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Unions 101: Part One

Unions 101: Part One

Jamie Bartkowicz | TEAD Co-Founder/Lead Instructor

Some of the most common questions we get from students are about unions. What are they? How do I join? Should I join?

When I was in film school, unions weren’t really talked about much. Perhaps it was because I was in the Midwest, rather than an entertainment/union epicenter like Los Angeles, but my knowledge of unions was very limited. When I moved out to LA after graduating, one of my biggest “culture shocks” of the industry was navigating unions. I felt like I was the only one who didn’t understand this side of things; and it often felt like people were speaking a whole other language. So if you also feel a little lost- know that you’re not alone!

While there is a lot to go over, I wanted to compile some of the basics of understanding unions. We’ll be breaking this down in a 4-part blog series called “Unions 101” over the next several weeks.

What is IATSE?

IATSE stands for: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada. Not usurpingly, it is just referred to by the shortened acronym I.A.T.S.E (phonetically pronounced “eye-at-see”)

“IATSE was founded in 1893 when representatives of stagehands working in eleven cities met in New York and pledged to support each other's efforts to establish fair wages and working conditions for their members. IATSE has since evolved to embrace the development of new entertainment media, craft expansion, technological innovation and geographic growth.

Today, IATSE members work in all forms of live theater, motion picture and television production, trade shows and exhibitions, television broadcasting, and concerts as well as the equipment and construction shops that support all these areas of the entertainment industry. IATSE represents virtually all the behind the scenes workers in crafts ranging from motion picture animator to theater usher.” – Wikipedia [1]

Today, IATSE consists of about 150,000 members. These members consist of what is called “below the line” industry workers.

There are several departments, local unions, and districts within IATSE, which you can learn more about here: [2]

What is a Local Union?

Within the overall large organization of IATSE, there are several sub-groups known as “Local Unions” or just “Locals.” Each local sector focuses on specific trades and interests within the industry. Currently there are 362 local unions within US & Canada! And each local union operates as their own 501(c)5 that rolls up under the larger IATSE. IASTE District Map [2]

Since we here at TEAD are mostly Art Department based, we’ll focus on these 3 locals: Local 44 Local 871 Local 800

Local 44

“Affiliated Property Craftspersons Local 44 is a professional association of craft persons having specialized skills and talents within the entertainment industry. Local 44 is affiliated with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, its Territories and Canada (I.A.T.S.E.).

Our Local was chartered by the I.A.T.S.E. in May of 1939. Like all unions, we are a democratically run organization.

Local 44 has numerous collective bargaining agreements, employing over 6,200 members in more than sixty-five companies in Los Angeles and throughout the world. We represent a diverse group of crafts that are the best in their field. Local 44 represents members working in many diverse, but related fields of the entertainment industry, such as: Motion Picture, Television, Commercials, Music Videos, and Independent Shops.

The various Crafts we represent are: Construction Coordinator, Draper, Floorcover, Greens, Propmaster, Propmaker, Property, Sewers, Set Decorator, Special Effects, Upholsterer, Commercial Master, Commercial Propmaker, Commercial Property, and Commercial Set Decorator.” -Local 44 Site [3]

Local 871 “Local 871 represents a variety of crafts, which, despite their differences, share one attribute we keep Hollywood organized. Whether on set or behind the scenes, Local 871 is the invisible machine that keeps the gears turning.” -Local 871 Site [4] Within this array of crafts that Local 871 supports is Art Department Coordinators!

Art Department Coordinators function in a similar capacity for the Art Department. From setting up facilities to tracking schedules, budgets, and inventories, the Art Department Coordinator is of invaluable assistance to the Production Designer.

Local 800

“The Art Directors Guild (ADG), IATSE Local 800, is a labor union representing approximately 3,000 members who work throughout the world as Production Designers, Art Directors, Scenic, Title and Graphic Artists; Set Designers and Model Makers; Illustrators, Matte Artists, and Previs Artists.

ADG IATSE Local 800 is a part of the larger international labor union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). The IATSE represents over 140,000 technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry including live theatre and motion picture and television production, as well as trade shows, audio visual production and sports broadcast.

Through the IATSE, workers have the ability to negotiate with their employers from a position of strength striving for fair wages and benefits, workplace health and safety, job training and other work-related issues. Unions also serve an important role making sure that management acts fairly and treats its workers with respect. Unions are democratic organizations with leaders who are elected by the membership.”

-ADG Local 800 site [5]

Next Time On “Unions 101”: On the next installment, we will go over these 3 locals more in depth and learn about how to join them. Be sure to subscribe and follow us on Instagram to stay up to date on our latest posts!

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[2] IATSE Site

[3] Local 44 Site

[4] Local 871 Site

[5] ADG Local 800 Site

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