The Value of Recovery

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PHOTO: MARTIN COHEN

HOW THE GUILD STAFF WORKS TO ENFORCE CONTRACT PROVISIONS

Just as the work that our members do is behind the scenes, so are many of the functions of our union staff. Much of their work is little understood and always looks different from the outside.

One very important component of our staff is the contract enforcement department. Many members come in direct contact with these folks for work-related issues, but even then, much of what they do can remain a mystery.
While it would be impossible to demystify all of it here, there are areas where we can shed some light.

We have employees dedicated to researching projects; putting new contracts and single production deals into our database; securing crew lists; outreach to inform crew members of contract provision highlights; outreach to inform management of the most commonly misunderstood or most violated contract provisions; and analyzing payroll records on projects that had deposits (or bonds) with payroll companies, in order to ensure members were properly paid and no contract violations occurred before releasing those bonds. This is just a brief overview of the many details involved with all of the components of this work.

In addition to myself, Eastern Executive Director Paul Moore, and Western Executive Director Scott George, the staff members of the contract enforcement department include our field representatives. We have one in the New York office, Jennifer Madar, and five in the Los Angeles office: Jessica Pratt, Ann Hadsell, Olie Amarillas, Alenis Leon and Eric Kench.

Preserving the rights of the membership under the collective bargaining agreements is one of the most important roles of a union, which is why we have chosen to highlight some of those duties here. These dedicated staff members work tirelessly to assist the membership in all sorts of ways. Often, that means explaining contract provisions to members, but it can also include helping them navigate the challenges associated with addressing potential contract violations or other workplace issues. We now oversee hundreds of different contracts with varying classifications, scale wages and working conditions. This can sometimes be daunting for staff, let alone for the members.

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Success cannot be fully measured by showing total wages collected on behalf of members for intentional or unintentional misapplication of the union agreements. Neither can success be fully demonstrated by totaling contribution hours attached to those wages, contributions that should have been made on behalf of members but simply were not.

However the numbers have an important purpose. They show all of us, as union members, the real meaning of organized labor: Members working together, exercising their right to have employers uphold the wages, terms, and conditions required by collective bargaining agreements. I hope these results will encourage you to contact your field representatives if you have any questions or concerns about your union agreements.

These first two tables show the amount of wages, vacation and holiday pay, and corresponding pension and health contributions collected on behalf of members during 2020.

Sometimes violations occur where we cannot point to a member or group of members who were directly harmed. For example, if the production entity failed to employ a music editor and assigned that work outside the bargaining unit, we seek damages for that violation. If collected, they are usually paid directly to the Guild, or sometimes donated to non-profit organizations that provide vital services to members of the entertainment industry.

Violations can occur under all of our contracts, so knowing what you are entitled to can help minimize these problems. I hope this encourages more members to seek our counsel regarding contract enforcement issues. And while this particular article highlights the work of one department, I am very proud of and grateful for the dedicated service to our members that the entire staff demonstrates daily.

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*Of this amount, $56,000 was paid to the pandemic relief fund of the Motion Picture Television Fund and $30,000 was paid to the pandemic relief fund of the Actor’s Fund.