An Historic Day in Hollywood
January 30, 2002
It was an historic day in Hollywood today, and it culminated in an amazing two hour session at the Hollywood Heritage Museum in which some 40 film workers from Teamsters to movie stars to stunt men to assistant directors to grips poured out their hearts to four members of the U.S. International Trade Commission about the runaway jobs crisis.
The occasion was a fact-finding mission to Hollywood by representatives of the government agency charged with enforcing U.S. trade law. Last Monday and Tuesday the delegation was escorted by the studios and given an overview of what the studios consider the film business. Today was our day and for the first time in anyone's memory, a panel of government officials was listening to the rank and file side of the story.
It was, for the delegation, a ten hour day of meetings and tours that took them from vendors, to post production facilities, to independent studios, to meetings with SAG officials, and finally to the 100 year old barn on Cahuenga that houses the Hollywood Heritage Museum and that served as the first film studio in Hollywood. They listened intently, took notes, and asked questions as one film worker after another detailed their own personal stories of the collapse of an industry. The unseasonably cold winds had knocked out the heating in the barn and the cold and the gloom of the museum only served as counterpoint to the passion and anger that filled the room.
The mission of the delegation and the Commerce Department is to administer US trade remedy law in a fair and objective manner, and they left us with no doubts in our mind that this dedicated group of professionals would do exactly that. Among other things our tour pointed out that the studios alone do not represent the industry. The group saw for themselves that the studios main function is stage rental and product distribution. The work of our industry is now sourced out to countless small struggling enterprises and tens of thousands of independent workers who move from job to job.
Especially notable was the spontaneous outpouring of anger against IATSE leaders that came not just from IATSE members but from SAG, DGA, Teamsters, Laborers, and vendors. This anger was directed at Tom Short's apparent support of the Canadian subsidies, his claim that IATSE members are not effected by the Canadian runaways, his status as unelected union boss, and his intimidation of IATSE locals on the countervailing duties (CVD) issue was passionately denounced by the film workers.
Our law firm, Stewart and Stewart, is the best in the country on countervailing tariffs. Not only have they won numerous CVD cases, but also they were negotiators who helped write the law under which we will secure them. The legal costs will be steep, but we are confident that the film community will come through with the funding. Last Sunday, Teamsters Local 399 voted unanimously to contribute $20,000 to our legal fund, which comes on top of the $6,000 in startup funds they have already contributed.
We are continuing our fundraising campaign with both individuals and companies. We have now achieved a stage of creditability and momentum that is already showing results by an increased level of financial contributions. In the mean time, we are still soliciting contributions from all our supporters. Now is the time for our IA locals to break lose from intimidation from above and contribute to the FTAC legal fund. If we stand together we can defeat the Valenti/Short alliance and bring our jobs home. Please send all contributions to FTAC, 11271 Ventura Blvd. Suite 418, Studio City, CA 91604.
It was an historic day because film workers for the first time since the 1940's were uniting across union lines in a powerful coalition to defend their interests against the studios. It was historic because "rust belt" workers of a dying industry had returned to the oldest building in Hollywood and the very birthplace of our industry, to save an industry that took generations of sweat and toil to build. It was historic because after four years of struggle, we have finally found someone in the government who will listen to us, and when we provide them with the facts, has the power to subpoena the financial information from the studios and obtain other information unavailable to us.
This battle is ours to lose. We have a bewildering array of legal and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome before the duties become law, but the trade commission representatives left us with the clear impression that this is one government agency that will remain impartial and will not be swayed from their duty to uphold the law regardless of the political and financial power of our opponents. Our ranks are growing but so is the workload. Facts are what the government needs to uphold our claims and the job of supplying those facts falls to us as initiators of the petition. We are asking you to join us and volunteer to help in our quest to contact all of our fellow film workers and vendors. Join us and lend your energy to a cause that is not only just and has the moral high ground but a cause that will bring your job home.
More exciting news is in the works. Stay tuned.