‘Extreme Makeover’ Guild Addition: Management Fails to Intimidate

A scene from the Shahs of Sunset strike in September 2014.

By Tris Carpenter

Tris Carpenter.

One of the most amazing things about working as a union organizer is the chance to see people rise above their fears and take control of their own destinies. During several campaigns, I have worked with people who, in essence, found a new voice for themselves by standing up for things in which they believe. The experience can be an extremely powerful one; several people on the Editors Guild staff who now work as organizers and field representatives have gone through exactly this sort of situation.

The picture editors and assistants on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition have undergone just such a transformation. This inspiring group voted 12-4 in late September to have the IATSE/Editors Guild represent them. In spite of an incredibly ugly campaign by the employer that included several not-so-veiled threats of retribution (including mass firings and lock-outs), these courageous editors found a way to hold together a majority and vote for the Guild. When any one of them was threatened, the others were quick to offer support and keep the majority intact all the way through the election.

In many ways, they took the union maxim that “an injury to one is an injury to all” quite literally. A union is about the mutual aid and protection of one another. Sometimes we forget that health insurance benefits, night premiums, turnarounds, etc., are simply protections of one form or another. And if you distill it down, what the Guild tries to do every day is to provide a better workplace by negotiating as a group of employees instead of individuals.

Sometimes we forget that we need to look out for one another. Unless we are reminded by something completely egregious—some violation that is so off the charts that all of us find it repugnant—we tend to get swept along in our days and lose sight of the central mission we all have as union members: to protect ourselves and one another and to promote the craft and the conditions under which it is performed.

In spite of an incredibly ugly campaign by the employer that included several not-so-veiled threats of retribution, these courageous editors found a way to hold together a majority and vote for the Guild. 

The truth is that some employers will stop at nothing to try to defeat a union drive. The main weapon in this sort of campaign is fear, and some producers have no reservations at all about playing this card. It is patently illegal to threaten to fire someone for organizing, to threaten to lock out employees for signing authorization cards, or to threaten to “ruin” someone’s career because they support an organizing drive—yet all these things happen. To attempt to create that level of fear in people just shows you how scary the idea of a union can be to some employers.

The reason the idea is so scary is that, by and large, the union works. It allows people to have a say in what happens to them at work.Through increased power at the negotiating table, the union provides protections for its members, individually and as a group. It promotes an environment where the craft can be practiced without fear and intimidation and harassment. And it provides a way for its members to bring a larger force to bear when things are not right and fair. The Guild cannot solve every problem, but in the long run, it provides a voice that we would otherwise never have as individuals.

From all of us at the Editors Guild, we applaud the courage and commitment of the editors and assistants editors at Extreme Makeover: Home Edition as they celebrate their win and fight for a good contract. All of us can learn a thing or two about being union members from them—and from the voice they found for themselves.

If you and your colleagues think that a new voice might help change things for the better at your job, please get in contact with us.