Organizing Victories Galore in the Central Region

May 18, 2022
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From Houston to Atlanta, and from Chicago to Kalamazoo, the reps of the Central Region have been getting it done in 2022, organizing a total of 16 projects in recent months.

What does the organizing picture look like so far?  Here’s a sampling.

  • Crew members in Tyrone, GA on the feature On Smoother Dirt had surer footing knowing that they’ll be getting benefit contributions.
  • Crew members on the streaming series The Chosen in Texas and Utah have been chosen to get the benefits of a union contract.
  • In Canton, MS, the crew on the low budget feature The Minute You Wake Up Dead woke up each day secure in the knowledge that they would be getting benefits.
  • A fortunate outcome – in the form of a union contract – befell the crew of The Atlanta-based feature, Stars Fell Again.

Nearly 91 Local 600 crew members are working on these projects.

“We’ve been fortunate that for most of the projects, we haven’t had to pull the crew, and we ended up under an agreement,” said Central Region Director Theresa Khouri. “We have been able to negotiate terms with no lost work for our members and with the benefit of a contract that includes benefit contributions to MPI, which is a big plus for many of our members.”

Activity in Tennessee appears to be heating up, said Khouri, noting two feature shoots recently organized in Nashville: Mr. Holiday and Canvas.

“We’re hearing from other people that producers are being told, ‘Hey, go to Tennessee. [The union] won’t touch you there!’” said Khouri. “We’re kind of saying, ‘Ha! Try it! Try it!’”

Her confidence is well-earned. Her team of reps Yvette Marche’ Cooper, Heather Crowell, Ayketa Iverson and Jack Nealy have been working hard and achieving great results. Rep-in-training Ashurina Atto helped with the organizing of Lost Man Found in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“All of our reps, even the new ones, have been on the ground organizing,” said Khouri.

Khouri also notes that reps are encountering receptiveness and a strong spirit of solidarity among the members when they are approached. All of the 13 projects that have been organized in the Central Region in 2022 (with many more on the region’s “radar screen”) are signatories of SAG-AFTRA. It doesn’t take much persuasion for crew members to agree that they too deserve health benefits like the members of other entertainment unions.

“Some of it is safety,” Khouri said. “With all that’s been happening between COVID and [the death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of] Rust, members are more safety-conscious than they have been in the past. They want representation, someone to have their back who they can call when they feel unsafe.”

Among the more notable victories was with the Out of Order Studios independent streaming series, The Chosen, the largest crowdfunded project in film history. IATSE tried to organize the crew during its first season but did not receive sufficient crew support. Nonetheless, the union was persistent, and the producers indicated a willingness to do the right thing by its crew. Ultimately the producers ended up reaching a deal with IATSE that will cover multiple seasons of the series.

“That was a big deal because it was long-term organizing, staying in communication and going back and forth with negotiations,” said Khouri. “It took a very unique contract because they don’t fall under any of our standard agreements, and it will cover all seasons. It’s a really big win.”

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