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Union rally backs organizing drive at private L.A. Film School

Union supporters rallied in Hollywood on Wednesday in support of a contentious organizing drive at the private Los Angeles Film School on Sunset Boulevard.

Pro-union speakers accused school management of using stall tactics to put off a vote on unionization of about 150 instructors and other staffers. Union activists also charged that the school had fired one union supporter and illegally disciplined another since the union began organizing in February, while holding mandatory meetings among workers in a bid to thwart the union.

"All we want is a vote so people can decide if they want a union," said Peter Q. Nguyen, field representative at the California Federation of Teachers, which is spearheading the drive. "Instead, there's a lot of harassment and intimidation."

In February, the union says, it submitted to the National Labor Relations Board pro-union authorization cards from more than 60% of school staffers. Under federal labor law, the authorization cards could lead to an election among employees about affiliating with the union. But union officials allege that the school has used delaying tactics before the federal National Labor Relations Board in an effort to dodge a vote likely to lead to unionization.

Representatives of the school declined to comment on the allegations, said spokesman Antoine Ibrahim.

Instead, Ibrahim provided a statement from Diana Derycz-Kessler, the school president and chief executive officer, saying that management would "look forward to working collaboratively" with its "outstanding faculty."

The school, which offers associate of science degrees in film, game production and computer animation, has about 1,000 students at any time, Ibrahim said. The Los Angeles Film School was founded in 1999 and also includes the Los Angeles Recording School, formerly known as the L.A. Recording Workshop.

In promotional material, the school says that alumni films were part of more than 50 domestic and international film festivals in 2007 and received 100 awards. The school boasts of a "world-class" education in film and recording arts.

Pro-union staffers said they seek improvement in curriculum and classroom conditions, as well as better pay and health benefits.

"We'd like to have control of our destiny," said Tema L. Staig, an instructor who supports the union drive.

-- Patrick J. McDonnell

Comments () | Archives (9)

Unions are closet socialists and they are killing this country.

the unions are the cause of all the ills in out economy..I have not seen one industry that was not destroyed by a union..

These are the enemies of freedom:
- Government
- Unions
- News Media (e.g.> CBS, NBC, ABC, L.A. Times, NY Times, TIME, NEWSWEEK, all of Cable except FOX NEWS)
- Government School (read: Public Schools)
- Government Colleges & Universities
- Hollywood (& Popular Culture)

I too am an employee of the LAFS, and a union supporter (my checking account is with the SAG-AFTRA Credit Union), and it is my opinion that we will have more control of our destiny without CFT representation.

I too seek improvement in the curriculum and classroom conditions for the students, but these are outside of the scope of union contracts. In fact, the current curriculum at the LA Film School has been developed almost exclusively by the faculty.

I have not been required to attend any meeting where the union has even been discussed. When some faculty objected to a change in the way they are paid, a meeting was called to allow them to air their grievances. The Head of Accounting, Film Program Director, Head of Operations, CEO and VP of Education made themselves available to answer questions and explained the financial situation that caused the change in payroll policy.

Before the meeting I was approached by faculty involved in the union organizing and asked not to comment at the meeting. It is my opinion that the owners may not have even been aware of the union organizing at that time. Calling the meetings a “bid to thwart the union” seems very inaccurate to one who attended one of those meetings.

I don’t recognize the school I teach at or its response to the efforts to unionize in the above comments. When the faculty objected to the use of a computerized time-clock last year, the administration relented. The faculty resisted imposition of outside curriculum, and the administration relented. I have seen no intimidation or harassment from the owners or administration. I receive full medical, dental, eye care and life insurance as part of my employment, and consider myself well paid.

I find Vincent A. Joy's remarks amazing. He condemns every institution in America "except FOX NEWS". I can only say I hope it is sarcasm. I am disturbed to be seen as on the same side as these naive deluded tools.

I support the DGA WGA SAG and IATSE. I am pro union, but I do not want CFT representing me at LAFS. Employees at some small companies with accessible and humane management can do much better without union representation. Ben and Jerry's has no union, neither does Google.

Unions by their nature must have a one size fits all approach, and will inevitably lead to a more litigious relationship between management and workers. In the case where the management is distant and highly profitable, this is a necessary thing. In cases where positive-sum outcomes can arise from personal communications and relationships, unique solutions more suited to the specific issues of a particular workplace are more likely to lead to better outcomes for the employees.

This is what I sincerely believe to be the case at LAFS.

The Los Angeles Film School was initially an admirable, brilliantly-conceived film school enterprise. Most of the original faculty, staffers and founders were fired though and this greatly diminished the school's early very good reputation.

I witnessed a dizzying array of firings during my employment at The Los Angeles Film School. 85% of all staff or roughly 35 or more firings occurred within three years. Those fired were:

Faculty- Presidents- Founders- Sales staff- Administrators etc.

Thwarting protection of faculty worker's rights via unionization is a mistake. Hollywood is a very small town.

Nesdon, the LAFS faculty did NOT relent on the forcing of online courses, and imposing Full Sail Curriculum (not LAFS faculty curriculum/creative and academic input)

FLYC: I presume you mean that the administration did not relent in this case of abandoning individual instructor's curriculum in the general education courses, which is true. I believe that this is a tragedy, and that it should be the first point of action from a faculty organization.

It is, I believe, nothing that a union contract can or will correct. It is precisely my point, that to address these sorts of specific issues, we need our own idiosyncratic internal organization, and not some statewide union.

DUDEABIDES: I have been on the LAFS faculty for 4 years, clearly after the time you describe. I want very much, and work very hard to achieve a good reputation in the industry community. I actually believe that the current management wants the same thing (duh, just plain good business sense), and know that I may have some differences with them on how to achieve this. But impatiently hurling big legal rocks at each other is not how these positive changes will occur. I know that in film making and business alike, good collaboration is the key to success.

I worked at Full Sail in Florida for two years and was told by some of the lifers that anyone who ever hinted at unionizing was always fired.


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