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Local 600 membership


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#1 Mark Henderson

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 11:31 PM

I'm considering joing the Local 600. I was wondering what the general thoughts of members might be about being a member. Is it worth being a member? Do you get a lot out of being a member? Any input would be great. Thanks, Mark
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#2 Mike Panczenko

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 11:51 PM

The most important thing to base the decision on is whether or not you are going to be getting union jobs. Joining 600 is a big chunk of change to put down, so make sure that you are going to be working those jobs, otherwise it won't be doing anything for you.

If you are in a position to be getting union jobs, then I would say tha at a certain point, it is necessary to join to further your career. All of the big and mid level shows are union, and a fair amount of low budget shows. Most movies $2 million or greater are union, and many that are between $1-$2 million. As long as you're working even a few days a month, the dues will be recouped very quickly.

I have had the union go to bat for me over payment issues, and having the 10 hour turnaround is a wonderful safeguard.

If you work 600 or more hours in a year, and 300 hours a qualifying period after that, you get health insurance, and after 20 years of qualifying for insurance , you receive a pension.

I am on the East Coast, so I cannot speak for the West Coast roster system, but out there you need to take safety classes to get on the roster, and you need to be on the roster to work out there. The classes are only held every so often, so it can take some time after joining for you to be eligible to work, so that would be something to consider if you are West Coast based.

I am speaking from an AC standpoint- many DPs have been able to be successful and make a living being non-union, but there comes a point where the vast majority join their respective unions for the benefits and protection (monetary and safety). Certain regions also have a plethora of non-union work, and others have barely any, but, like I said, most jobs over a certain size are union. I would base your decision on these issues. Good luck with the decision!
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 12:21 AM

If you ever plan on shooting movies above a certain budget level, you pretty much need to join the union. But until you are at a point in your career where you will be offered union work, there isn't much reason to join.

It cost me around $10,000 to join the union as a DP, but it was the best thing I ever did because the budgets and salaries jumped around that time, being union shows, and I'm covered by a health care plan. So it paid off to invest the money in joining.

But I managed to shoot about 25 features in ten years as a non-union DP before that point -- but I was never going to advance much beyond the 2-mil budget for features if I wasn't in the union, so I joined just around the time when I was getting offered films in that budget range.
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#4 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 12:31 AM

I joined about 2 months ago (commence hazing rituals) in NYC and I'm glad I did (even though things are slow right now!). I think it'll be worth it in the long run. But again, I joined as an AC so I don't really have a concept of what it would be like as a DP. David Mullen mentioned the health care plan...it's definitely a plus, as well as all other union regulations which would then protect you on union jobs.
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#5 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 02:42 AM

There have been many posts on this topic if you search this site. But, I reaffirm what David said. If you have to ask then there probably is no good reason to join right now. I joined in Feb this year as a DP and it cost me over $11k all said and done. I did it because I had worked too many union commercials as a non-union member and the 600 sent me a letter...and a bill, no kidding. It worked out well though as I had also just been offered my first union feature. It wasn't till October when I finally qualified for benefits.

One common misconception is that joining automatically gives you benefits...NO! You need to have 600 hours in 12 months to qualify initially. Anything more than that is not carried over. Once you have qualified, you need 300 hours every 6 months. Anything over that is carried over and 'banked.'

Absolutely no point in joining unless you are passing up union jobs.
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#6 Matthew Buick

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:04 PM

Shouldn't producers just choose their DPs on how good they are and not wheteher they're in some labour union.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:20 PM

The producers signed a contract with the IATSE (craftpersons union) to hire union workers, just as they signed contracts to hire SAG (actors union) workers, and possibly WGA (screenwriters union) and DGA (directors union). And DP's are part of IATSE.

They could hire a non-union DP on a union shoot if they really wanted to... but then the DP would probably be asked by the union to join.

As for why a producer would sign a contract with the union, most of the experienced workers in the major production cities here in the U.S. are members of the union, so it's hard to not end up hiring union workers if you want experienced people. Sometimes on a non-union shoot, the majority of workers are union members, so they have some leverage to halt work until the producers sign the contract with the union (which therefore allows things like money to be paid into the pension and welfare plan, etc. and gives the workers the official union hours to maintain access to their healthcare plan.)

Almost all productions, for example, are SAG shoots because almost every actor is in SAG. So even my smallest non-union shoots were still under the SAG contract.

Considering the benefits (higher wages, pension, healthcare, overtime, guaranteed turnaround, etc.) there isn't much incentive for me to work on non-union shows anymore. Also, there aren't things much scarier than that union letter saying you haven't worked enough hours to qualify for the healthcare plan anymore... Maybe for someone in the U.K. with access to state-funded healthcare, it isn't such a concern.

For anti-union people, they think of this system as a protection racket... for pro-union people, it falls under the history of protecting themselves through the power of collective bargaining. In other words, an individual worker has little power against the people with money and power, but as a collected group of workers, they can manage to exert some power in order to demand better wages and working conditions. It has a long history, both going back to the abuses during the first Age of Industrialization but even further back into the medieval guild system.

Funny thing is that if there were no unions, then the solution would be to have more government laws to protect workers and provide benefits, but most of the anti-union people are also against more government regulation.
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#8 George Lekovic

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:34 PM

Yes. I like the revolutionary spirit in David's last post.

Power to the people!

:ph34r:
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#9 timHealy

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:47 PM

I am on the East Coast, so I cannot speak for the West Coast roster system, but out there you need to take safety classes to get on the roster, and you need to be on the roster to work out there. The classes are only held every so often, so it can take some time after joining for you to be eligible to work, so that would be something to consider if you are West Coast based.


This is not really right. You don't have to take the safety classes to be on the roster.

The safety classes are created by California OSHA and require employers to teach their employees about saftey in the workplace. I have taken the safety classes and assume this is a requirement of all industry in California. Not just the film business.

But as far as the film business is conerned, you should take the classes to keep your work eligibility up.

The roster is something completely different. In fact you can be in the union in whatever respective craft you are in, and not be on the roster. I have always been on the roster so I am not sure what happens if you don't work enough to get bumped off or what you would have to do to get back on.

Best

Tim
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:48 PM

Let's just say that unions are an imperfect solution to a real problem, and while there are other solutions, many of those aren't any more palatable to the people with power who want to get the most work done for the least amount of money spent, to maximize profits.

Truth is that for the marketplace to work, capitalism and governments and other social systems like unions have to work together. Capitalists need, for example, roadways, copyright protections, law enforcement, etc. Consumers need to be sure that the food is safe and that there is legal redress for fraud, etc. Workers need protection from abusive hours and unsafe working conditions, etc. So most people are really arguing over the balance of those things. Some people have more faith in the free market to provide everything for everyone eventually while others wouldn't trust a corporation to have any concern for the public good, let alone their own workforce. And some people don't care about anyone else but themselves, so if a certain percentage of the population is suffering or not benefiting from the fruits of capitalism, who cares? That's their fault somehow.

But let's not turn this into a long discussion about capitalism, unions, etc.
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#11 Michael Most

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 01:37 PM

But let's not turn this into a long discussion about capitalism, unions, etc.


It doesn't need to be. There are very real socio-economic factors that contribute to the need for the existence of a union in the US film industry. Unlike most other industries, virtually everyone working in film production is freelance. In the United States, there is no national health care system, nor is there a satisfactory way of guaranteeing retirement income, other than the rather low amount that Social Security provides. The IATSE serves not only to set up reasonable working conditions (not always successfully, though) and reasonable pay scales, but to act as a central "clearing house" so that health insurance carries with you from employer to employer, without waiting periods and without unaffordable premiums. It also acts as a central "quasi employer" so that a pension can be provided even though one might work for literally hundreds of different employers over the course of one's career. If the US had a national health care program, one of the major reasons for the continued existence of the union would disappear. Not the only reason, but a major one.
Having said that, it is likely also true that working conditions, safety guidelines, and pay scales would be considerably more miserable if the union did not survive.
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#12 Mike Panczenko

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 01:56 PM

This is not really right. You don't have to take the safety classes to be on the roster.

The safety classes are created by California OSHA and require employers to teach their employees about saftey in the workplace. I have taken the safety classes and assume this is a requirement of all industry in California. Not just the film business.

But as far as the film business is conerned, you should take the classes to keep your work eligibility up.

The roster is something completely different. In fact you can be in the union in whatever respective craft you are in, and not be on the roster. I have always been on the roster so I am not sure what happens if you don't work enough to get bumped off or what you would have to do to get back on.

Best

Tim



Yeah, it seems I was mistaken. I'm a non-roster member, and apparently I misunderstood what some roster members I know had told me. You can be on the roster, which is necessary to work (preference is given to roster members, so unless everyone else is working, you need to be on the roster) in the 13 western states under the basic agreement. But even if you are on the roster, you need the safety courses as well to work. So they are separate bodies, but both are necessary to work in California, and, I believe (but am not positive), the other Western states. But the roster is separate from the safety classes, but, in some areas, both are required for you to be able to work.
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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 03:48 PM

Hi,

Amusingly enough the sort of people who can't afford to wait around for the slothfulness of state healthcare in the UK are usually precisely the sort of people we're talking about - freelance workers who don't get paid if they can't work and don't get any form of paid sick leave. Of course, I could take out private health insurance, and I should, but then I'd basically be paying for it twice (if you take out private healthcare, you still have to pay for the state system), and I can barely afford once.

The film industry in the UK does not pay for healthcare or pension for me, or even accomodation really (this comes from other sources) and I do not ever expect it to, with or without a union.

Phil
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#14 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 04:08 PM

I've always wondered why it is that even with such a powerful union in IATSE, US crews still end up working such ridiculous hours. In the UK, BECTU is a paper tiger, but our hours are fairly reasonable.
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#15 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 04:28 PM

Hi,

But on the flip side, I did 19 union hours on a single ad shoot day just before the holidays.

Oh yes. Very nice. Can you spell u-n-i-o-n?

Phil
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#16 Corey Bringas

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 04:34 PM

I may be young and inexperienced but I must say that I do not really mind the long hours. As long as I am compensated appropriately and there is a good turn around I am happy.
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#17 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 04:41 PM

Hi,

But on the flip side, I did 19 union hours on a single ad shoot day just before the holidays.

Oh yes. Very nice. Can you spell u-n-i-o-n?

Phil


Yeah, but if it's a commercial, you were probably VERY well compensated.

I may be young and inexperienced but I must say that I do not really mind the long hours. As long as I am compensated appropriately and there is a good turn around I am happy.


I sometimes feel the same way, but without wishing to patronise you, the older you get, the more the gloss wears off, and the more you wish they'd just hurry the f**ck up so everyone can go home...
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#18 Corey Bringas

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 05:12 PM

Yeah, but if it's a commercial, you were probably VERY well compensated.
I sometimes feel the same way, but without wishing to patronise you, the older you get, the more the gloss wears off, and the more you wish they'd just hurry the f**ck up so everyone can go home...

oh i totally agree. there are times where i just wanna go home. But there are others where I realize that I much rather be putting in a 19 hr day on a set then sitting behind a desk. Plus, at least on union shoots, you are very well compensated. Can you say double time?
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 05:27 PM

As you get older, it's harder to drive home safely after a long working day, plus you have a family at home that would like to see more of you. I'd trade in the money for shorter days at this point; money wasn't the primary reason I got into this business in the first place, so overtime is not really an incentive to stay longer (but making a scene better would be... except that when crews work longer days, the quality of the work starts to decline, making it counterproductive.)
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#20 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 05:39 PM

so overtime is not really an incentive to stay longer (but making a scene better would be...


I often want to stay on...rejig the lighting...another take of the last setup...get the shot we dropped...unfortunately not everyone has as much invested in the photography as me, and a couple of extra hours tonight means a tired crew tomorrow.
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