Message from the Secretary-Treasurer

By: Leo T. Reed

In mid-March, two days before negotiations began, a member came to the Union Hall to emphasize what has become obvious: when negotiating a new contract your highest priority is to preserve the quality of medical and pension benefits.

In the last two years the member had a spinal fusion, kidney stones, and a host of related ailments that accompany these painful procedures. Fortunately, the payments weren’t painful, he said, because he was fortunate to have the quality Motion Picture Industry Health and Pension Plan, long known as the “Cadillac of benefit plans.”

His plea to protect our benefits resonated in responses to the questionnaires we sent asking members to prioritize the issues in the 2012 negotiations. Of the 1,001 received, an overwhelming number of members topped their wish list with maintenance of health benefits. The second choice was the protection of pension benefits.

Our town hall meeting, reported in this issue, evoked a similar response. After a presentation by the Executive Admin­istrative Director of the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan, member after member went up to the mike to stress the importance of these benefits. Their remarks were consistent: medical and pension benefits must be protected.

Since then negotiations have begun for the motion picture industry contract that will cover more than 4,000 studio drivers, 45,000 IATSE members, and about 2,500 members of the basic crafts. Negotiations are never easy, but this one will be especially challenging. Premium costs are rising 9% to 10% per year; we have an aging population; income to the plan is not meeting projections; and it will cost millions of dollars to fund the current level of benefits.

However, there are many options that we will present at the negotiating table. My message to the members is simply: stay calm, have faith, and we will prevail. Members alone don’t have the responsibility for maintaining the plan –management also shares in this maintenance of the quality of our benefits.

Although medical and pension benefits will dominate the talks, there are other extremely important issues we must address. Teamster jobs must be protected, work sites must remain safe, and contract language that we won in the past must be preserved.

One of the few things we agree upon in the early sessions is that the talks remain confidential. Both management and the union want to confine the talks to the bargaining table. When there is something to announce – a settlement or a stalemate – we will do so in a transparent and responsible manner. Of course, this doesn’t stop the rumor mill, well known in our industry. Please trust only the information that comes from your Business Agents or me.

Thank you for your attention and the faith you have shown in your union negotiators. We are working hard on your behalf.