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

March 24, 2010 |  2:28 pm

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