Monday, December 10, 2007

Rat-ification

I've been holding off posting anything about the strike and the contract until it was ratified. There is a superstition in the business that you don't talk about a contract until it is signed because you could jinx the deal. As with any superstition it is more about fear than reality.

Having gone over the changes there's positives and negatives that, unless you're really in the business and understand how we work, are probably going to be to arcane to go into. There are changes to work rules that at this point don't seem particularly practical but the League fought for them and got them. Changes to lunch hours, changes to rehearsal requirements, show staffing, load-in staffing and more. Some of what has been codified has been in practice for many years and the new crop of Producers were unaware of what they could do. There was chronic problem during the negotiations of the League not understanding technology and terminology. The role of the flyman in particular was difficult for them to understand. After several explanations of how shows physically load-in, the League's negotiators still kept trying to remove the role of the flyman altogether. Several times they wanted the flyman only come for the electrics prehang and do the points later, which is a little like wanting to have the drywall hung before the carpenters have put up the studs.

For me I think that the biggest change occurred when the local theatrical community stood together to protect itself. This clearly defined to me the need for members to have a strong involvement of their Local, not just in the negotiating process but also in the activities of the Local on a day-to-day basis. It is the members who really understand how their work happens and should control the voice at the table if progressive improvements and adaptive changes need to be made. Union administration needs to be from the bottom up if members are going to be protected on the job. The further an officer gets from the load-in door, the more their focus is going to be on getting the deal done so he can move on to the next task/contract. We in Local One were very fortunate to have officers that have day-to-day contact with members and venues and value their input. This wasn’t always true in our Local but that changed. Nor can I say that is true the further up the food chain you go. It’s important that the employers understand what happens to their employees and this can only be done when we negotiate for “our” terms and “our” conditions. Outsiders most often just muddy the waters or worse, have their own agendas.
So if you’re a member of a union, get involved. Join a committee, be it a negotiating, safety, pension or any of the others. Understand how the process works. If you want good people to run you Local, start by running it yourself. Bring the needs of the members to the union and not the needs of the union to the members.

We did it and it works.

1 comment:

The Lone Beader said...

Our contracts are gradually being changed like that, too... but not if I can help it! Also, good advice about getting involved. I'm in a committee, and I'm also our Local's webmaster. I feel that everyone must do their part.