By Shiran Carolyn Amir
“What does our union ever do for us?”
This is a question I’ve been asked on various occasions. Although it’s misleading, I can understand the sentiment behind it; some members are very busy just trying to make a living, and they aren’t always aware or involved enough to honestly know what the guild does for its members. All they see from their perspective is that they pay dues, but the union does not help find work.
However, here’s what I’ve learned from serving on the Board of Directors and getting involved – our union does do a whole lot for us that we might not even notice, and is willing and ready to do even more for us, if we tell it what we need and also help it get there. You know, since “we are the union” and all. It might sound corny, but it’s true. If we want the union to be able to do something for us, the onus is on us, who are part of said union, to figure out a thorough plan that would work, propose it, and then stay involved to help it become a reality.
Back in 2016, I saw a friend and fellow member I knew post on a Facebook group that he had lost his union job as an Assistant Editor, because his dad had been taken in to the ICU in a near-death crisis, and this friend had to suddenly leave to take care of his father’s affairs. By the time he had returned to LA, he had lost his job, while having a wife and a baby on the way to support.
This was just the first of various occurrences I kept seeing, of unfortunate circumstances leaving our members high and dry. Sometimes, it was ridiculous scenarios like missing just 10, 20 or even 3 hours of union work so they can keep their healthcare for themselves and their families.
Some may say these are the woes of being a freelancer so this is what we signed up for, or that whenever there’s a hard number limit to achieve there will always be those just shy of that number, but when our healthcare and pensions are tied to continued employment, I realized it’s just not right to not have some sort of buffer or support system set up to help these members.
I started posting on behalf of these people on our “I Am The Union” Facebook group, and (somewhat surprisingly) got a wonderful wave of responses from other members, expressing empathy, solidarity, and a willingness to help out.
This effort later expanded to a dedicated group I created called “Local 700 Camaraderie – union work”. I realized I knew a handful of post supervisors, post producers and post coordinators, who wanted to help out as well, and I’d email them when someone with experience relevant to their content was in need.
Members would start reaching out to me directly when they were looking to hire, and I’d send them relevant resumes of qualified people who could really use the hours.
As a collective of members, who are the union, we began helping our own, and it felt so good.
I’d post whenever we successfully helped someone. Members became inspired by these efforts. Some of those who had been helped before and were now happily working, were actively trying to give back and help others. I felt like I was living in the movie “Pay It Forward.” It was delightful to watch, and it made members feel like the union was there for them when it truly mattered.
But this effort needed to be a bigger operation than just me and a Facebook group. It needed to be an official tool on the Editors Guild website, that was automated and seen by all members. The more we scale up, the more people we can help, and the more people can help others. Plus, this way I’d rest assured knowing that the initiative is still going strong even if I myself am super-busy editing on a job.
I did my homework and learned the legal reasons behind why the Guild cannot be a hiring hall. In doing the research, I found a way past those limitations, which would still achieve what I set out to do. There’s absolutely no reason why the guild can’t provide a platform for members to help each other find work. And employers already had special login access to our website, so why not make it easier for them to hire from within the website as well?
This is how the Member-to-Member section was born. I crudely mocked up my vision and presented the initial concept to the Website committee, armed with a list of how many members I’ve helped so far. The committee managed by staff member Lisa Dosch and chaired by F. Hudson Miller and John Vitale approved the initiative, the Board approved funding, and after a lot of hard work, expansion along the way, and patience – it’s finally here!
Here are some brief introductions to the new pages, but you can also watch this helpful video as well.
Once logged in, you should thoroughly fill out your profile in the newly revamped Dashboard page. Only a filled-out profile will fully benefit from our new features and appear in the searches. Afterwards, go to the Member-to-Member section and enjoy the following new pages:
The Job Board section that allows both Employers and Members to post union jobs.
The Availability Portal is a comprehensive tool to search the list of available members, and see the ones who best fit your exact needs, using a Match Score column.
Availability will now be updated every two weeks, so that the list stays more up to date with member’s availability status.
You can see each available members’ network – i.e., fellow members whom they have previously worked with, so even if you don’t know them directly, you may know someone in their network that you can consult with.
You’ll also have easy access to available members’ resumes, imdb links, and more.
In the MPI Hours Alert section, you’ll find a list of members who have specified that they need 50 hours or less to keep their healthcare. You can browse their resumes, network, and links as well. This will be super useful for those last minute fill in needs, when all your acquaintances are already busy and you are scrambling to find someone, why not help a fellow member get their hours too? I bet they would do a damn good job as a thank you.
This section also features a few inspirational anonymous testimonials from members who have already been helped.
In the Forum section, you’ll be able to engage with fellow members on forums and in personal messages, within a healthy secure environment outside of the social media toxicity and algorithm manipulations we all know and hate.
I am so excited to share this section with the membership, and am confident so many more members will help so many others. I truly feel this new area of the website will bring us even closer together and enhance the sense of camaraderie and solidarity.
We also made sure to revamp the Employer’s section of the website so that they too can enjoy the more detailed search for available members and post jobs. Be sure to encourage all your acquaintances who are employers for union shows to contact the guild for Employer login credentials. The more employers engaged in our website, the better!
This is also a true testament at how any rank and file member can see something they really want their union to do for the membership, and through research, adjustment, patience, continued involvement, and support from others, they have the power to make that happen. You don’t need to be a Guild staff member, or a board member, to show the way how to get things done. Find a committee that is relevant to your cause, and join it. You don’t need to wait around for someone else to do it for you. You, we, are the union.
See you over at Member-to-Member!
Thanks to another member’s help, this baby’s dad was able to get his last 76 hours for health insurance so that all expenses were paid for his daughter’s birth.
Shiran Carolyn Amir is on the Board of Directors of Motion Picture Editors Guild.