They gathered, they tailgated, they ate, drank and cheered on their hometown teams, all while sporting customized Local 600 scarves.
If socializing and solidarity were the…er… “goals” of this first-time multi-region social event planned by the Local 600 Active Engagement Committee, then the Soccer Solidarity Social event was every inch a success.
Over the weekend of September 17-18, more than 70 local 600 members and family members attended five Major League Soccer (MLS) soccer matches in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, , Massachusetts and Los Angeles. Local 600 purchased a batch of tickets to each game and made them available to interested members across the regions on a first-come, first-served basis.
In creating the event, the Active Engagement Committee (AEC) was inspired, in part by an inter-local IATSE Summer of Solidarity Major League baseball game between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers in September of 2019. Committee members were looking to create a similar experience for Local 600 members.
Given the worldwide popularity of soccer and the fortunate circumstance of teams based in all of the major Local 600 production cities and all playing home games during the same weekend, the Soccer Solidarity event came together.
“We realized that Local 600 had never tried to do a solidarity event across the country before, so we were excited by that opportunity,” said Waris Supanpong, chair of the Active Engagement Committee and a Local 600 NEB member. “We wanted to do something where we knew we could fill up a full section of the stadium without incurring a huge cost. This is the first step in the hopes of doing something even bigger.”
It was the late Gunnar Mortensen, former chair of the AEC, who embraced the concept of Soccer Solidarity. He also came up with the idea for crafting custom branded scarves and began recruiting fellow soccer-loving NEB members across the nation to get involved in the event.
“This has been very personal to me,” said Ambar Capoor, a Western Region Camera Assistant who served as the point person for Sunday’s LA match between the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) and the Houston Dynamo. “This was a project that was very close to Gunnar’s heart, and he was a huge soccer fan. I did this in his memory and to pay him tribute.”
Central Region Camera Operator and NEB member Alfeo Dixon, who coordinated the Atlanta match between Atlanta United and the Philadelphia Union, was another Mortensen recruit who needed little persuasion to get in on the Soccer Solidarity action.
“Everybody knows that I’m a huge soccer fan,” said Dixon. “As soon as they came up with this idea and Gunnar approached me, saying ‘I’ve got something right up your alley that I’d like to pick your brain about,’ I was 100 percent in, and he knew it.”
Below are a series of accounts and snapshots of Soccer Solidarity events across the regions. Enjoy!
New York Football Club 2 – NY Red Bulls 0 – Yankee Stadium, Bronx New York
For retired Eastern Region rep David Blake, the match between the NYFC and the Red Bulls was an opportunity to reconnect with his Local 600 brothers and sisters.
“There were several new people who I hadn’t met and others who I saw for the first time since I retired,” said Blake who attended the Summer of Solidarity baseball game in 2019. “For these kinds of events, it’s great for members to be able to get together in a social setting. Union meetings aren’t really social settings. This was something where people could feel free to just enjoy themselves and that’s what everybody seemed to do.”
Montreal Impact 1 – New England Revolution 0 – Gillette Stadium, Foxborough MA
The New England contingent of 600 members who took in the game between the Revolution and the Impact made a day of the event, tailgating both before and after the game, reported Massachusetts-based 1st Assistant and NEB member Jill Tufts.
“We got on the jumbotron, and everybody went absolutely nuts,” said Tufts, “and we were wearing our Local 600 scarves the whole time.”
As the Soccer Solidarity event was coming together originally as a four-city event, Tufts petitioned the NEB to include New England in the fun. Tufts and her husband – fellow 600 member Director of Photography Patrick Ruth – are both big-time soccer fans.
With a few extra tickets, the attendees brought crew members from local productions.
“There was a production assistant who didn’t have a very good understanding of unions at all, and we all gave him a good talking-to,” said Tufts. “So, it ended up being a really good organizing opportunity as well.”
Charlotte FC 3 – Chicago Fire 2 – Soldier Field, Chicago IL
In Chi-town, a handful of Local 600 members jumped at the chance to assemble at Soldier Field and share some central region solidarity.
“A lot of people there hadn’t seen each other in a while because I think, post-COVID, everyone had gotten really busy with work,” said Active Engagement Committee member Ella Lubienski, a 2nd assistant based in Chicago. “So, if they weren’t on the same shows, they just haven’t connected. And then there were some newer members who joined within the last few months, and this was kind of their first opportunity to network with people. I think people enjoyed getting to hang out and chat.”
The city of Chicago has been celebrating Mexican Independence Day which meant that the National Anthem at the soccer game was performed by a mariachi band. Overall, Lubienski reported that the vibe among attendees was so positive that the home team ended up losing and “no one cared.”
“The fun part was being there with each other,” Lubieski said, “The game was a bonus.”
Oh, and about our early comment about Local 600 members rocking their custom soccer scarves. Well, maybe not so much at Soldier Field, but not because of any lack of union pride.
“It was between 70 and 80 degrees,” said Lubieski with a laugh. “But we passed them out and people were excited to wear them once it gets cold.”
Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) 3 – Houston Dynamo 1 – Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles
In the only one of the five Soccer Solidarity event to take place on Sunday, LA-based Local 600 members had the opportunity to spend an entire day at the event. Between the pregame festivities, the post-game fireworks show and everything in between, there was no shortage of entertainment or opportunities to socialize.
“A lot of us came in on the train together which gave us another opportunity to hang out,” said Camera Operator Massimo Bordonaro. “Normally when we do union functions, it’s either an NEB meeting or the holiday party. For us to get together to do something like this, it creates a bonding experience, a chance to get to know each other in a different way. We didn’t talk about camera too much which is perfect because we talk about that all day at work.”
Local 600 was especially well-represented at the game. In addition to the 600 members who attended the event as spectators, approximately 20 crew members working for LAFC who were organized into IATSE earlier in 2022 were working the game. Western Region Business Representative Ryan Sullivan made a special trip to the stadium to deliver their Local 600 scarves.
Atlanta United 0 – Philadelphia Union 0 – Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta