What Have You Done for Your Guild Lately?

by Marc Laub

Unions are being challenged by many forces these days. The climate of the country is not union-friendly. The United Auto Workers is being forced to renegotiate contracts. IBM, which once boasted the gold standard of company benefits, is phasing out its defined pension plans. What we considered secure for decades is now being threatened.

Beside the climate, the real economics of the film business is in a state of flux. Movie attendance is down and continues to drop. DVD sales have weakened. New distribution channels like internet downloading and mobile phone screens, although providing new revenue, also have caused a lot of anxiety about the volatility of the future.

Even more threatening is the shrinking market for jobs due to the digitizing of our craft. And the latest blow is off-shore outsourcing of jobs to places like India. The jobs we have lost weaken our wallets as well as our health and pension plans.

It is natural to feel powerless against such an overwhelming onslaught. But what can we do as individuals to help ourselves? Organizing non-union facilities is probably the hardest job we must do as a union. The Editors Guild hires organizers to do this job, but getting in the non-union door and meeting non-union employees who might be interested in union membership is very, very difficult. However, as members, we can all help to make the hardest part of organizing easier.

Passive membership invites failure. Have you helped? You can, and you must, or we will become weaker.

Most of us have spent some time in non-union facilities interacting with non-union employees in various situations, such as a digital intermediate session, a mix, color correction, an offline session, etc. We could open the door. During the downtime and the waiting, instead of making that phone call or reading the paper, start a casual conversation with the non-union employees. What kind of health coverage do they have? Are their families covered? Do they have pension plans?

Share with them what your coverage is, talk about your IAP (Individual Account Plan) and your pension. Start the thought process going and then ask if they might be interested in getting a call at home from someone from the union who can give them more information. With their permission, pass their contact information onto one of our organizers.

We must try or we will continue to lose these jobs, and our health and pension plans will get weaker. We form a union so that as a group we are stronger than the individual.

Passive membership invites failure. Have you helped? You can, and you must, or we will become weaker.