Home > Diversity, Election 2010 > The Glass Is Cracked

The Glass Is Cracked

April 11, 2010

[Editor’s note: The author of this post has requested that her name be withheld.]

I’ve been a member of Local 600 for a number of years now and I must say that the atmosphere has changed—dramatically—and not in a positive way. I have written and rewritten this piece in order to get my points across and find that my anger with what our union should be versus what it has become will come off as a harsh diatribe. What this ‘essay’ has become (and because it became quite lengthy I’ve divided it into multiple parts) is a way to vent frustration. I’ve heard some similar frustrations from other L600 members, but nevertheless here are my views:

The Glass is Cracked

As a rule, I try to see the glass as half full, but I must say that my opinion of “The Union” and how it serves its members is rather low right now.  After fighting tooth and nail to get in–having worked as a 2nd AC outside CA for 3 years, both Union and non-union, gaining experience wherever I could, I finally decided to make the move to CA and join the Union in hopes of improving my job skills, income, and quality of life. (Read: Health Insurance).   But when I got here, the Union would not accept my 300 Union days out of CA, even though they were with CA based shows.  And while I had to work another 100 days here in LA on non-union low-budget (deferment-my-ass) shows, work for free on many other no-budget meaningless fodder, and scrape together enough money to make a down payment to join the Union, I have watched members’ children slide in that door after 30 days on a Union show.  And I’ve been appalled to learn they are often working those 30 days while there are Union MEMBERS, like ME (and maybe YOU) on the AVAILABILITY LIST, dying for work, in desperate need of hours!  WTF?!?

Protections. What Protections?

Whatever happened to protecting the members?  These young guns slide into a job they feel they are entitled to have, they sometimes work half as hard as others, and still get rehired because of who they know or who their dad/uncle/brother is. (If you are one of these aforementioned members don’t kill the messenger; understand the inequity and frustration expressed here). Of course kids of members should be able to join the Union.  But shouldn’t they be held to the same standards as those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be born into the family? I don’t care whose son you are, if you’re not in the Union, you shouldn’t be allowed to work on a Union show unless every single one of us are working.

Those are the Union rules.  Rules that every single one of you VOWED to adhere to when you joined the Union. Nowhere in the Union bylaws does it state that the sons/nieces/ nephews/friends/mistresses of DPs/Directors/Producers are exempted from these rules.  And yet it appears that they are. I would give anything to have the peace of mind these people have—knowing they will always have work.  I wonder what that must feel like.

I Signed Up For What?

I have been replaced by “sons” or the like 4 times.

I have been “let go” because I couldn’t find time in my busy schedule loading for 2 cameras running hand-held all day—taking breakfast orders for the entire camera crew AND go buy BEER for the camera truck; filling up an ice chest and getting the camera desk turned into a bar and ready for a wrap “party” several days a week. I finally said enough is enough.  I have WORK to do!   What? You won’t come in an hour early and get us all breakfast and stay an hour late cleaning up the bar/truck.  You’re fired.

Not a Joke

I have been sexually harassed many times. The Union and Production Companies may have sexual harassment classes, but they are not enforced.  The men (ok, to be fair, some men on some crews) think it’s “funny”.  No one will stand up for a woman who is having a hard time.  No one wants to cry foul and be “uncool” among the other men—so even if they think something is wrong, they won’t do a thing to stop it.  (Maybe if it was REALLY bad and REALLY physical they would, but only then.)  The same brother who would come to the defense of his little sister, who might even take to task a man who made improper gestures or comments or advances on this sister—the sister they grew up with, the sister they shared a house with, the sister they are eager to see at Christmas—will sit by and watch in amusement as a Union Sister is verbally harassed.   If we are not brothers and sisters to each other, then what exactly are we?

Animal House

Let’s face it, it’s a fraternity.  No one will step out of line or step up to the plate and say:  “This is wrong.  This must stop.”  They will instead snicker behind the back of the woman who is noticeably uncomfortable and they will call her “a bitch” if she bites back or see that she is “let go” because of complaints to her superiors, which are usually other men…And who are those superiors going to believe, the men, or some woman who is “overreacting”?

Sorry, I Can’t Hire You on This One

I have heard with my own ears:  “ I can’t hire you because the DP doesn’t like working with women. I have heard with my own ears:  “ I need to hire Joe, Bob, Mark, David…. because he has kids.”   Or “because he has a mortgage”.     (If I had a job, maybe I could get a mortgage too!)  But my income fluctuates so much, depending on what men are available, that I have never been comfortable enough with my inconsistent workload to risk taking on a mortgage.

I have heard with my own ears: “I can’t hire you because my wife doesn’t like me working with women.”

Some have commented that they don’t like working with women because then they have to watch what they say…they can’t talk dirty if they’re working with women.

A vicious circle to say the least.

There is No Union in Union

I have been told that the crew I was on would never hire anyone who smoked, that if I smoked, they wouldn’t have brought me back (to day-play).  This same crew would not tolerate tardiness either.   So imagine how it felt watching that crew give those day-player days to a friend who smoked– because he was a “good assistant” and “needed the work” because he “had kids”.  He is a good assistant.  But he was often late and of course he kept leaving the set to have a smoke…

I have listened to men on the set talking about how they “desperately” need the work because they just bought a boat, or a new car, or because they need to re-tile their entrance way with these marble tiles they found the last time they were on hiatus in Italy—while I desperately need work so that I can pay my rent, feed myself, keep my health insurance.

This different set of standards and rules for Friends, that overrides the rules set down for others is what makes this Union a JOKE.  It is not all for one and one for all.  It is every man for himself.  There is no union in our Union.

Reverse The Roles

Can you imagine if the shoe were on the other foot?

Sorry, can’t hire you because the DP doesn’t like working with men.

Sorry, I can’t hire you because you have a mortgage; I’ll only hire people who are struggling to make ends meet and will therefore appreciate the job and work harder to do a good job instead of just doing the minimum required.

Sorry, I can’t hire you because you have kids.  What if you have to go take care of them?

What if you have a family emergency?  Nope.  I only hire single people.

Sorry, can’t hire you because my husband doesn’t like me working with other men—you might make a pass at me and then where will we be?

Sorry, can’t hire you because I like a workplace that is inviting, and welcoming and where people speak nicely to each other.  No dirty talk on my set.  You won’t fit in.

Sorry can’t hire you because you’re an asshole.

The Union, therefore, loses 1/6 of its potentially great assistants and DP’s because they are sick and tired of being treated like 2nd class citizens.  Enough is enough. My message may be harsh in its tone but within it is the reality of my experiences. I joined the Union hoping for the best for myself but…

Anyway, if you find some resonance in my rant then maybe you too feel there is room for  change in the business as usual attitude existing in Local 600. We need good proactive members in our Union and on the next National Executive Board.

Before casting your vote please SPEAK with the candidates (including some well-qualified incumbents) that YOU intend to vote for. ASK him or her how they feel about some of the topics I have raised here. Find out what their most important issues are in moving Local 600 forward and out of the morass of sameness. I don’t intend to paint all members and candidates with the same broad brush—it is up to ALL OF US to vote before MAY 13 and to VOTE intelligently.

Thank You,

Name Withheld by Request

Local 600 Member

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Categories: Diversity, Election 2010