By A.J. Catoline
Cathy Repola, National Executive Director of Motion Picture Editors Guild, recently announced to Local 700 membership that she was reappointed on June 16 to the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Industry Health and Pension Plans (MPIPHP).
The Editors Guild had not had a representative on the MPIPHP Board since October 2018.
Repola shared the news with members at the spring General Membership meeting on May 7, attended by more than 460 members both online and in-person at the Directors Guild Theater in Los Angeles.
Repola did not want to focus on the past animosity of bitter contract negotiation fights, but instead to look to the future of negotiating a new contract next year.
Expressing solidarity with striking Writers Guild of America members, she took a moment to pay homage to the creativity of writers by referencing a line from a season 3 episode of the AppleTV+ show “Ted Lasso.”
“There is a line in there I liked,” said Repola “Don’t fight back, fight forward. That is what we need to do.”
CineMontage interviewed Repola about her return to the Board.
Cinemontage: What is the MPIPHP Board and what do they do?
Repola: It is the governing Board of both the pension and health plans and is responsible for the oversight of the management and administration of the Plans. The Board is comprised of an equal number of representatives from participating unions and employers.
CineMontage: The Editors Guild is the second-largest local in the bargaining group. With more than 9100 members providing substantial hourly contributions into the MPIHP plans, why is it important they have representation and a voice on the board?
Repola: More hours have traditionally been reported in to the Plans on behalf of Local 700 than for any other single union entity. While every Director has the responsibility to act on behalf of all of the participants, regardless of affiliation, it certainly is warranted that Local 700 have representation on the Board.
CineMontage: When did you first join the MPIPHP Board? You were removed from your seat in October 2018. How did you take the news back then, and how do you feel now that you have been asked back?
Repola: I was appointed to the Board in 2017, shortly after becoming the National Executive Director of Local 700. Yes, I was removed in October 2018 and I don’t want to rehash all of that. Now that I have been re-appointed, I will only say I think that IA President Matthew Loeb re-appointing me was the appropriate thing to do.
CineMontage: The announcement that you were being removed from the Board came after the contentious negotiation for the 2018 IATSE Basic Agreement. That cycle, Local 700 was the lone vote to not ratify the contract. Many MPEG members felt back then that your removal was related to the negative contract vote. Is that a fair view?
Repola: I left it up to individuals to take what they wanted from that. I know our members in particular were very angry at the time and frankly have continued to be and that is why I was excited to make this announcement to them at the membership meeting. I certainly have my own opinion but I believe it is in the best interest of the Local 700 membership for me to not harp on the past. As I get older, I fully recognize you have no control over how other people behave or what they think and you can’t waste time and energy allowing yourself to be swallowed up by things you don’t have any control over.
CineMontage: Things have changed for the better since those times. Today there is more solidarity between the locals and the other Hollywood unions.
Repola: All of the unions have been standing with the WGA and SAG -AFTRA in their fight because it really is one big fight that all of us share. Sure, there are differences and nuances to the various contracts and different goals and needs of the various memberships, but it still all comes down to fighting for fair and equitable wages, terms and working conditions on behalf of union members.
Cinemontage: What can members expect regarding IATSE Basic Agreement negotiations that start soon?
Repola: After the negotiations of 2018 and 2021, which were entirely different from one another in so many respects, engagement and activism increased within our membership. Those sentiments will drive these next negotiations, and I can only say that I think next year’s Basic Agreement negotiations may just be the most challenging we have ever faced during my tenure. And I thought that even before these current strikes started. It’s going to take a cooperative, strategic spirit for all our locals and their members to get successfully through this next round.
Cinemontage: There is a survey coming from the IATSE this fall? What about, and why should members respond?
Repola: The IA will be conducting a survey to provide an opportunity for all of members of the overall bargaining unit (within the 13 Hollywood Locals) to identify their top priorities for the next Basic Agreement negotiations. A separate one will also be made available to members who work under the Area Standard Agreement. In addition, we will also be conducting one, alongside this, for our specific craft-specific Local agreements. It is absolutely essential that all of our members participate if they want their voices to be heard.
Cinemontage: The Editors Guild has a “New Technology Committee” tasked with keeping an eye on A.I. workflows. Why is this important?
Repola: Not only is it at the forefront of daily news reports but has also been a subject in every above-the-line Guild’s negotiations. It is essential that we stay abreast of any impacts this emerging technology will have on the work our members do. I asked the Board of Directors in February to create this committee. We have some very insightful people on the committee who are putting in a lot of hard work toward ultimately providing a report to the Board of their findings and how various classifications may be affected so we may take any necessary and appropriate action. The membership will be hearing a lot more about this soon.
Cinemontage: Thinking about members who struggled with the loss of work during Covid to now face the ongoing WGA and SAG double-strike (or “an AMPTP-led strike” as IATSE Vice President Mike Miller mentioned at the recent D2 convention), what is the Guild doing to help ease the hardship of members?
Repola: The Board of Directors voted unanimously to implement a dues waiver program for the 3rd quarter billing for those facing financial hardship. If these strikes linger, I am certain this will be revisited again for the next quarter. We are also supplying the members with available resources for applying for financial assistance, mental health services associated with this kind of loss of income, and tips on how to file for unemployment, etc. I recently re-introduced, the “Coffee with Cathy” series, something I had done during the worst of COVID. It’s a series of a smaller, more intimate meetings with members which allows for more direct dialogue. During the the first recent one, when I asked what else can we be doing during this challenging time that we have not, some things were mentioned which we are now looking at acting on.
My heart is breaking over some of the personal difficulties some of our members have shared with me as a result of the industry-wide strikes. That deepens my desire to help our members in whatever ways we as a union can and in whatever ways, I, in this leadership role am able to. Together, we will persevere.