By Cathy Repola
These last few months have been a time of much reflection for many of us, and this is probably the hardest thing I have ever written in my time at the Guild. I am writing it in late November, right on the heels of the IA Basic Agreement ratification vote. I feel my every word will be weighed and, honestly, I understand why. By the time you read this, I believe we will be well on our way forward, united, with the beginnings of an outline for a strategic plan to advance our goals.
I want you to understand, whether you agree with me or not, why I recommended ratification of the agreement. First, it was my decision. It was not coerced or influenced by anyone, as some have suggested, but was reached based on the actual situation we were faced with. I think you know I am not afraid or unwilling to stand up for what I believe in. And I would have done so again if I thought it was the right thing to do. I don’t have any qualms about that.
Set aside, for just a minute, whether you agreed with what was achieved. When we started the negotiations, the goals were set, and when we reached an agreement, those goals were met. Also, when we reached agreement, it was predicated on a unanimous recommendation from the bargaining committees of all the locals. Because it achieved what we sought to achieve. Afterwards, when many aspects of the deal were criticized, I could not, or maybe I should say would not, go back on my word. Once I made that commitment, it was not an option for me to go against my word, even in the midst of discontent. I will not compromise my integrity in that way, personally, but also that would have undermined the integrity of Local 700 and that is always my first and foremost responsibility and therefore extends way beyond me.
I completely understand the deal did not provide enough for so many of you. It did not come close to changing the culture of this industry, which imposes excessive work situations and demonstrates a lack of respect for the so called “below the line” workers. I fully believe much of this desired change needs to be done outside the collective bargaining process. Some cannot be, but much can be. I am fully committed to this.
We can be united to work for this – and in fact we must be united to achieve ultimate success.
For those who believe we had that one moment and we did not take advantage of it, I say that is not the case. The strike authorization vote and the slim margin on the ratification vote will absolutely propel us forward in a new way. Going forward, these negotiations will never be the same. And this new interlocal activism is one thing I have wished for. This union needs change and we are equipped to move it in the right direction. It was not, nor will it ever be, one moment; the kind of cultural change we are seeking is part of an ongoing movement. This has only just started and it will be a long process, but I believe fully that it is achievable. I wholeheartedly welcome this opportunity to bring about the change that so many of you want.
There was obvious passion demonstrated on all sides. Let us unite in that passion to bring forth change.
Do not let what has bound us together be broken by the disagreements of the moment. In fact, let this process further reinforce our common beliefs and our common goals. It may have seemed we were calling to one another from opposite ends of the spectrum, but there isn’t anything that stands between us in our shared desire to make this union a more responsive, more inclusive, and more democratically run organization. We can be united to work for this – and in fact, we must be united to achieve ultimate success.
I consider these days to be a privilege, a unique opportunity. This day needed to come; I think it was inevitable. I have never before felt more hopeful that we can collectively breathe new life into the union and give you, the members, an opportunity to make it work for you in the way you envision it should.
Cathy Repola is National Executive Director of Motion Pictures Editors Guild, Local 700, IATSE.