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#1 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 11:52 AM

So I got the dreaded letter from the union over the weekend saying "according to our records, you have worked under our contract and must join before you accumulate 30 days of commercial work."

Oh and by the way, we need a downpayment of $3000 in 3 days and we're going to bill you $350/month for the next two years.

So it looks like I need to call over there today and find out what's going on. I wasn't really planning on writing a $3000 check this month. Going to see if I can put this off a little longer.

If they do make me join I'll do it using feature days and not commercial days. Commercial days won't let me work features or TV.
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#2 Josh Bass

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 12:19 PM

Better start watching those kneecaps.
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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 09:52 PM

Here's a question I have: What on earth do they do with that money?

I mean if you're out of work do they help cover your bills? Does that pay for full health coverage?

Curious as to what you get for such a large sum of money?

R,
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#4 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 20 March 2006 - 10:31 PM

I have no idea what they do with the money, although they moved into a nice big building they built for themselves about 2 years ago.

To initially qualify for health insurance, you need 600 union hours in 6 months (if I understood correctly), then 300 hours every 6 to stay current. Pension and welfare is payed on my behalf by the production companies.

I do get a $5000 accidental death benefit though. Oooo!

If I'm out of work, I file unemployment like everyone else.

Oh...you know what I DO get???

A free t-shirt! (not kidding, looking at order form now)



Maybe David knows more...
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#5 Travis Cline

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 12:24 AM

Where do you find information about the union? I can;t find info on how to join, who can join, and all of that sort of thing.

Travis
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 12:32 AM

Well, considering how monstrously expensive health care is in the U.S., I'd suspect a good proportion of the union's money (and some from producers to boot) goes into paying for the health care of its membership, primarily the retirees. And I can hardly blame the union for the cost of health care... corporations are under the same sort of financial burden.

The main benefit of joining the union is obviously being able to work on union productions, which tend to pay higher wages, with extra pay for overtime, and payment into a pension plan, plus give you access to the health plan. I used to hear that only TV people worked enough to qualify for the health plan, but the truth is that I haven't had any problems banking the hours to keep qualifying for access, just from my indie feature work. And I only work about half the year.

Personally, once you start shooting union features, you'll be loathe to go back to non-union work...

To join as a DP, it cost me about $10,000 all told, but I also jumped from averaging about $20,000/year as a DP to well-over $50,000/year -- within a year -- just because I started doing low-budget union features. The average 1 mil. non-union films were offering me about $10,000 to $12,000 total to prep & shoot the movie, but the 3-mil union features were making me more like $30,000 to $40,000 for the same work. Big difference. Certainly made the $10,000 joining fee seem like a good investment. But it only makes sense if you're at the stage of being offered union jobs.
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#7 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 02:05 AM

All true David. I'm just grumpy because I got the letter Saturday and they want the money Wednesday. I talked to them today and worked out a tiny extension.

It just so happens that I'll be doing at least 3 features by the end of the year, one union for sure, and possibly a pilot. So it'll work out. Just don't like the surprise.

All told I'm in for $11,200.



Travis:
You can find information on their website www.cameraguild.com It's limited but it gives you the broad strokes.
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#8 shootist

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 06:50 PM

Well, considering how monstrously expensive health care is in the U.S., I'd suspect a good proportion of the union's money (and some from producers to boot) goes into paying for the health care of its membership, primarily the retirees. And I can hardly blame the union for the cost of health care... corporations are under the same sort of financial burden.


None of the dues are for healthcare. Your employer, the producer, pays into your healthcare fund separately from your dues. You need to work the 300 hours every 6 months under contract for the 'right' to have the health care you earned. If you don't make your 300 hours, the union conficates your earnings and uses them to lower the premiums for everybody else. That would be robbing from the poor to pay the rich. There are some locals that used Flexplan that has no 300 hour minimum so you get access to your healthcare earnings no matter how little you work. IATSE has been consolidating all locals under the 300 hour plan and rejecting Flexplan.
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 08:39 PM

Fit sugar filter to gas tank.

Check for slashed tyres before driving off.

Ensure shadows don't contain burly, pipe-wielding enforcers...
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 09:10 PM

Re: The healthcare situation.

Comment: Good grief what a mess! People who in live in the other G7 countries have no idea how good we've got it.

R,
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#11 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 10:18 PM

Anyway, I'm going in Monday or Tuesday to turn in my paperwork and a check. What can I say...I'm being forced.

What I find interesting is that I've been shooting commercials for 7 years. About half of them have been union. From every union job, though I'm not a member, 1% of my gross has been deducted from every check...a union requirement. In reality it's a very small amount...$50-60...but none of that has been put aside for me. It's been going into the coffers. Only once I'm a member is that $ credited to me.

I'm really not trying to bash the union. In the last few days I've kind of sat back and began to appreciate what it can do for me and what it means to be experienced enough to be a member. I'm just complaining like people in an office complain about their jobs.
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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 08:11 AM

Hi,

What the union can do for you?

Well, it can help you avoid getting beaten up in a back alley...

Phil
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#13 shootist

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 09:04 AM

First, I would find it hard to envision someone from IATSE 600 beating up somebody in a back alley.

But I'd like to make a few points of clarification. The following is what I've come to learn doing research and talking to labor lawyers. I am not a lawyer and you should consult with a lawyer to verify your situation. This is not meant to be legal advice. Do your own research and make your own informed decisions.

Forced membership in a union is illegal in the 50 states of the USA. Read up on GM vs. UAW followed by Beck vs. CWA. These cases were heard by the US supreme court. The freedom of association arguement was used sucessfully to determine that compusory union membership is illegal. Doesn't stop unions from trying. But read the 600 contract. It requires '...the union will have the first opportunity to refer for hire...'. They get to make the first referal to the producer but the producer is free to say no thanks.
But it gets more compicated. The supreme court recognized that workers could take advantage of union bargaining without paying anything if they were not a member so a system is in place for workers who do not want to be members. You can request to be a non-member paying the 'agency fee' or 'core fee'. The core fee is the amount of your dues used for contract negotiations and no more. So you would not pay for training, PAC's or parties, just contract negotations. You are entitled to see an audit and put your money into an escrow account during the audit. On one hand, you pay the union less and do not have to answer to union bosses. On the other hand, you won't be able to take advantage of the union-run training programs or participate in the hiring hall roster if there is one. I'm not sure but I think you would loose the hospital plan money. I don't think they can confiscate your pension plan contribution but again, I'm not sure.
In 'right to work' states, this does not apply, you simply do not have to pay anything to a union in a 'right to work' state.
This stuff only applies to projects under union contract. No contract means basicly no union, whether the workers have cards or not.
It would be interesting to see the union reaction if you requested core fee status. They would have to divulge just how little of members dues actually go to contract negotations. There have been several unions who've gotten into hot water with the NLRB over this stuff.
For clarification of this info contact the NLRB, they should know the ins and outs of this, it's their job.
Also, you can contact www.NRTW.org. They have detailed info on this and more including comments on how SAG members were able to resign and keep their working status.

I am not anti-union per se. But I am against poorly run unions who's only tactic is to threaten people instead of offering them a quality service. Many people think joining the union is their only choice and do it because they feel they have to. Perhaps when the members stand up against their mismanagement, they might get something for their money.
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#14 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 09:16 AM

As a spectator from across the pond, all I can say is that the whole union thing for crews in America sounds like a bloody nightmare. My good old DP friend who lives and works in LA just joined for about $11.000 and STILL doesn't get their touted health insurance because he doesn't work frequently enough, according to them. WTF?
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#15 shootist

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 10:46 AM

As a spectator from across the pond, all I can say is that the whole union thing for crews in America sounds like a bloody nightmare. My good old DP friend who lives and works in LA just joined for about $11.000 and STILL doesn't get their touted health insurance because he doesn't work frequently enough, according to them. WTF?


If he works under contract then money he earned is being sent to the hospital plan fund. But if he doesn't get the hours needed to qualify then his money is confiscated and used to lower the premiums for everybody else. That is the rich stealing from the poor. The IATSE has rejected the Flexplan that was allowing access to YOUR money without qualifiers.
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#16 Mitch Gross

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 02:11 PM

What really gets my goat is the roster system. I can be in the union and have a producer wish to hire me, but if I'm not active on the roster then someone with more senority can be forced upon the production instead of me. That's a bowlfull of wrong in my book.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 04:46 PM

What really gets my goat is the roster system. I can be in the union and have a producer wish to hire me, but if I'm not active on the roster then someone with more senority can be forced upon the production instead of me. That's a bowlfull of wrong in my book.


I've never run into that situation here in the West Coast -- I mean, I get called for a job interview based on my reel or reputation, so I can't imagine then the producer being forced to hire someone he didn't even plan on calling in for an interview.
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#18 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 04:59 PM

I sympathise with the dislike of over-powerful and aggressive unions, but from a British point of view, there is a lot to be said in favor of a union with some 'cohones'...
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#19 shootist

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 10:07 PM

What really gets my goat is the roster system. I can be in the union and have a producer wish to hire me, but if I'm not active on the roster then someone with more senority can be forced upon the production instead of me. That's a bowlfull of wrong in my book.


Mitch
You have every right to work. Next time this happens call the NLRB, see if they have the cohones to enforce the laws of the USA. The union has the first right of referral, a referral is not an order to hire a certain person.
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#20 Galen Carter-Jeffrey

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Posted 07 May 2006 - 01:14 AM

How can you be forced to join a union? What would happen if you just ignored the letter?
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