are not being transparent or balanced in providing information about what unionization would mean in the reality of day-to-day employment to those working in the categories they presume to cover via unionization.”
Calling IATSE and SWP’s efforts sensational and baseless, Miller goes on to say that forming a new union will not resolve key issues at stake and will be detrimental to the industry:
- Imperiling the Producers’ Health Benefits Plan (PHBP), a generous “Cadillac” healthcare plan funded entirely by AICP employers and designed specifically for freelance production employees.
- Economic arrangements resulting from unionization could lead to lost jobs and lost income for these employment classifications, and currently represented IATSE crew.
- Increased costs could induce agencies and clients to send even more production outside of the United States, or to non-union production entities.
- Work rules/agreements and overly restrictive jurisdictional boundaries resulting from unionization could have a major effect on how freelance production employees manage their own schedules, and the schedules of their teams.