By: Leo T. Reed
I have already evaluated three candidates for Business Agents. One is already hired and we plan to hire another on the first of July. Mel Cavett’s position is filled and Randy Peterson’s will be filled on July 1st. There is a third candidate that we are interested in but there is no vacancy. However, in the future when we are hiring, the criterion or standard for future candidates is basically simple. It is loyalty and total commitment to the Rank and File.
I demand loyalty to the Membership, and it can’t be taught. It is innate; it is inborn. Some have it, and some just don’t. Also and most important: a Business Agent must be totally committed. Yes, totally committed to the Rank and File first, and not to the coordinators or anyone whom they might have worked for, for many years. It is all about who I expect them to represent, the Rank and File. I could not believe it, but a number of former Business Agents had a problem with that.
Throughout the years, I had to terminate eight Business Agents, and four were former coordinators and captains. Most were fired because they could not break away, after working many years for the employers. Some were reluctant to file grievances against their former employers. A couple of Business Agents were actually apologetic when they had to go against their former bosses. One stated, “I did not want to file a grievance, but I was overruled by Leo.” I fired him the next day. I believe that a few of those former Business Agents had a hard time keeping confidential information, probably to brag, to show how important they were, that they were in the know, or they simply could not break the bond with the producers, just in case.
They refused to break the tie with their employers because, if we had lost the election, they would still be able to work for their former bosses. To survive, they straddled the fence. I got rid of them. For me and the rest who are totally committed only to the Rank and File, we would be gone if we lost the election, as you know, and would have a difficult time finding jobs because we were committed. It is OK. It is cool because we wouldn’t want to work for people like that under any circumstance. We made the commitment years ago and will never change. It is all or nothing! That is the only way that a Union can be effective.
Recently, a coordinator stated in front of his producer that his loyalty was not to the Union but to the producer who sat right next to him. In essence, he was telling us that he had the right to violate the contract on behalf of the producer. I promise you that after the Union wins the grievance against the producer (company), we will file internal charges against him with the Trial Board. I assure you that we do our job legally in accordance with the By-Laws and International Constitution. We will take care of business, legally. At least that fool was honest enough to say how he felt. I do believe that most of the coordinators feel the same way about the loyalty to the producers, but they won’t say it. Look, it is OK to be loyal to your boss, but it is not OK and it is wrong to violate the contract, and screw the members just to please your boss. Again, I will say it. We have responded when the Members called, and we will continue to do our job. In the past we have filed charges against those coordinators who violated the contract and By-Laws, and 6 were found guilty. One was expelled and 5 were fined with the guarantee of expulsion the next time. Just call us, even anonymously. We are committed! We will do our job.
It is sad, but it is a fact that at least 80% of our grievances are caused by a group of selfish coordinators, even more than studio management. One had the nerve to condemn this administration and suggest who I should hire as a Business Agent. It is almost like Al Capone telling the Chief of Police who he should hire as cops. I am not talking about all the coordinators, but a hell of a lot, and most of you know who they are. I will state that there are a number of decent coordinators, and we appreciate them. We wish that there were more. I guarantee that there will be more decent and fair coordinators and captains when we are done. We will enforce the contract and By-Laws of this Union. Getting back to the criterion for hiring, as I have stated, “I will not hire any person whose loyalty is to any of those coordinators or management.” Any new Business Agent must be committed to the Rank and File.
We are the longest Administration (eight terms) in Local 399’s history because of the commitment that we have set, that the Rank and File are always first. The six Administrations before us were only one term each. Did they commit? I don’t believe so. If they did, they may have been around a lot longer, until we came around. Those who thought they had permanent jobs are long gone, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t commit. “You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds at the same time.” “You can’t ride the fence.” You must make that choice. I expect all our employees to commit.
I know that I have been redundant and repetitive with the words commit, committed, and commitment, but they must be emphasized! It is the responsibility, duty, and promise to the members, period! Commit or quit! When I first hired Randy Peterson, he knew what those words meant. He had no ties to anyone but the Rank and File. So instructions from me were easy. I told him that he must earn the trust of the members. He knew and he did that, and he was committed to the membership. Hence, he has been one of the most aggressive and successful Business Agents in the history of this Local. I’m sad to announce that he is retiring soon. He will be missed.
I expect the future Business Agents to be as good, if not better. Another thing, while I don’t require it, I believe a high school diploma is very important. A college degree would be even better, but not necessary because today we face Union busting high profile attorneys and CPAs. The good old days are over. A Business Agent must be literate, have good writing skills, be able to read and interpret contracts, write grievances, and orally present his grievances against management at the second and third steps. Usually the person who represents management at the 2nd and 3rd steps is an attorney. One of the Business Agents that I fired had to be helped for almost 6 years by his fellow Business Agents and our attorney. The office staff helped him with his spelling and writing. That was OK with me for a while. Later I discovered that our attorney was practically writing his grievances for him on a regular basis. We couldn’t afford that. I believe that he reluctantly filed grievances because he was having problems with his presentations at the step two and three grievance meetings. Still, I did not discharge him for that. I fired him for other reasons. As I have stated, the good old days are over. I will not hire Business Agents like him again. We cannot afford to. Our members’ job protection and security are on the line. We must have competent Business Agents to fight those expensive high profile Union busting attorneys and CPAs. That is for now and for the future, and we do have plans for the future.
The New Business Agents
Now back to the Business Agents. The first Business Agent that I have hired is Leo T. Reed, Jr. Is he loyal and committed to the Rank and File? I know that better than anyone else. Is he qualified? Just as much or even more so than most of the Business Agents when they were first hired. Leo Jr., who is a Group Two driver, knew all about the Black Book since he was 10 years old. It was discussed at the dinner table many nights. He has practically memorized it. He has been with me during the last three negotiations (nine years). He is aware of management tactics. He knows how I think.
He is 28 years old and has a Bachelor’s Degree from UCLA. He walked his first picket line at the age of 6. He was born at Serra Memorial Hospital in the San Fernando Valley, and graduated from Westlake High School. After UCLA I wanted him to continue to Law School, but after working as a 399 Driver in the industry he wants to be a Business Agent. That is OK with me, as long as he is in the labor movement. He is more than ready.
The next member that I will hire as a Business Agent is 48-year old George Nadian, a Group One 15 year member. Is he committed? Of course! I can vouch for that. He has always cooperated and worked with us when called, regarding any grievance. We know that there is somewhat of a code of silence among many drivers regarding violations, in the industry, and it is a shame. Certain drivers are afraid to report violations for fear of reprisal from their bosses. Not George, he has risked his job many times when he disagreed with his bosses openly and had called us. For example, on “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” he, as the captain, and another member reported multiple violations. When we approached him on the set, in front of everyone and risking his job, he pointed out the violations. Yes, he is committed to the Rank and File. He has demonstrated that many times.
With your support I am not going anywhere. I cannot leave yet because we have a tough road ahead. Tommy O’Donnell Sr. of Local 817 in New York is 10 years older than me and still working. As long as you want me, I will be here. We have a lot of work to do.