Local 399, which singlehandedly began the battle for California subsidies to the film industry 13 years ago, is now marshalling its power and influence to keep Hollywood jobs at home.
The effort is focused on Sacramento, where two bills have been proposed to provide long-term funding for California’s popular film tax-credit program. The measures would extend funding to California’s film tax credit — which expires next year — through July 1, 2018.
California currently sets aside $100 million annually for dozens of projects to cover 20 to 25 percent of qualified production expenses. The program is modest compared to what many other states offer.
Film and television jobs have long provided high wages and middle-class quality of life to many California workers. That life has been threatened with other states and countries poaching the jobs of the local film and television industry.
“A well-paying contract doesn’t do any good if there’s no work,” said Secretary-Treasurer Leo Reed. “We need to make sure film and TV jobs stay in California. Tax incentives and other programs are essential to keep these well-paying jobs in our area.”
Local 399 has been fighting for more than a decade to keep film and TV jobs in California. In 1999, 225 Teamster trucks descended on the state capitol in hundhunSacramento to rally for legislation that would keep motion-picture jobs in the United States after they started straying to Canada.Later that year, a rally in Century City drove home the point that runaway productions pose serious and far-reaching problems.
In 2009, the CA Film and Television Tax Credit Program was launched to increase production spending, jobs, and revenues in California. By providing tax credits to targeted film and television productions, the program has kept more than 20,000 jobs in the state.
With that program about to expire, Local 399 is now working in coalition with other entertainment-industry unions, including the SAG/AFTRA, American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Professional Musicians Local 47, the Recording Musicians Association, the California Labor Federation, and the Motion Picture Association of America.
“We are all losing jobs and are united in our fight to save them,” said Local 399 Business Agent Ed Duffy. “We have formed a powerful coalition.”
Duffy has made repeated trips to Sacramento to meet with legislators on this issue. As a board member of Film LA, the permitting body for productions in the city and county of LA, he has been instrumental in garnering the support of other unions and film studios for this fight.
Duffy and others from Local 399 and the other unions in the coalition are lobbying, testifying at legislative committee meetings, and organizing constituents in support of extending the tax credits. “With the current incentives we have been able to keep over 180 projects here, including many long-running cable series, that we might have lost,” said Duffy. “We need to fight to extend these credits.”
“We recognize that it’s a challenging year for the [state] budget, but we feel this is a tax credit that actually does what tax credits are supposed to do, which is generate more revenue than it costs,’’ said Barry Broad, a lobbyist for the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council.
Film tax credits benefit the California economy as a whole by generating jobs and pumping billions of dollars into the economy. “More than 6,600 businesses in the state service films, TV, and commercials,” Duffy noted.
“With our state facing a 12 percent unemployment rate, it’s critical to extend this program, which is a demonstrated job and revenue generator,” State Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes(D-Sylmar), author of the Assembly bill, told the Los Angeles Times.
“Local 399 will keep fighting for California workers. Members need to be calling and writing their representatives to urge them to extend the tax credits,” said Duffy.
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