By Cathy Repola
In January 2020, I was the recipient of the American Cinema Editors Heritage Award at their annual Eddie Awards banquet. I remain humbled by being selected to receive this award and deeply appreciative to ACE for the acknowledgement. One of the things I said during my acceptance speech was that I thought this was a perfect way to start a year that I believed was going to be a great one for our union.
Two months later, the pandemic took hold, shutting down production in our industry (and many others) and causing not just the loss of jobs, but also instilling a profound fear of catching a devastating, potentially life-threatening virus. That virus ultimately led to widespread economic hardship and loss of life. It turned everything upside down and moved my attention away from what I thought would be my focus, and forcing me to turn instead to crisis management mode. My primary focus was the concern for how all of this would impact our members financially, health-wise and psychologically.
Of course, I had no idea how long it would last or how we would need to adjust to ensure we were an adequate support system for the membership, whatever their needs. The education process for safety protocols was learning on the job. I started recording videos for the members in my home without sophisticated equipment — which I assure you was particularly nerve-racking since it was being distributed to professional audio and video experts. I started the series “Coffee With Cathy” (titled not coined by me, and I did resist, but it seemed to have caught on). I sent out so many email blasts, I may have oversaturated you all, but I felt it my job to ensure that you had every possible piece of information I had. It was all new and different for me and, in fact, I loved it. I loved it because it kept me feeling connected to all of you. Those of you who have known me for awhile know how important that part of my job is to me.
Then, just a little over two months later in May 2020, the country erupted into massive protests over systemic racism, which was not just allowed to exist but was promulgated for centuries. And again, I was met with a new challenge, one I found myself admittedly completely unfamiliar with, and yet one I also fully embraced. I did so because I quickly awakened to the fact that systemic racism lives and breathes in the workplaces of our members. Quite frankly, that is just not acceptable. I have already written much about this and the initiatives your Officers, Board of Directors and I took on to address it. With the help of an outside consultant, Elevated Inclusion Strategies, we provided training for our Board of Directors and our entire staff, with supplemental training for the contract enforcement staff, in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. This same company will help us strategize and enact change to assure that ALL of our members are treated with dignity and respect and all are afforded equal opportunities to excel in their crafts. Look forward to more on this.
As we wholeheartedly bid adieu to 2020 (or more honestly, kick it into the stratosphere), I know we all hope for a better year and some resumption of normalcy, or as many are calling it, the “new normal,” whatever that is. If this year can bring good health, more employment and a positive turn in the overall economic damage created by the pandemic, then it will undoubtedly be better. Everything is relative. But with the issue of racism, returning to what had been the status quo is the exact opposite of what we need to do. We need to move boldly and profoundly forward.
Let us remain consistently proud of what we can achieve through unity, strive always to be better, and open our hearts and our minds to the differences we have and to what unites us.
We share a community of interest and objectives as a union, and it is through our collective goals, the dedicated work it takes to achieve those goals and the aspirations we hold for the future that we will continue to succeed.