By Leo T. Reed
In July 1999 more than 200 movie vehicles – driven by Local 399 members – circled the State Capitol in Sacramento in a successful effort to bring attention to an important issue.
California was losing jobs. Teamster leadership understood – almost before anyone else — that financial incentives were luring Hollywood jobs to Canada. Soon New Mexico, Louisiana, and other states were following Canada’s example by offering significant tax and monetary incentives to shoot in their states.
The outside incentives included rebates, tax credits, and tax reductions. California, regarded as the movie capital of the world since the industry began, was doing nothing.
Help could only come from a union initiative. The profit-minded studios were not willing to do anything to preserve Hollywood. They would go where they got the best deal – often more than halfway across the country — if production costs were less. Studios and producers simply were not concerned about local highly skilled professionals who had built the industry.
In 1999 the Teamsters, with almost no support from other unions, asked Governor Gray Davis and the state’s legislature to enact two Teamster-sponsored bills (State Assembly Bills 358 & 484) that would have provided tax incentives to productions here in Hollywood. The measures failed; the legislature failed to recognize the danger to its premier industry. We were prophetic, but they were not listening.
In the next decade Teamsters 399 worked tirelessly to stop what became known as runaway productions. Business Agents Steve Dayan, Tom Marchetti, and Ed Duffy, along with Teamster Lobbyist Barry Broad, kept the pressure on the state legislature. They pointed out what a tremendous revenue drain on California this was. Local 399 led the fight for its members with an aggressive program to keep TV and movie productions in California. Only this would protect our jobs.
Now, working within California’s state government, Local 399 has seen the legislature create a $500 million tax incentive for productions that shoot here. As of today, the California Film Commission, which administers the incentive program, reports that 75 projects have been allocated for the first $200 million in tax credits. That results in $1.04 billion spent in California that would not have been kept at home and $400 million in below-the-line wages that would not have been paid without the incentive program. It has added 673 shooting days in 2009.
In the City of Los Angeles – often considered ‘film unfriendly’ because of severe restrictions on shooting – Local 399 has teamed up with FilmLA and others to create a new film-friendly atmosphere.
On a daily basis, we know how many of you are working and how many are not working. Our industry is now global. As you know, Countries and States that are fighting recession are offering huge incentives in order to create more jobs for their citizens. We are doing everything possible to keep our work in Hollywood. What we have done is just the beginning.
To engage that, we will continue to lobby our State Legislators for more incentives. We are still working closely with our lobbyist Barry Broad, on this most important matter.
This Local is also working closely with the Mayor and City Council in order to create a more film friendly environment for the City and County of Los Angeles. We will do what we have to do to get the job done.
On the issue of runaway production’s, this Administration has done more than all of the Hollywood Unions and Guilds together. We will not stop until the playing field is level. We will not stop, period!