First of all, I want you to know that the California Teamsters Public Affairs Newsletter left out the fact that Local 399 with its membership voter registration at 60%, led Joint Council 42, and we express our gratitude to our members for their civic pride.
Other Locals hardly know what we are doing and what we have accomplished and perhaps it is my fault because I really didn’t care who gets the credit as long as we get the job done. The point I’m trying to make is that we are the best kept secret in our International as far as organizing, contract enforcement, pension, and health care. Our brothers and sisters from the other Locals have practically no knowledge of what we do relative to the above mentioned subjects.
Before our Business Agents give their reports I will give you a little background. What we do when compared to others, is extraordinary.
L.D. Fletcher, a Brother and President of Local 509 and Joint Council 9 in South and North Carolina said, “Leo, a bunch of us know what you are doing and we appreciate it,” and I replied, “L.D., I found out that we can get more done if we don’t give a shit who gets the credit!” I will come back to this subject later, after I convey what Local 399 has accomplished in organizing, contract enforcement, Pension and Health Care.
For the first time, everyone will learn that Local 399 is far ahead in organizing. While the rest of the Country in the private industry are less than 8% organized, we in the Motion Picture Industry are over 90%. Yes over 90% and it starts and ends at Local 399. Now we are talking about features and TV series, and today we are also addressing low budgets, mobisodes, webisodes, and reality shows. Right now in the Teamster Nation only Local 399 has organized reality shows.
Currently, we organize and sign between 10 to 30 productions a month, tremendous numbers of creating jobs, for our members, and this does not include the hundreds of commercials that we have organized and continue to sign. Today, most of the productions that we have to pursue are super low budgets. The rest know better; they come in and sign. For the past year, November 2011 to November 2012, we have signed 266 new productions and 105 commercials for a total of 371 companies signed. Who can even come close? This is what we do! We must because of the nature of our business. Permanency is rare!
No other Teamster Local can match that or even come close. Yes, we are number one!
It wasn’t easy in the beginning. When we took over Local 399 over 20 years ago, non-union productions were everywhere! John Orlebeck told me that he thought that non-union productions were taking over.
We just got in, and we had major problems, not much finances and non-union productions everywhere. We still managed to raise $10,000 dollars to buy a page from the Daily Variety and $8,500 dollars for a page from the Hollywood Reporter, and the message stated,
To all non-union Producers:
“Our office hours are from 5 am to 11 pm, Monday through Friday. If you don’t come in and see us we will see you!” Signed Leo T. Reed
Then we hit them with three picket lines a week, then 3 a month until we brought them to their knees. It wasn’t easy. It took years and 152 picket lines. Imagine, walking 152 picket lines. Tony and I with the rest of the membership. Our organizing picket lines have affected every Teamster Motion Picture Local throughout the United States. Makes it easier for everyone. One of the very first ones (that I forgot to mention at the General Membership Meeting) was “Christmas in Connecticut,” a Arnold Schwarzenegger production. That strike only took 2 hours before Arnold signed. The Joint Council 42 paper later read, “Teamsters terminate the Terminator.” It was tough but very satisfying because we lost very few. Later we organized and signed the Commercial Companies, which later resulted in 325 Companies signed (AICP). This is unheard of, and not too long ago, the Casting Directors were organized by Steve Dayan, our current organizer.
Today, when Steve visits a non-union Producer, the Producer will usually say, “Steve, you won’t believe it but I was about to call you.” Steve would normally reply, “You are right, I don’t believe you.” Then they would sign. Most of them are already trained. They come to us first. It took hard work for over 20 years. Today most of the non-union productions are coming in voluntarily and signing because they know that we do mean business. Only the low budget productions are playing hide and seek with us, and Steve is on them 24/7 and is doing a great job. (All those picket lines in the past by Tony and I have meant something.) About 19 years ago, Dianne Kilmary, an International Vice President, and one of the leaders of the TDU told me, “Leo, right now you have one of the most militant Locals in the Country because of your organizing.” I said, “Great, but why are you and TDU against me?” She said, “Because you are not one of us.” Isn’t that something? We will just keep going! I believe that this Administration and Local will never be matched in organizing, EVER!!
On the International front, Ron Schwab and I have initiated the original area standard and have assisted in organizing many productions, especially in the South. That’s my other job as International Director of the Motion Picture Trade Division Director working under General President Hoffa. I remember one particular case where the members of Local 270 in New Orleans were working for a lot less than the area standards. So International Representative Ron Schwab and I, as the International Director of the Motion Picture Trade Division, nullified that contract and we almost doubled the wages. The Head of Local 270 was ecstatic and he was even happier when I told him that he can take all the credit for the raises. I said, “You live and work in New Orleans; tell your members that you did it all by yourself. I’ll be seeing you. I’m going back to California.”
Like I said, “I don’t care who gets the credit as long as we get the job done!
We have put millions of dollars and I mean millions, in the members’ pockets through the grievances that we have filed. No other Local has done that on a regular basis, and can make such a claim. Just this past year alone, we collected $722,130.74 that went straight to our members. And another $373,133.97 in liquidated damages for a total of $1,095,264.71 for just 1 year. No local can match our accomplishments. There is a lot more out there, and we need your help. We are doing our job. Help us help you. There are certain, and I say certain equipment owners and coordinators that don’t like the direction that we are going. They are not happy with us enforcing the contract. I’m talking about those who are deliberately violating the contract to make themselves look good for management, at the expense of labor, so they can get the next show and rent their equipment; thus taking food from our members. They will never run this Local. You, the members, will always run this Local, and we work for you. Call us!
Our Pension plan is in good shape unlike many plans throughout the Country. We are one of the few plans that are in the green. I commit to you that as long as I am here, your pensions will be protected.
The family cost of your plan is around $1,700 a month (average COBRA rate). Our maximum cost out of pocket is $50.00, with 41% (singles) paying $0. The retirees also pay $0. It is still one of the best plans in the country. Our benefits have not changed. We didn’t cut back on the benefits and it won’t change. Still, I am not happy with the premiums. That will be addressed later.
You have just heard what we have done, but what good is all that if productions continue to leave because of the huge incentives and subsidies given by the other States and Countries.
What are we doing about it? Business Agent Ed Duffy will cover that when he gives his report. Ed Duffy has done one hell of a job in fighting to keep productions home. While Steve is on the Film Commission, Ed is the Chair of FilmLA the non-profit permitting body for City and County of LA.
Ed is working on the City and Counties “Film Works” campaign whose mission is to promote LA as “THE place to film, educate the public of the economic importance of the industry, and thanking the communities that host on-location production.
Ed is a Member of the City of LA filming task force which involves the interaction between City agencies and the entertainment industry to improve ease and cost of filming in LA.
Ed is also a Member of the Coalition of Entertainment Unions which is currently, among other issues, working to retain and expand our State incentives.
Last but not least Ed is working with the Jobs and Business Development Committee of the City of LA creating ways to “incentivize” local filming by way of local tax breaks, free city lots for parking, streamlining posting and street closures etc.
All of my BA’s contribute. I just told you about Tony, Steve, and Ed, but the young ones also contribute. Shanda leads everyone in monies won for the members, with Leo Jr., Steve, George, and Tony right behind. Leo, Jr. just helped 10 members by having their no-hire letters rescinded. No one had ever done that in such a short time. George Nadian has checked more shows in a short time more than anyone. Tom is holding his own. He has already organized many Commercials. (Most have come in voluntarily like I said because of the picket lines in the past. It definitely made things a lot easier.)
The foregoing has been my attempt to summarize what is going on in Local 399. There is no comparison. We are moving onward and upward. Thank you for your support.