“We Are A Union” by Haskell Wexler

May 4, 2010

Ballots are out for local 600’s Union election.

Sorry … “Guild” ballots.

No so long ago, three regional locals combined to unite us, to make our Union stronger.

Yet our first National President, George Dibie, proclaimed us to be a Guild. A “classier” name, he said. Bruce Doering agreed and defended his 1/4 million dollar salary as being more appropriate for the executive director of a Guild — a title that would “encourage producers to give him respect.”

The new Guild — rather than incorporating the hard-fought gains enjoyed by the East Coast and Midwest locals — expended its capital to prove to producers that Guilds are nicer than Unions. Studios and mega-corporations are “our industry” and, to benefit them, we need to be “industry friendly”. Or so the story goes.

Just as pre-industrial guilds were organizations of craftsmen, existing solely to serve the feudal lords, our pretend “union” now exists to provide skilled workers to the industry under pay and conditions that may vary according to whatever is “in the budget”.   

Who truly believes Steven Poster is running unopposed for president due to his charismatic personality and popularity with members? One reason for Poster’s lack of an opponent may be that his administration has already disenfranchised anyone who might oppose his pro-corporate stance.

The newly enacted IA voting rules — which Poster actively campaigned for at the latest convention — were set up to guarantee that incumbent officers would always have the edge in retaining control of the Union.

For example, this year I once again proudly accepted a nomination to run for National Executive Board. When the Election Committee applied the new “Must-Have-Worked-120-Days-During-the-Last-3-Years-to-Run-for-Office” rule, I was disqualified under its inflexible terms. In this way — despite my countless years of dedication and experience — I have been unceremoniously tossed aside because I now do not work as many days per year as I once did.

The 120-Day Rule, however, does not apply equally to everyone. Under an exception to the rule, an incumbent is able to add in his or her days served as an officer to satisfy the requirement. With a three-year term in office, each incumbent automatically qualifies to run even if he or she never spent a single day on set.

Being president has its privileges. Only the president has an unbridled right to post his observations and opinions in our Union publications as they are currently being run. So over the last three years we have learned quite a lot about Steven Poster, his films, his mentors, his experiences, and his philosophies. He writes about himself so frequently that, for a lark, someone once tried to tabulate but was unable to keep up with the shameless deluge of first person singulars appearing in his editorials.

From his writing, we have learned how brilliant and talented President Poster is, even though he always describes himself as modest. What he has consistently failed to write much about, sadly, is his concern for jobs, wages, safety, health, or organizing — all those things that define us as a Union.

Packaged along with your ballots is a Referendum that — if passed — will forever change our Union’s structure as a California Non-Profit Mutual Benefit Corporation that has been successfully in place for 57 years.

Understand that I am not against change. But this resolution is a cynical and overt attempt to consolidate control over the governance and assets of the Union.

I’m voting No! Please join me.

We stand to lose valuable protections our members and their representatives currently enjoy under California Law. These rights are stronger and more rigorous than those guaranteed under the federal LMRDA. Among other things, if the resolution passes, your Board members will lose the right to freely inspect the Union’s financial records. This would result in a needless loss of transparency and accountability, giving the administration carte blanche to spend your dues as it sees fit.

Not the way of a democratic Union.

— Haskell Wexler —