Cathy Repola: MPEG at ‘All-Time High’ in Membership as It Prepares for Basic Agreement Talks in 2021

National Executive Director Cathy Repola at the 2019 NYC Labor Day Parade. Photo: Muneeb Hassan.

by Cathy Repola

As we move into the holiday season and the New Year approaches, it’s a good time to take stock of the progress our union has made and look to see where work remains to be done.

We are now at an all-time high in number of members – approximately 8,300. Our financial position is strong, we are continuing to build reserves, and we are also able to spend more money that directly impacts and benefits our membership.

We are doing more outreach than ever, providing lots of different types of seminars, workshops and networking events to make sure there is something for everyone. We have enhanced our training programs in Los Angeles and New York.

Our Field Reps and support staff are reaching out directly to crew members when we are informed they’ve been hired to advise them of the terms and conditions under the applicable agreement. They are also being more proactive to advise producers in advance of common violations they should avoid. We have increased staff to vet thoroughly any potential contractual violations before we give our OK to the IA to release bonds. This has been extremely effective in securing members’ unpaid wages and benefits.

We are still developing podcasts to help inform the membership. I hope you have had the opportunity to listen to at least one of them. You can find them archived on the website

I invite members to offer suggestions for topics or volunteer to be a guest with me. We recorded two of these types of formats, and I think that they really resonated with the members. We are also stepping up our presence on social media, and of course we have kept evolving this magazine and its related website. I continue to believe that regular communication with you, the members, from your leadership – including this note to you! – is an important responsibility of my job.

I am proud that our union proactively informs our members of their rights and supplies them with the necessary resources if someone has been the victim of unlawful sexual harassment or discrimination. We will continue these important efforts. We marched in the Labor Day Parade in New York City and had the largest turnout ever. For the first time, we had a group participate in the Los Angeles Pride Parade. We also joined the huge IA contingent marching in WorldPride Parade. We must be inclusive of all members, and every member deserves to feel safe, respected, and valued within our Local.

On a personal note, my employment contract with the Guild was renewed by the Board of Directors for another five years effective November 1. That enables me to reflect on where we need to be and what we need to do to get there.

I want the union to be relevant in the daily working lives of the members. Since the Basic Agreement negotiation battle last year, we have seen an unprecedented wave of interest and involvement from the rank-and-file members. This is inspiring, and it is something we need to build upon. We need for all members to take ownership of their union, to fully embrace the notion that you, the members, are the union. We need to connect the membership nationwide. The level of participation is now remarkable and we, the Board of Directors and the staff, must do all we can to build upon this.

All this counts as great work, and we will continue in these efforts. However, we also need to continue efforts to regain a foothold within the IATSE. Doing so can only be achieved through a strategic plan with a relentless commitment to victory. We have many important challenges ahead, including another Basic Agreement negotiation in 2021. Of primary importance is to negotiate a new or enhanced residual stream into the MPIPHP in order to secure the future stability of your healthcare and retirement pensions. I vow to do whatever I can, whatever is necessary, toward strengthening our position and keeping the Guild powerful, united, and working for its members. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, happy holidays to all. With deep gratitude, I thank you for the incredible opportunity of representing you.

Cathy Repola is the National Executive Director of Motion Picture Editors Guild, Local 700, IATSE.

This article originally appeared in the Q4 2019 print edition of CineMontage.