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Author Topic: Dealing with IATSE  (Read 15279 times)

Mac Kerr

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Re: Dealing with IATSE
« Reply #30 on: November 05, 2012, 12:10:51 pm »

Justice,

The current description of the union regimentation in NYC, Phillidelphia, and Chicago seem the same as they were in 1978 when I first encountered them after only working with band roadies and volunteer hands sharing all the work, took a bit of getting used to.

Since then, I have found most IATSE halls to be more similar to Tim McCulloch's example where they do not hire 4 extra audio guys for another 4 hour minimum for 15 minutes of hump work that can be shared by another department.
That said, there have been times when a local union has decided to do everything to the letter of the rule after they have been taken advantage of too much, usually relaxing the rules again after some issue under negotiation has been resolved.
I could easily believe Roland Clarke's example of a musician not being allowed to open his own sax case being the result of some political situation.

Reminds me of the old joke about a dog walking through the loading doors during a cold NYC load in, and taking a dump on stage.

Road manager asks the union steward for it to be removed, a deckhand is called for the task, he refuses, pointing out the crap is on an electrical outlet.
An electrician is called, he won't touch it, says it is steaming,  therefore the props department responsibility.
By the time the prop man arrives, the steam has subsided, he says call a deckhand…

Sometimes we run in to dickheads, they can be promotors or union reps, fortunately dickheads usually don't last very long in the business.

Art

And dickheads are not unique to unions. I live and work in IATSE Local 1 territory, and have been a member of IATSE Local 353 for 25 years. Sometimes I have to work under a Local 1 contract, sometimes I keep my normal freelance status. I have worked in most of the famously tough union jurisdictions around the USA, including Locals 1, 2, 6, 8, and 33, as well as some of the more open minded like 16 and 671. The worst issue I have run into has been the local stagehands not loading trucks when the production had not hired teamsters, we had to load the trucks ourselves.

How the union stagehands treat you has a lot to do with how you treat them. If you don't bother to find out and follow the local work rules you will not get a lot of extra support. If you understand everyone's responsibilities going in and hire the right number of hands, you will usually find them more than willing to do whatever you ask of them. In most jurisdictions qualified soundmen are a specialty and should be requested as such. I have had soundmen on a call who were capable of (and were required to) mix a show. I have also had soundmen who I would not trust to do anything other than run cable. This has been true with both union and non-union crews.

Every time I work with union hands, and that is more than half the shows I do, there is a cordial relationship between the production and the stagehands. I have also found that generally the quality of worker is better with the union hands. There are some good non-union labor companies out there, but there are also some crappy fly by night non-union labor companies. There are fewer crappy fly by night union crews.

Learn the work rules and follow them, and you will be given a lot more freedom than if you fight them at every turn.

I too call bullshit on the sax case.

Mac

« Last Edit: November 05, 2012, 12:12:34 pm by Mac Kerr »
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Roland Clarke

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Re: Dealing with IATSE
« Reply #31 on: November 05, 2012, 12:15:17 pm »

Justice,

The current description of the union regimentation in NYC, Phillidelphia, and Chicago seem the same as they were in 1978 when I first encountered them after only working with band roadies and volunteer hands sharing all the work, took a bit of getting used to.

Since then, I have found most IATSE halls to be more similar to Tim McCulloch's example where they do not hire 4 extra audio guys for another 4 hour minimum for 15 minutes of hump work that can be shared by another department.
That said, there have been times when a local union has decided to do everything to the letter of the rule after they have been taken advantage of too much, usually relaxing the rules again after some issue under negotiation has been resolved.
I could easily believe Roland Clarke's example of a musician not being allowed to open his own sax case being the result of some political situation.

Reminds me of the old joke about a dog walking through the loading doors during a cold NYC load in, and taking a dump on stage.

Road manager asks the union steward for it to be removed, a deckhand is called for the task, he refuses, pointing out the crap is on an electrical outlet.
An electrician is called, he won't touch it, says it is steaming,  therefore the props department responsibility.
By the time the prop man arrives, the steam has subsided, he says call a deckhand…

Sometimes we run in to dickheads, they can be promotors or union reps, fortunately dickheads usually don't last very long in the business.

Art

I would not have believed it myself if it hadn't been for the fact of who this musician was and that he's been a very good friend of mine for over 30 years.  I suspect that you are totally right in saying that often they are more relaxed than this and probably this occasion happened as a "work to the letter of the contract" reaction, where someone had pushed their luck before.

Over here it is generally a much more all hands too the pump situation, except when it comes to rigging and power where safety is a possible issue.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Dealing with IATSE
« Reply #32 on: November 05, 2012, 01:25:31 pm »

I too have multiple first hand experiences with prosecution of union work rules from a few decades as a customer working trade shows as an exhibitor in union and non-union venues around the world.

I won't submit my full list of grievances but union behavior that I experienced helped mold my personal opinion.

Working trade shows for Peavey, a long time exhibitor, seemed to vary also with the ability of the specific trade show coordinator's (peavey employee) ability to quiet the right squeaky wheels with appropriate lubrication. I recall budgeting in extra show SWAG ( like branded clothing) to be given away to laborers as informal low level bribes. I made a point of not wanting to know about larger pecuniary exchanges (I see nothing :-) ). I do recall one time in NYC, where we had to pay off some union rep to let us move one large recording console out of the Hilton ourself.

I did experience night and day differences between first time show coordinators and those with a few years experience under their belt, with how the game is played. Sometimes the penalty for not playing along was just lost time siting around after the show closed waiting for our empty skids and containers to come back from storage, but other times the impact was more serious with a one of a kind hand-made prototype stolen by union labor just before one show (in Chicago). Because of union rules I was not allowed to hand carry this important prototype between a pre-show venue and the show floor. it never made that short trip, and resurfaced months later, when the unlucky buyer of that radioactive "most wanted" unit tried to get it repaired at a Chicago area Peavey dealer. We even posted a Peavey employee on the loading dock to watch the pre-show gear get loaded onto the truck, but apparently there was opportunity during the service elevator ride to secret the stolen unit on a different floor.

Of course the stolen gear incident is not meant to suggest that all union guys are dishonest, but the theft wouldn't have even been possible if the work rules were not so strictly enforced. FWIW We also hired guards to watch our booth, during the overnight hours that the show is closed to the public, but this also helps prevent mischief from competitors.   
=====

I offered the link to the non-union utility line workers (from AL) discouraged from helping without comment, because it was only one crew and may have been staged for political purposes.

There is a long tradition of utility crews traveling around the country to help out when there are regional natural disasters. After Katrina I appreciated all the out-of-state line crews that came here to help us. In this politically polarized environment I expect this incident will get hyped or discounted depending on personal philosophy (that's why I linked to a CBS report as being more union friendly).

I posted it because it was timely in the context of current events. Hopefully the metropolitan area has all the line repair crews they can use. I have heard reports about other out of state crews, from right to work states helping out there so maybe this was just an isolated case spun up for effect, or other adjustments have been made because of the unfavorable publicity this got. I know there are union accommodations to facilitate non-union workers in emergency situations which this surely qualifies as.

JR
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Dealing with Corrupt Labor
« Reply #33 on: November 05, 2012, 01:45:26 pm »

I too have multiple first hand experiences with prosecution of union work rules from a few decades as a customer working trade shows as an exhibitor in union and non-union venues around the world.

I won't submit my full list of grievances but union behavior that I experienced helped mold my personal opinion.

Working trade shows for Peavey, a long time exhibitor, seemed to vary also with the ability of the specific trade show coordinator's (peavey employee) ability to quiet the right squeaky wheels with appropriate lubrication. I recall budgeting in extra show SWAG ( like branded clothing) to be given away to laborers as informal low level bribes. I made a point of not wanting to know about larger pecuniary exchanges (I see nothing :-) ). I do recall one time in NYC, where we had to pay off some union rep to let us move one large recording console out of the Hilton ourself.

I did experience night and day differences between first time show coordinators and those with a few years experience under their belt, with how the game is played. Sometimes the penalty for not playing along was just lost time siting around after the show closed waiting for our empty skids and containers to come back from storage, but other times the impact was more serious with a one of a kind hand-made prototype stolen by union labor just before one show (in Chicago). Because of union rules I was not allowed to hand carry this important prototype between a pre-show venue and the show floor. it never made that short trip, and resurfaced months later, when the unlucky buyer of that radioactive "most wanted" unit tried to get it repaired at a Chicago area Peavey dealer. We even posted a Peavey employee on the loading dock to watch the pre-show gear get loaded onto the truck, but apparently there was opportunity during the service elevator ride to secret the stolen unit on a different floor.

Of course the stolen gear incident is not meant to suggest that all union guys are dishonest, but the theft wouldn't have even been possible if the work rules were not so strictly enforced. FWIW We also hired guards to watch our booth, during the overnight hours that the show is closed to the public, but this also helps prevent mischief from competitors.   

Were those corrupt laborers IATSE Stagehands? In New York, most trade show labor is not stagehands, and usually not IATSE. The corrupt labor at Javits, and before that at the NY Coliseum were construction electricians, not stagehands, not IATSE. I think the same may be true in Chicago at McCormick Place. I know at the Arie Crown Theater, which is part of McCormick, the stagehands only have jurisdiction on stage. Out in the house, camera operators for instance are IBEW electricians.

What started as a question about a particular union has swerved into a discussion of unions in general, and like in the non-union world, there are corrupt workers and honest workers everywhere. In general I find IATSE to be not only honest, but easy to work with, and willing to bend the rules unless you have already butted heads with them because you don't like the work rules.

Mac
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James Feenstra

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Re: Dealing with IATSE
« Reply #34 on: November 05, 2012, 09:09:56 pm »

When dealing with IA I have the following advice:

Get to know the steward on the call or the local BA. They can make your day amazingly smooth or a huge pain in the ass.

Supplying coffee and donuts at load in/first break will make you a lot of friends.

Having everything labeled in common/theatre terms will stop a lot of headaches.

Each venue has it's own specific rules for that venue. You will run into some where you can do whatever you want, and some where you can't do anything except point and give directions. Follow their rules and show respect- if they were in your venue you'd want the same.

Generally IA is pretty easy to work with, and although you'll occasionally run into what I refer to as the 'union attitude', I'd say my experiences with IATSE are in the 90%+ positive range.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Dealing with IATSE
« Reply #35 on: November 05, 2012, 09:37:08 pm »

Who is the customer here?

This reminds me of that Seinfeld episode,, "no Soup for you".....

JR
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Mark McFarlane

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Re: Dealing with IATSE
« Reply #36 on: November 05, 2012, 10:49:40 pm »

... We also hired guards to watch our booth, ... but this also helps prevent mischief from competitors.

This brings back many fond memories, ... the mischief was always the best part of the week.
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Jonathan Kok

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Re: Dealing with IATSE
« Reply #37 on: November 06, 2012, 11:40:19 pm »

I wish I'd asked these questions before my first IATSE experience.  Damn near got banned from the venue.  Seems they don't take too kindly to arriving and finding the truck half unloaded, and monitor world already built...

Lesson learned.

As others have said, having your sh!t together goes a very long way.  Stage plots, input patching, wiring diagrams, DMX addressing, document, document, document.  Frankly, you'll find yourself doing this more and more for non-union shows in the future; you'll be surprised how much easier your job is when half the details aren't in yours or one of your crew's heads.

And again, don't expect one union crew to act the same as another.  Just because it was fine 'over there' doesn't mean it'll be fine at the current venue.  And telling them as much will get you absolutely no-where.

Despite what you may have heard, most union rules are for good reason.  Breaks are there because they're needed, and you should probably take one yourself.  Jobs are kept separate because knowledge is separate. Minimum crew levels is for safety reasons.  Minimum hours keeps quality employees from leaving. 

Oh, and you'll never have seen a show get back into the truck faster than when you tell a union crew it'll be done in under three hours. ;)
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Re: Dealing with IATSE
« Reply #37 on: November 06, 2012, 11:40:19 pm »


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