I heard on the radio this morning that the American League producers and the IATSE Local One stagehands finally reached a “tentative agreement” and that the union will order its workers back to work tonight. After 3 weeks dark, most of Broadway will reopen tonight.
In contrast to the whiny, gimme attitude of the IATSE union (and other entertainment unions for that matter), last night I was listening to a report about the resurgence of the manufacturing industry in Wisconsin. Representatives from the United Steel Workers said (i’m paraphrasing), “we’ve realized that we have to work with industry, not against them, if we want to keep our jobs.” Out of necessity, due to globalization, they have learned that they can make reasonable demands of their employers in exchange for high productivity. The industry was saying that they don’t mind paying the workers a base $22/hr because the productivity is high, and the job performance is excellent.
Let’s take a page out of the Steel Worker’s book, entertainment unions! We too face a globalization problem. Production companies around the country (theatre, film, TV, variety artists, etc) are in a constant struggle to simply pay the bills and stay afloat. Many films are now shot just over the border in Canada because of the terrible climate for labor in California. Many of our members are going overseas to work because there simply aren’t enough jobs here at home, and there are too many union restrictions on what jobs they can take.
Our unions should be doing everything in their power to protect the workers in the workplace, but more importantly, in today’s global market, they should be especially concerned with protecting the very existence of our jobs! The UAW, USW, and other workers have proved time and again that the only way to effectively protect jobs is to work with industry, not against them.
In a perfect world, we would even go past protecting our jobs, and go even further toward promoting industry. Our unions should be looking for ways to promote industry, rewarding succesful, cooperative producers and production companies, and promoting growth of the industry as a whole.
It’s not just the big, fat cats in top hats vs the noble, everyman worker anymore. We need to open our eyes and see the reality of the economic pressure that is on the entertainment industry today, and do our part as workers to not only produce our best work, but to use our unity to accomplish mutually beneficial solutions to both the worker and the industry.