CATHY’S COLUMN: In Difficult Times, Solidarity Matters More Than Ever

Cathy Repola, National Executive Director, Local 700. PHOTO: Deverill Weekes .

By Cathy Repola


Almost 60 years ago, the Delano grape strike became a landmark of the American labor movement. I grew up in a (IATSE) union household and I remember my family not buying grapes during that time, in solidarity with the workers.

Starting in 1965, those long-suffering farmworkers locked arms in united struggle and eventually won a contract with pay hikes and new benefits.

One of their leaders was Cesar Chavez, who understood the importance of solidarity. As he said, “The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is about people.” Interestingly, I share the same birthday with Cesar and I am reminded of him and the farmworkers’ continuing fight every year on that day — even more so recently as we entered into our own Basic Agreement negotiations.

We have a lot of issues on the table, including wage increases, pension and health contributions, residuals, AI protections, and more. Our goal is to make a deal that all of you will want to ratify, and as I write this, we still have a lot of ground to cover before we get there. But I am moving ahead with great optimism, in no small part because of the solidarity I have seen during these recent difficult times.

That solidarity has been on display everywhere these past many months, even amid a historic work slowdown in the film and TV businesses that has been painful for so many in our local and others.

— In March, hundreds of Local 700 members joined our union kin from IATSE, the Teamsters, Basic Crafts and above-the-line Guilds for an inspirational rally in Encino the very day before negotiations started. It was powerful to hear those gathered united in a chant: “Nothing moves without the crew.”

— On May Day, Local 700 members grabbed signs and joined workers from many different trades for rallies in Hollywood and New York. The May Day rallies are a unifying tradition dating back to the birth of the American labor movement in the 19th century.

— Earlier this year, the Guild officially unveiled the Local 700 Hardship Relief Fund to help members struggling with the effects of the work slowdown as well as last year’s strikes. The Fund, administered by the Entertainment Community Fund (formerly the Actors Fund), is a great example of members helping members. 

These are just a few examples of solidarity at a time when we need it most.

As you know, the entertainment industry has been and continues to be in the throes of immense change. Streaming technologies have upended the status quo. Legacy studios face pressures unimaginable even a decade ago. It’s not clear where the industry will end up when the all of the dust settles — and of course, that is worrisome to all of us.

But workers have made it through countless crises before, including work stoppages, recessions, a worldwide pandemic, even wars. And what enabled them to make it through was solidarity.

The ability to stand together, in good times and bad, isn’t just a slogan — it’s the entire reason unions exist and why they have proven so vital to America. But solidarity doesn’t just mean gestures of support.

Everyone in our Guild can dig in and demonstrate solidarity by showing up: Participate in our social media discussions. Attend town halls, car-painting events and other inter-local events. Or just start by learning more about our union.

It can mean becoming informed about board of director candidates (or becoming one yourself!), asking questions at one of my “Coffee with Cathy” sessions for members, or speaking with one of our field reps about work issues that concern you.

Our solidarity doesn’t come from battling for wage increases, AI protections, and overtime pay, though we continue our fight for all those things.

The fight isn’t really only about AI or inflation; as Cesar said, “it is about the people.” That is at the very heart of where our solidarity comes from.


Cathy Repola is the National Executive Director of Local 700, IATSE.