Entertainment Industry

Category: Labor

Healthcare costs to dominate IATSE and AMPTP contract talks

IATSE Matt Loeb

The largest union representing Hollywood's technical workers has begun contract negotiations with the major studios amid concerns that rising healthcare costs could lead to cuts in health and pension benefits for below-the-line crew members.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees -- which represents more than 100,000 entertainment industry workers, including cinematographers, set decorators and prop masters -- on Wednesday began negotiating a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The current contract expires July 31.

Teamsters Local 399, which represents more than 3,000 drivers , will also take part in the talks as part of a new bargaining alliance with IATSE.

The parties have set aside four weeks of talks, first to hash out agreements with more than a dozen crafts locals that belong to IATSE, then to negotiate the so-called Hollywood Basic Agreement that covers issues affecting all the locals, including health and pension benefits. The latter is expected to dominate the agenda.

Like many other unions, IATSE and the Teamsters face a large deficit in their health and pension plans -- projected to be at least $300 million over the next three years -- because of rising medical costs. The health and pension plans are funded by residual payments and employer contributions.

How to close that gap will be a major focus of the negotiations -- as it was for contract talks with talent unions that received increases in employer contributions to their plans. Union leaders could agree to raise eligibility requirements as they did in back in 2009 -- when they raised to 400 from 300 the mininum number of hours required to work over a six-month period. That change, however, sparked a backlash among some IATSE members.

Union leaders from IATSE and Teamsters have been prepping their members for months that they could be forced to accept some tough changes to their health and pension benefits. "Costs of care and insurance coverage have been going up at an alarming rate for the last decade or more,'' Leo Reed, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 399, said in a message to members posted on the union's website.

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-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Matt Loeb, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, at the union's office on Riverside Drive in Studio City on June 21, 2011. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times.

'1000 Ways to Die' halts production

Original Productions Spike TV 1000 Ways to Die Teamsters
Production has been halted on the cable TV series "1000 Ways to Die" because of a labor dispute with crew members.

"Spike TV has confirmed that production of season four of '1000 Ways to Die' has concluded," according to a statement from the cable network. The shutdown comes less than a week after nearly 30 crew members went on strike, alleging their efforts to unionize the show were thwarted by their employer, Original Productions.

The company has questioned the right of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 to negotiate on behalf of the workers.

Original Productions had tried to hire replacement workers, but they were unsuccessful in resuming production of the show.

The unions picketed outside the Burbank offices of Original Productions this week in support of the workers, who are primarily seeking health and pension benefits.

"We were effective in halting them from shooting, but that's not the goal here,'' said Steve Dayan, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents casting directors, location managers and drivers. "What we wanted was for them to sit down and bargain with us for a fair agreement for the crew members."

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IATSE and Teamsters picket producers of '1000 Ways to Die'

Labor dispute erupts on the set of '1000 Ways to Die'

Matt Loeb of IATSE charts a more aggressive path

— Richard Verrier

Photo: Paula Kaatz (seated) with other picketers as they protest outside the production offices of Original Productions in Burbank on Monday. Two unions, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and the Teamsters Local 399, are staging a strike against "1000 Ways to Die," which is produced by Original Productions. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

 

IATSE and Teamsters picket producers of '1000 Ways to Die'

Original Productions Spike TV 1000 Ways to Die Teamsters

About 100 workers staged a protest in Burbank in support of crew members from the cable TV show “1000 Ways to Die.”

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 organized picket lines Monday morning outside the Burbank production office of Original Productions, the producer of the Spike TV show. “1000 Ways to Die” has become the latest flash point in an effort by Hollywood's leading unions to extend contracts to the rapidly growing cable TV sector.

In mounting a strike against the show's producers, IATSE and the Teamsters are alleging that about 30 crew members were fired last week after they unanimously voted to join the unions so they could secure health and pension benefits, safe working conditions and collective bargaining rights.

“This is a successful show,” said Steve Dayan, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, casting directors and drivers. “They’re making money and they’re doing it on the backs of this crew.”

Jonathan Hanrahan, a transportation coordinator for “1000 Ways to Die,” was among the protesters walking the picket line Monday. “We work really hard on this show and we go the extra mile," Hanrahan said. “All we’re asking is that we have the opportunity to receive health and pension benefits and be properly compensated for our efforts.”

In a statement, Original Productions accused union officials of urging crew members to walk off the job last week and denied claims from union leaders that they had refused to meet with them.

“Neither union has made attempts to meet with the company prior to the picket line announcement,” the company said in a statement. “IATSE and Teamsters have not filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for certification, nor have they demonstrated a majority of the crew signed cards... It is the company’s position that it is not obligated to recognize these two unions as bargaining representatives. Original Productions has always offered competitive wages and excellent working conditions.”

Monday's rally included representatives from the Writers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the AFL-CIO.

Now filming its fourth season, "1000 Ways to Die" re-creates unusual ways in which people have died. Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers" and “Deadliest Catch,” has already hired replacement workers, union officials said.

This marks the second time in the last 15 months that IATSE and Teamsters have mounted a high-profile strike in Hollywood. In late 2010, the unions waged a successful walkout against the producers of the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser."

Labor dispute erupts on the set of '1000 Ways to Die'

Matt Loeb of IATSE charts a more aggressive path

'Biggest Loser' labor dispute is settled

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Photo: Paula Kaatz (seated) with other picketers as they protest outside the production offices of Original Productions in Burbank on Monday. Two unions, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and the Teamsters Local 399, are staging a strike against "1000 Ways to Die," which is produced by Original Productions. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

 

Union rally Monday to protest '1000 Ways to Die' producer

Biggest Loser IATSE

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 will stage a large rally outside the Burbank headquarters of Original Productions on Monday morning in support of crew members from the TV series "1000 Ways to Die."

"This is about healthcare, this is about safety and dignity in the workplace, and it's part of the IA's ongoing campaign to support workers in the all genres of TV,'' said Mike Miller, director of motion pictures and television for IATSE.

The union represents about 30 crew members who were fired from the show on Thursday after attempting to unionize. Launched in 2008, the Spike TV show re-creates unusual ways in which people have died.

Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers," has already hired replacement workers, union officials said.

Representatives of the company were not immediately available for comment.

This marks the second time in a year and half that IATSE has staged a high-profile strike in Hollywood. In late 2010, the union waged a successful walkout against the producers of the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser."

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'Biggest Loser' labor dispute is settled

— Richard Verrier

Photo: Striking workers from "The Biggest Loser" picket the NBC reality show's set in Calabasas on Nov. 15, 2010, to secure a union contract. IATSE staged that protest and is staging one Monday for "1000 Ways to Die" workers who were fired after attempting to unionize. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times. 

 

Motion Picture & Television Fund fined over patient's death

2009 protesters urging the Motion Picture and Television Fund nursing home to admit new patients
State regulators have fined the Motion Picture & Television Fund $80,000 for failing to prevent the death of a patient at its nursing home. An investigation by the California Department of Public Health found that the skilled nursing facility "failed to ensure an environment free of accident hazards with adequate supervision, leading to the death of a patient," according to a statement released by the agency Wednesday.

The investigation stemmed from the October 2010 fatality of Carrie Delay, a 90-year-old resident of the Motion Picture & Television Fund's nursing home who died after falling down a stairwell at the Woodland Hills facility.

Delay's family last year filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging the nursing staff had failed to properly monitor Delay, a wheelchair-bound patient suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

In a statement, Motion Picture & Television Fund Chief Executive Bob Beitcher said: "The MPTF takes patient safety very seriously and deeply regrets the incident. The citation...refers to an investigation completed in December, 2010. Since then we have taken additional extensive measures to ensure the safety of our patients and the quality of care that they receive."

Those measures have included hiring an outside safety consultant, conducting audits of policies and procedures and providing additional staff training, Beitcher said.

The incident was the most serious to occur at the nursing facility, which had faced complaints from residents and family members alleging deteriorating quality of care since the fund announced plans to shut down the nursing home and hospital in January 2009. The fund's board recently reversed course and began to admit new residents.

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-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Protesters in 2009 rally against the planned closure of the Woodland Hills nursing home and hospital operated by the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

 

 

Labor dispute erupts on the set of '1000 Ways to Die'

Biggest Loser IATSE

Crew members from the popular cable TV show "1,000 Ways to Die" are locked in a labor dispute with the series' producer.

About 30 crew members from the show who had been seeking to unionize were sent home last week after attempting to join Hollywood unions Teamsters Local 399 and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said Jonathan Hanrahan, transportation captain for the Spike TV show.

He said the show's producer, Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers," had already hired replacement workers.

"It's gut wrenching,'' said Hanrahan. "We love the show, and we hope that a TV deal is struck [so that] we can have basic health benefits."

IATSE and the Teamsters are expected to stage a protest picket outside the show's production offices this week. IATSE staged a successful strike against the producers of the reality series "The Biggest Loser" in November, 2010.

Representatives of Burbank-based Original Productions, which produces the show that re-creates unusual ways in which people have died, were not immediately available for comment.

Launched in 2008, "1000 Ways to Die" films on stages in Burbank and Sun Valley.

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Matt Loeb of IATSE charts a more aggressive path

'Biggest Loser' labor dispute is settled

'Biggest Loser' crew members go on strike

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Photo: Striking workers from The Biggest Loser picket the NBC reality show's set in Calabasas on November 15, 2010.  Some 50 crew members stage a strike to secure a union contract. Credit: Brian van der Brug/LA Times.

Costly events target aspiring child actors

Bret Dawson hoped to be in commercials.

Since Hollywood's earliest days, families have come to Los Angeles to chase stardom for their children. In a departure from that tradition, companies are marketing the Hollywood dream in towns and cities across the U.S., offering children a chance to be discovered — for a price.

The talent businesses have thrived because the proliferation of children's TV programs has created a large pool of youngsters eager to become the next Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez.

The companies blanket radio and TV stations with ads that use the names of Disney stars to draw children and their families to free auditions. Parents are then pressured to buy packages of acting workshops and other services that they're told will make their kids more appealing to talent agents and casting directors, according to court records and complaints filed with state attorneys general and the Better Business Bureau.

"I've talked to parents who've spent their children's college fund to make this dream a reality and have nothing to show for it," said Zino Macaluso, a national director of the Screen Actors Guild.

For more on the story, see today's article in the Los Angeles Times.

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Photo: Bret Dawson and his parents, Gina and Shawn, spent thousands at Pacific Modeling and Acting Academy. The family, shown in their San Diego home, hoped it would prepare Bret to be in commercials. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times.

AFTRA health and pension plan trustees take union to task

In what could be a move by employers to throw some cold water on the planned merger of Hollywood's two actors unions, trustees for the health and pension funds of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have issued a statement challenging some legal opinions cited by the unions.

The trustees of AFTRA's health and retirement plans, which include representatives from labor and management, on Thursday took issue with a "feasibility review" document the unions posted on their websites this week. Those cited the opinion of various lawyers -- including Jani Rachelson, co-counsel of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds -- stating "there are no legal impediments to merging the plans." AFTRA-LOGO1

The feasibility review was part of an overall merger package the boards of the two unions recently approved in a bid to gain more leverage in negotiations with studios, which in the past have successfully exploited divisions between the two groups to gain the upper hand in contract talks. Members of each union will vote on the merger in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, the board of trustees for the AFTRA health and pension funds said the feasibility review did not represent the opinion of the board.

"The Board of Trustees did not request or authorize this opinion of Fund co-counsel and had no prior knowledge of this letter before reading the posting on the websites,'' the trustees said in a statement. "Although there is no doubt that planned mergers are legally permissible in appropriate circumstances, the merger of pension and health funds as large and divergent as the SAG and AFTRA plans raise complex and unique financial, legal and benefit issues which can only be addressed through a comprehensive analysis performed by the funds."

Details on how the unions' respective health and pension plans will be combined will be addressed only after members approve a merger in upcoming referendum.

A spokeswoman for AFTRA declined to comment on the matter. 

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SAG and AFTRA open up about merger plans

Sag-and-aftra

Hollywood's actors' unions are opening up about their proposed marriage agreement. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on Tuesday posted details of a merger package overwhelmingly approved by their respective boards last weekend.

Constitution-final-approved-120131-p1-small

The package includes a merger agreement, constitution and dues plan for what would be Hollywood's largest entertainment union, combining actors as well as singers, dancers, talk show hosts and broadcast journalists under a single roof.

Members of SAG and AFTRA will get to vote on the plan in a referendum to be held in the coming weeks. Merger ballots are scheduled to be mailed out on or about Feb. 27 are due back by March 30, according to a recent email sent to members of both unions. At least 60% of voters must approve the merger for it to be ratified.

Under the plan, national officers, including the president and secretary-treasurer, would be elected directly by members. However, some other positions, including that of an executive vice president, would be elected by delegates at a convention held every two years, a concession to AFTRA's tradition of using conventions and delegates. SAG elects its officers directly by a vote of members.

Dues will increase for some members, including for current AFTRA-only members, and drop for others, including those who are already dual card holders. The new union will be called simply SAG-AFTRA.

For more details on the agreement, here's the full plan: SAG/AFTRA merger package

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AFTRA board agrees to tie the knot with SAG

The long-sought marriage of Hollywood's two actors unions cleared another hurdle Saturday when the board of American Federation of Television and Radio Artists endorsed a plan to merge with the larger Screen Actors Guild.

As expected, the AFTRA board approved a recently-negotiated merger plan by 94% to 6%, echoing a similar endorsement on Friday by SAG's national board. Aftra SAG merger Howard Reardon

The plan would create the largest entertainment union in Hollywood, combining the diverse memberships and cultures of two very different organizations that have talked about joining forces for decades.

SAG has 125,000 members who are actors, extras and stunt performers. AFTRA's 70,000 members include actors, as well as singers, dancers, broadcast journalists and talk show hosts. The unions already have 40,000 members in common and are eager to consolidate to strengthen their negotiating clout.

With the approval of the their respective boards, the merger document -- which includes a merger agreement, a proposed constitution and dues plan -- will now go before members in a referendum vote to be held in coming weeks. The proposed new union is to be called SAG-AFTRA and probably will be touted Sunday night at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. SAG's leadership has made merging with AFTRA a top priority.

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