CATHY’S COLUMN: The Strikes Pose Challenges for All of Us, But We Will Overcome Them

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


Elsewhere in this issue, you can find a report on the recent IATSE District 2 convention. IATSE has 13 districts, and District 2, which includes California, is the largest.

I was proud to be at the convention in Hawaii with our delegation, and I want to emphasize the most important takeaway for me: the necessity of combining the experience of the long-serving delegates with that of newer ones. To be the best union we can be means tapping the wisdom of all our members.

We aren’t perfect. We will always have improvements to make, new endeavors to implement, new strategies to consider. It’s an ever-evolving process. There will forever be a need to do more work towards building a better union for the future. Those of us in leadership roles need to examine ourselves and be not just open but willing to embrace new ideas and new ways of doing things.

This mix of veteran and newer voices is vital to be a productive, progressive and inclusive union. But we must be united in building that better future. There really isn’t a path forward without it. We must be committed to building it together, always keeping our eye on the prize.

I encourage listening to new voices. New ideas aren’t a threat and, in fact, are at times just what our union needs. At the same time, I refuse to let the wisdom and historical knowledge of the members who have long been engaged in the union — the long-term board members and advocates and volunteers who have chosen to serve in other ways — be disregarded. I have seen this division of voices grow, more so over the last couple of years. There must be a reckoning. We will only be our best if the members of this union, with their diverse voices, come together. Whether listening to each other or disagreeing, we should always do so in a spirit of respect. If we stand united, we have the best shot at advancing our goals and boosting our members’ livelihoods.

As I write about union solidarity, it’s on the very day that SAG-AFTRA announced it would walk out on strike, joining WGA picketers that began their own strike on May 2. I am witnessing the various industry unions express solidarity with the striking guilds in a way never seen before. It’s a demonstration of the kind of respect I am writing about. We are not all pursuing identical things; but in the end, all the unions are fighting for the same core principles. We may have our differences, but we will succeed if we find and focus on our common goals.

Speaking of the strikes, I am proud that our board of directors took two important steps at its July 8 meeting. For the first time in our history, they voted to establish a strike fund. A quarter of a million dollars is being set aside in a segregated investment account. From time to time, the board will likely allocate additional funds as they become available. In the future, we hope to introduce a way for members to contribute to this strike fund. We fully recognize now is not the time to make this ask. This was conceived with a long-term view as it will take many years to build this fund to a meaningful level for our membership, which is now more than 9,100 strong.

Second, the board voted to establish an application for a third-quarter dues waiver and, if approved, to also pay the IATSE per capita fees on behalf of those members who are experiencing financial hardship due to the industry strikes. By the time you read this, the details for applying will have been sent out. But it’s important to emphasize that your elected officers and board members are keenly aware of the needs of the rank-and-file members, and they take seriously their obligation to you.

We have demonstrated that we can get through challenging times, especially over the past several years, and we will get through this, too. We will overcome the challenges and become stronger and more determined as a result of having gone through these historic industry-wide strikes. ■