by A.J. Catoline
Pride, protest and passion echoed through the halls and into the streets of the 78th annual IATSE District 2 convention in San Francisco on June 25. Hundreds of delegates from locals across Arizona, California, Nevada and Hawaii resolved to stand up and fight back against an erosion of constitutional and human rights, fearing inaction could threaten the rights of labor unions.
It was the first in-person union convention in three years, as delegates felt safer in a waning pandemic to move beyond meetings over Zoom. The convention gaveled to order in the ballroom of the historic St. Francis Hotel at Union Square, on the morning after the Supreme Court nullified a 50-year constitutional right for women’s reproductive freedoms in a decision that implied LGBTQ rights could be in jeopardy.
International President Matthew D. Loeb addressed the assembly still reeling in the wake of the court decision and fearful of a new and uncertain political landscape. He linked the “war on women” to a war on unions.
“This is a woman’s fight! This is a fight for all of us!” Loeb thundered from the dais. “This is a man’s fight! This is a person’s fight! When you are a human being you better fight because they are going to take it all!” The hall jumped to their feet and roared in cheers.
“On this horrible day there is no other place I’d rather be than with my union sisters, empowering each other,” said Nicole Miller, District 2 Women’s Committee Coordinator and President of AAEU Local B-192, as she welcomed women delegates to an opening night event called “Stronger Together.”
“If they can do this, what else can they do?” Loeb wondered. “Historically, unions aren’t real popular with the right wing. We’re the ones who fund the Democratic Party.” Loeb encouraged all members of IATSE to donate to the union’s political action committee, and he pledged thousands of dollars in funding to support pro-labor campaigns and train members in political outreach to get out the vote.
“Don’t think they are not coming after us! They’ve had this plan for 50 years,” said Loeb, promising the IATSE will join other unions to engage in the political arena. “This organization will do its part to keep justice in the forefront.”
Since District 2 delegates last met in June of 2019, much has happened to the country and unions — a global pandemic, civil unrest in response to the murder of George Floyd, a divisive national election and an insurrection against democracy. And, most close to home, a historic strike authorization vote and controversial ratification of the Basic Agreement in 2021.
Loeb struck a conciliatory tone, acknowledging the many delegates in the room from Locals who took an active role in the contract ratification process.
“The agreement did ratify, but it barely ratified,” Loeb said, acknowledging that several locals in the Hollywood bargaining group rejected the contract. Local 700 members split their votes down the middle and, if a couple hundred votes flipped the other way, the contract would have failed.
“The employers continuously ignored our major priorities. They made it about strength, they made it about power, and not reason,” Loeb said. “I understand we had a strike vote; it caused a lot of energy, a lot of activism and a lot of expectations.”
“Obviously some people wanted more,” Loeb said. “There was disappointment, and I understand it.” Delegates at Local 700’s table applauded loudly, joined by delegates from sister locals in the bargaining group. It was a notable change from initially describing the contract negotiation as a “Hollywood ending.”
This moment at the convention felt like a post-mortem analysis of the contract negotiation, much like the one held by the Editors Guild Board of Directors, the results of which were reported to the membership by National Executive Director Cathy Repola at the online Town Hall meeting on June 18. After acknowledging what happened in the last round, Loeb turned the focus to the future.
“We need to start now with bargaining committees for the Hollywood Basic Agreement,” Loeb said, urging members to stay engaged and united and avoid in-fighting.
“Solidarity is what’s going to get us there,” Loeb added, asking members to unite around achievable priorities for next round. “If we split off and we snipe or we’re, you know, negative about [the contract] and we talk about what’s wrong with it, that’s fine. It’s fine to have constructive criticism, but the fact is to win this we’re going to have to be together — all on the same page — one union, strong, in the face of the employers.”
During the Editors Guild Town Hall, Repola outlined a plan of action to be ready for the next negotiation, including surveys on priorities and the formation of a comprehensive Negotiation Committee to coordinate outreach to members to answer questions on the collective bargaining process, potential strike votes and labor actions, and work in coordination with sister Locals. Members have been outspoken to raise the scale wages, increase rest hours and long-term sustainability of the health and pension plans.
A delegate with 40 years experience
Before continuing with committee reports and business, International Vice President Mike Miller noted this convention sent the most delegates in the history of District 2. He took a moment of personal privilege to recognize delegate Bill Elias, Editors Guild Sergeant-At-Arms, who was honored with a commemorative pin for attending his 40th District 2 convention. The entire hall rose in applause for Brother Elias, who was first sent as a delegate to the 1972 convention.
The Editors Guild delegation was the largest at any in-person convention, comprising of 29 members representing a variety of classifications. Delegates are elected at the Local level every four years.
“This is the best delegation we ever had,” Elias said. “This has been missing in previous years, to have a presence with this many. It’s a show of strength for our Local.”
Controversial Resolution on Inter-Local Communication
The bulk of the business at the convention consists of voting on resolutions submitted by various locals. Three resolutions were submitted that hailed support of reproductive rights, justice and equal access to affordable healthcare. The Resolutions and Activism Committees, tasked with making a recommendation, elected to allow all three resolutions to go forward. They passed unanimously followed by resounding applause.
A resolution authored by Local 80 delegates Brandy Tannahill and Marco Robles, and supported by the delegations of Locals 44, 700 and 892, resolved to ask all locals to “develop their own inter-local communications committees comprised of rank-and-file members and local leadership” prior to the contract negotiation cycle. The resolution sought to “foster dialog between fellow members, beyond local and craft and gender lines.”
The resolution created some controversy, after the Resolutions Committee recommended non-concurrence. The chair recognized Cathy Repola, who told the delegates that it was the first time she was rising to defend a resolution that was voted down in committee. She urged a vote against non-concurrence, urging that the resolution was in the best interest of union members.
A vibrant debate ensued on the floor. “The intention behind the resolution was that coming out of our last contract negotiations, we need to figure out what happened,” said Tannahill, speaking against the committee’s recommendation of non-concurrence. “I think this resolution sets the stage to learn from each other what to do next, and I hope that empowers us.” Members of supportive locals loudly applauded, and at one point were gaveled out of order.
Several delegates from other locals were vocal that while they supported the spirit of the resolution, they opposed a potential mandate from the District that required they form a specific committee in their Local. Picture Editor Shiran Carolyn Amir rose to the microphone to counter that the resolution was “just a recommendation” that is “vital to the strength of our union.” Story Analyst Holly Sklar also spoke in favor of the resolution and urged that locals need to communicate and “not just at these conventions. When we find out what we have in common, it strengthens our bonds,” Sklar said.
The vote on the resolution failed by a close voice vote that led to a rare motion for a division of the house where delegates voted by standing. Convention Chair Mike Miller ruled the vote supported non-concurrence, which was audibly disputed. Tannahill then challenged the vote and moved for a controversial motion to appeal the decision of the chair. Ultimately it failed, though the point had been well made to the convention that members want mechanisms in place to “get on the same page” with each other, as President Loeb urged earlier.
The floor debate was an example in real time how rank-and-file members can run for union delegate and bring their ideas to the IATSE leadership. Despite the close and controversial vote, Miller urged that all delegates leave the meeting united. At the end of the meeting, he privately greeted Local 700 delegates and thanked them for their passionate participation.
“I have been proud to be a member of our Guild for a long time and, at this convention, rarely prouder of our members,” said President Alan Heim. “Our delegates kept up the good trouble.”
At the close of business the host Locals invited all delegates to watch a cirque dance performance titled “Dear San Francisco” at the Fugazi Theatre, which performs regularly with a union stage crew, and is produced by some members of Local 16 Stagehands. Two members of the production crew were initiated as IATSE members to applause and delegates shared a toast to a successful convention.
Union Proud, Marching for Pride
When delegates travelled to the convention from the airport, from the moment of their first steps into the city they found themselves surrounded by pro-abortion and LGBTQ rights protesters demonstrating a couple blocks from the Westin St. Francis hotel.
The convention was scheduled in advance, though fell on the same weekend celebration of San Francisco Pride. LGBTQ flags flew everywhere around union square, and delegates carried commemorative tote bags with the IATSE shield in rainbow colors. Picture Editor Molly Shock wore a T-shirt she designed that read “Post Pride,” a play on the Editors Guild organizing film in which she appeared.
One of the convention host locals, Local 16 Stagehands, handed out pride shirts and reserved a spot in the parade for delegates to join in the festive march filled with messages to engage in the fight for human rights. It was a fitting end to the convention.
“I’m feeling so proud,” said editor Shannon Baker Davis, marching in the parade before heading back home. She summed up the feelings of most delegates. “We came! We saw! We marched!”
Local 700 delegation: Shiran Carolyn Amir, A.J. Catoline, Shannon Baker Davis, Frank Delgado, Wilbur DiTullio, Jesse Dodd, Amy Duddleston, Emma DuPell, Bill Elias, Scott George, Leah Gunter, Ri-Karlo Handy, Dorian Harris, Alan Heim, Sharon Smith Holley, Stephanie Lowry, Hudson Miller, Nancy Morrison, Aziza Ngozi, Paul Overacker, Jessica Pratt, Cathy Repola, Nancy Richardson, Kevin Ross, Molly Shock, Holly Sklar, Noah Diamond Stoltzman, David White.