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IATSE in your area?

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by gafftaper, May 29, 2008.

  1. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Charc and I have been having a discussion about the union via private message. The short version is Charc has heard a lot of negative talk about the union in the Philly area. I, on the other hand, have heard positive feedback in the Seattle area. I'm guessing that the quality and responsiveness of union leadership at the local level makes a huge difference how the union as a whole is perceived in your area.

    I'm curious what the feelings about IATSE are in your area?
     
  2. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Since this can be a sensitive and volatile topic, I urge all posters to exercise caution in one's responses. Stating "Local XXX sux" or "Local YYY is great" does not add any value to the conversation. Some of the best stagehands I know are IATSE, and some are not. Every city has good, and bad, stagehands, both union and non-union.
     
  3. rosabelle334

    rosabelle334 Member

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    WOAH. I swear it said TASTE in the topic, but then I saw IATSE in your post and I was confused, so I went back to check the topic name, and sure enough it was IATSE. >< God, your mind can play wierd tricks on you. I thought this board was gunna be about your style of something, like "taste" in your area. ><
     
  4. Lightingguy32

    Lightingguy32 Active Member

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    From word of mouth, Local 54 in the Southern Tier New York is a fairly diverse group of skilled technicians who work well together.
     
  5. thorin81

    thorin81 Active Member

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    Even more important - if you do have a local, how do you join? What are the benefits to joining IATSE? I have been looking into perhaps joining for some time, but I have not been able to find info on how at all. The website was unhelpful and the people I talk to here have no clue either since they joined in a different state...
     
  6. cvanp

    cvanp Active Member

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    It's kind of weird, my area has its own stagehands union, unaffiliated with IATSE. They call themselves ITEA, the Independent Theatrical Employees of America: Local One (the one and only, really).

    ITEA Local One - Utica, NY Stagehands - Home

    I don't know too much about the union, except that they broke out of IATSE (were formerly local 128). They have some history on their website, giving a little history why, but I do find it kind of interesting for sure.
     
  7. sobenson

    sobenson Member

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    First off -||- IATSE National -|| Find your local and contact them. They should be very helpful in getting you the information you need on how to join and what the requirements are.
    What the local will do for you is have set rules that protect you as an employee. Amount of hours allowed to work and penalties if hours exceed a reasonable amount. Such as how many hours you can work with out a break/meal. Number of hours in a day and hours between calls. Normally they provide Workman's Comp and can also provide health and or life insurance.
    That being said there can be a lot of corruption in unions. Senior members on the clock not working. "Extra" labors on the clock. As well as a lot of bloating of calls (extra people), which is one of the reasons behind the Local 1 strike.
    I say all of this being a former card holder, and working with Local 1 stage hands both on Broadway shows and NYC industrials. I have since become a TD in a non-union house and have let my card go.
    If your union is a well liked union it is a great way for a young person to learn the trade.
     
  8. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    I think [USER]sobenson[/USER] hit it right on the head. Since I'm not a member of the local and it's just hearsay I won't mention the specific local, but at one of our stops we had crew that called themselves the "non-union union stagehands." Basically they worked for a company that hired them out to do a lot of the stuff you would hire IATSE guys for. The sense that I got from the facilities manager that called for them and the guys I worked with was that these guys were all as knowledgeable at you would expect IATSE guys to be, there was much less bull you know what surrounding being hired and getting paid and all that, and these guys were just excepted to be harder workers overall. There company also has exclusivity in at least one facility in the area. So it's really gonna matter from place to place. If you were in this area I'd say joining the local might not be what you expect it to be.

    On the other hand when I no longer work for my current employer I plan to switch to Local 99 in Salt Lake City where I will eventually finish school. In SLC being a union member is one of the only ways to get into some of the venues that I have wanted to work for since I started going to school there 4 years ago. 99 is an active local and doesn't appear to have any corruption problems so although I love what I do right now I'm also in a way looking forward to working with these guys.

    One last note, I was setting up the lights for graduation at home and talking with my boss who was a member of Local 16 in San Fran and he absolutely loved working down there with them, he didn't really have anything negative to say at all.
     
  9. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I also want to throw in this mix that the positives and negatives described are true for all unions, not just IATSE (that's TASTE to Rosa). My Dad used to work for a union office for many years. So I was around a lot of union stuff as a kid.

    It seems to me that in general a worker's opinion on their union is directly related to:
    -if you feel like the union is there to fight for you
    -if you feel that they don't waste too much time and money on defending frivolous things (or people who need to be fired)
    -if you feel they listen and respond
    -if you feel they are appropriately paid for their work
    -if you feel that you can trust your union's leadership to not be corrupt
    -if you have a good contract and see the results of your union's negotiations
    -if your union doesn't have too many people who do little/poor work but are protected because of seniority.

    Most of these have nothing to do with the national union and are all about local leadership. It's easy to see how a few poor local leaders could really ruin the reputation of a local area, making pockets of the country that are very pro-union and others that are very anti-union.

    While it's tempting to say that you don't need a union any more, remember without unions there would never have been things like a 5 day work week, overtime pay, and benefits. In an industry like ours where long hours, at odd times are normal, it can be nice to have someone making sure you get properly compensated for it.
     
  10. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    In addition to what Gaff just posted, let me say there would be precious little standardized safety practices. Without going out on a completely left wing rant, as many here know that I can, I think I can say that even the most corrupt of Unions today still provides more protection for it's members than the corporation / business that hire the workers would ever. On that note coruption in Unions Today pales in comparison with what it might have once been.
    Some common arguements that I have heard over the years:
    " Joining the Union doesn't makes sense, they don't have enough work for me."

    Ah! I used to use that one. Now days you'll find a lot of locals are allowing members to take "outside" gigs. This allows the local Theatrical / Production community to benefit from the expirience that technicians recieve while working the "big shows" and lets the members pay the bills. The management of the Union < kinda oxymoronic, huh ? > is not stupid, despite what the BEC's < Big Evil Corporations> would like you to believe, They know that smaller companies simply can't afford Union wages and health benefits and bonding funds, so rather than penalize the arts community and their members they have opened a lot of doors.

    " The Unions Just drive up the cost of the production, That's why tickets on Broadway cost $150.00...."
    If you take the took a look at the balance sheet for the production of "Cats", let's say, I would hazard a guess that Union Wages would come to less that a third of the cost of that poduction. The people who negotiate the Contracts with production companies know what monies are being taking in and what monies are going out. If the Producers and Investors weren't making Significant amounts of money they wouldn't keep investing would they. Let's not forget the writers strike in Hollywood last year. Any one of CEOs of any one of the major studios could have taken a 5% paycut for one year and paid for all the increases that the Writers Uinion was asking for, for over a 5 year period.

    " I can't afford the dues"

    This is one I can I dentify with. As in my response to the first item, I can only say, " The times they are a changin' " . A lot of the local have now adopted the, " No work, No Dues." policy that is practiced locally by #488. If you're not making money from a union contract your'e not paying dues. I, again think this part good on the part of the unions as it opens the doors to a lot more people.

    " So and So said they were all jerks, and lazy.... "

    Remember one mans "Safe Enough" is another mans "Blantant Stupidity". Why is that guy sitting, leaning back in a chair napping with his feet on the rail, when there is no riggin going on today? Hmm I don't know maybe he's there in case something happens. Maybe he's there because he's going to be running the show which has 12000 cues every night and getting a couple of "freeby" days is the unions way of compensating him, in advance, for what they know is going to be a hell of and undertaking for him for the next few weeks.


    Ok I've got to get back to work. I Diatribe a little more later, but for now Talk amongst yourselves.
    Oh and BTW
    Locals #488 and #28 Rock!
    Consistently one of the fastest load out / in Crews in the USA.

     
  11. lastmanstanding

    lastmanstanding Member

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    I've got a real strong interest in joining the baltimore local 19. I enjoy freelancing immensely, but i really want to stick around this area instead of having to bus up to NYC or down to DC. After this summer I'm gonna sign onto the Dlist and see what comes of it.
     
  12. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I have had mixed luck with the IA locals in the detroit and Lansing Michigan areas. I did a little over hire work for local 38 for three or four years. I was not appreciative of how they worked collevtivly as a group. Regularly individual members had to be repeatedly asked to do the same task on load ins. Once my "partner" on an electrics in kept walking away on a regular basis. As soon as we would start a task he would leave to the Lobby, or lounge. I had serious safety concerns with a few of the IA run venues. At the Fox Theatre, spreader plates were not used, and the top locking paltes on their arbors were welded in the up position, and physically could not be used. I also had a heck of a time getting paid on more than one occasion.

    We use IA labor for a concert series in Lansing. Last year I had a fantastic crew for 8 days. The previous two years, I had all sorts of problems. Stewards were never near the stage (had to go find them in the park or catering tent), and crew would not take simple direction. In fact I had several that did not even coil mic cable, just threw it in the case several days in a row.

    I agree with previous thoughts, it is all about what guys are working in a local. I certainly do not mean to cast a broad stroke against all locals in Michigan. It has just been my repeated expirence both as a worker, and in managment, that they are not he easiest to work with.

    ~Dave
     
  13. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    There are also plenty of locals that only have 10-15 people and an overhire list of 100-150. We had our first load in here in Wichita today, and the IA here was great. From the looks of it they have a pretty strong group with people that really know the theatre. From what I can tell, seems like it should be a pretty smooth summer.
     
  14. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    I have heard IATSE stagehands referred to as the highest paid, unskilled laborers in the US, mostly referring to older practices of many (too many) locals not having apprentice programs and where too many of the members are working at full scale, that have little or no real "training", other then hands-on learning.

    That said, and as a member of an industry with 32 years experience, all of it with "hand's on learning" and very little of it from an actual official educational experience, I can say that I consider myself as very experienced and skilled at what I do, and have many contacts with IATSE Local 1 stagehands whose experience and skills are at the very least as good as mine, with many having vastly superior skills.

    That skill level is to be found in nearly every IATSE stagehand local in the country as well as Canada.

    Also to be found is many folks who's knowledge and skills are poor, and who seemingly tend to drag down the reputations of all those skilled stagehands.

    Such is the nature of the business we are in.

    IATSE as a whole has been one of the prime movers behind the ESTA ETCP Electrical and Rigging certification programs, as a move toward legitimizing all of that "hands-on knowledge".

    I have also been at the receiving end of an employer whose labor practices were so vile so as to force a unionization of the theater technical employees (it was a AEA and AFM Local 802 dinner theater - but NOT IATSE) and whose pay rates were so far below minimum wage as to force a class action complaint by the US Dept. of Labor. The house went IATSE and simultaneously went out of business, which in retrospective was a good thing. The IATSE International was extraordinarily supportive of us during that very difficult period.

    Thus from my perspective, I can and have seen many of the benefits that being a member of IATSE can bring, as well as having seen all of the abuses as mentioned above.

    My take on the IATSE locals as well as the International as a whole, is that compared to may similar national unions - IBEW, Teamsters, CSEA, etc... is that most IATSE locals as well as the International are far more in tune with the business of the business, as it were then many other unions. Witness the comments of IA International President Tom Short during the writers strike against the movie business (he had nothing nice to say about the writers). IATSE as a whole generally takes care of it's members and is very much aware of the economics of the industry and has been smart in adopting contracts that reflect the reality of the working and economic conditions.

    In general, this is a better business to work in, whether you are an IATSE member or not, thanks to well over 100 years of active and diligent support of IATSE. We are all far better off as a result.

    Steve Bailey
    Brooklyn College
     
    Van likes this.
  15. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Link to an article in today's paper. When in doubt, blame the stagehands. Not the hotel, who didn't support the show, or the PR people, or the Marketing, (I didn't even know this show existed).
     
  16. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Interesting article, sort of a "smash and grab" of anti-labor yellow journalism. One side of a story only. Now it was nice that they quoted the Illusionist as saying his "....Crew was great.." but that his dispute was with the stewards and the hotel. I find it as hard to believe he had an agreement for $8K a week for a Vegas show, with a full compliment of stage hands, as it is to believe the stewards would turn in an overtime bill of $33K without some sort of prior knowledge of the client. What's he going to claim ? Naivete' ? Uh, I didn't know I could keep the crew there for 14 hours straight, and not get billed for meal penalties......
     
  17. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    It's just an extension of the timeless argument.

    Side A (Business managers, producers, the author of this article etc...): Stage hands get all kinds of overtime, over inflating there pay rates and therefore consume budgets rapidly

    Side B (Stage hands): We wouldn't get overtime if we weren't asked to work such ridiculous hours

    I could go on, but the reason the argument is timeless is both sides have good points. Basically I have to refer to the rule of 2 of 3. A customer (in this case the producer) has three options Good, Fast, and Cheap, they get to pick two.

    If you want it Good and Fast it won't be Cheap.
    If you want it Good and Cheap it won't be Fast.
    If you want it Fast and Cheap it won't be Good.
     
  18. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Valid point Pork, but with some hands it's Bad, Slow, and Expensive.
     
  19. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    Well i said they can pick two. If they get them or not.... well that's a whole different story.
     
  20. Grog12

    Grog12 CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    This is the most important lesson to learn period.

    And Derek don't feel bad...I don't know who the hell Brett Daniels is either. I thought the Sahara had the Amazing Jonathon.
     

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