FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1st, 2023
DON’T MAKE US TAKE A COMMERCIAL BREAK
Teamsters Local 399 members that work in commercials launch the final phase of their contract campaign for a fair deal with the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP).
LOS ANGELES, CA – Just this week, Teamsters Local 399 launched a week of action to highlight the two current contract fights with the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. These two agreements are bargained simultaneously; one covering drivers, wranglers, animal handlers/trainers, and hyphenated drivers, and one that covers location scout/managers in commercials. Overall, there are about 500 members that work regularly in commercials, however over 1,000 Local 399 members have worked at least one-day in the last year.
The bargaining for these two agreements began in May of this year, and both agreements are set to expire on June 30th. Local 399 has shared that they will not be extending these agreements, and that a fair deal needs to be reached prior to June 30th, or the members will walk.
“Retroactivity is not a thing in the commercial world,” said Local 399 Vice President and Chief Negotiator in commercials, Joshua Staheli. “Deals are made with ad agencies up front. The commercials producers can’t go back and change the terms after a project has wrapped. This means, anything less than a raise for our members on July 1st of this year is a pay cut. We need the AICP to get serious about getting a deal done before June 30th.”
Teamsters Local 399 Principal Officer Lindsay Dougherty also highlighted the current commercial contract fight from the podium at the ‘Unions Strike Back Rally’ last Friday in downtown Los Angeles.
“We have a fight going on right now with the Alliance of Independent Commercial Producers. They’re not wanting to give our members the fair wages they deserve. But we are ready to take a Commercial Break. If we are provoked, we will strike,” said Dougherty to a crowd of about 4,000 union members from across different industries.
The Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) was formed in 1972 and claims their members account for the production of 80-85 percent of all ‘marketing in the motion image’. Some of the larger employers included in the Association are Smuggler, Radical Media, Pulse, Mssng Peces, Epoch, MJZ, and Caviar. These are companies that work alongside advertising agencies to produce commercials.
The key issues in this round of bargaining center around economics. Both groups are seeking wage increases, enhanced overtime compensation, addressing work that happens off the clock during the prep and wrap of commercials and more. The driver’s side is also seeking to capture work in commercials by covering additional equipment and adding chef assistants to a recognized classification in commercials.
“With inflation on the rise, my biggest priority this round is fair wages,” said Local 399 driver Laurel Hitchin, who has worked in commercials for 24 years and serves on the bargaining committee. “In our case, the companies we are ultimately working for are the advertisers which are huge corporations like Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Home Depot, Verizon, and Toyota to name a few. These companies have been making gargantuan profits the last few years, and they can’t do that without workers like us showing up job after job and doing the work. All we are asking is to be paid a fair wage appropriate for the hard hours we work and the high cost of living in Los Angeles.”
Teamsters Local 399 has been preparing for this contract fight for over two years. The Local hosted quarterly meetings and ran multiple membership surveys to understand the priorities of the members that work in the commercial world.
“Our wages have been stagnant for far too long, while inflation and the cost of living has skyrocketed,” said commercial driver/gang boss of 20 years, Omar Johnson. “As we continue to provide optimum service and labor, it has become nearly impossible to do it without being compensated properly for it. It’s my belief that this fight is one that we cannot lose, as it will drastically impact the future of all our members.”
Local 399 also enlisted more members on the bargaining committee this year to gain better insight into the issues workers are facing on the job, and have those members present to state their concerns during negotiations.
“As the longest serving member of the location scout/manager steering committee, I’m here to be a good witness and provide some continuity”, said 34-year veteran as a location scout / manager in commercials, David McKinney. “I was a key union organizer for commercial location scouts/managers in the late nineties, and I feel a personal responsibility to improve working conditions for those following in our footsteps. If it impacts the future of commercials in any way other than having a positive effect on the quality of life for workers and our families, that will land squarely on the shoulders of those unwilling to negotiate in good faith.”
In the launch of Local 399’s ‘Don’t Make Us Take a Commercial Break: Fair Wages Uninterrupted” campaign, Local 399 is calling on the AICP to get serious about scheduling dates this month to get a fair and equitable deal done for their workforce.
“We need them to get serious about our issues,” said Staheli. “Right now, we are very far apart, and time is ticking.”
Local 399 has been out on commercial sets this week, talking to members to educate around where the two parties are at, at this time, as well as prepare the members for what should happen if the employers fail to address the members core issues.
“We truly service clients by saving them money throughout the process and minimizing their risk with our knowledge of safety and the permit process along with the filmmaking process,” said location scout/manager and bargaining committee member, J.J. Levine. “I’ve seen companies try to utilize non-union and less experienced labor and put themselves into precarious positions where the shoot could be shut down or worse, someone could be harmed.”
Currently, the AICP and Teamsters Local 399 are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on Monday, June 19th. Local 399 will continue to push to schedule more dates for reasonable time to address issues in bargaining prior to the June 30th deadline.
Teamsters Local 399 represents 6,400 members in the Motion Picture Industry in California and New Mexico including Drivers, Animal Trainers/Handlers, Wranglers, Dispatchers, DOT Admins, Location Professionals, Casting Professionals, Chef Assistants, Mechanics, Auto Service, Warehouse workers and more.