The career of Vinnie Galindez perfectly captures the strength of union brotherhood and sisterhood.
Galindez first joined Local 600 in March of 1981 and worked as a trainee, learning the ropes of being a loader, focus puller and finally, in 1998, a camera operator on the movie “Bringing Out the Dead.”
“On my two films as a trainee, I worked with the legendary father/son team Vinnie Gerardo and Bill Gerardo as well with [Local 600 Associate National Executive Director] Chaim Kantor,” recalled Galindez. “It was very meaningful to me to be trained by them as a focus puller and second assistant.They saw my strong work ethic, and that’s why I got call backs. It’s an industry where you’re constantly honing your skills.The basics are universal: be aware of the inventory, the film, camera, all the equipment, and be responsible for caring for them.”
Galindez worked with several well-known ACs and camera operators in the eastern region including Bruce MacCallum and Gabor Kover. He looks back with fond memories of working on big movies such as “Moonstruck,” “A Few Good Men,” “Heat” and “Planes,Trains & Automobiles.” “I greatly enjoyed the company of my fellow crew members,” he said.
However, in 1999 an unexpected hardship derailed his upward trajectory in the industry. It was during the end of making “Bringing Out the Dead,” that Galindez became ill with a serious kidney infection. Because he was weakened by the illness and treatment, the physical demands of the job were too taxing, and he was forced to leave the industry. Having suffered from psoriatic arthritis since age 34, Galindez was no stranger to working through pain, but the kidney ailment forced him to give up his dreams.
Galindez didn’t stay unemployed for long. A friend who knew of his health issues also saw that his people skills made him a good fit for an open position as a senior admissions adviser at the State University of New York (SUNY). Galindez joined the United University Professions union where he worked from 1999 to 2008.
“I went back to Local 600 in 2008,” said Galindez. “I had kept up with the union over the years and was invited to holiday gatherings. On one occasion, it was raised that I would be a good fit as a business representative for the local because of the public speaking and interpersonal skills I had honed as an admissions adviser at SUNY. Being able to work with people facing issues on an individual basis, I was able to help people find their paths.”
The role of business representative came with a major learning curve for Galindez. He was no longer dealing with camera equipment but instead learning all the contracts Local 600 works under and all situations applicable to those contracts. “It was a great experience for me to be able to help my fellow members in various situations,” he said. “Sometimes all that was needed was to put in a phone call for someone to help come to an understanding and resolve issues.”
Galindez was born in NewYork and his parents and two sisters are originally from Puerto Rico. As Galindez is fluent in both English and Spanish and very familiar with Puerto Rican culture, he was instrumental in assisting in unifying the islands with the rest of the region and creating a better community for the members.
In May of 2018, Galindez’s kidney troubles resurfaced and he was again forced to leave work. Fortunately, he reaped the support of his union. A Go Fund Me page was created to help with the expenses involved in Galindez getting a kidney transplant operation, and the necessary funds were raised. Last October, a close friend donated a kidney, and Galindez’s transplant was successful.
“Because I was union, I was able to get dis- ability and continue medical coverage,” Galindez said. “People still ask me about my ordeal, and I know that I was in the thoughts and prayers of my brothers and sisters at Local 600.”
Galindez retired in July and, after spending months recovering from surgery, he’s back to exercising and job hunting.At the age of 69 and with guaranteed follow-up medical appointments for the rest of his life, Galindez still can’t return to his passion of working with the camera on a movie set, but as a Local 600 member he’s been able to attend seminars at the Actor’s Fund in New York.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “It could lead to something.”