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Author Topic: Projectionists Fight For Rights
Paul Salley
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 105
From: Liberal, Kansas
Registered: Jan 2001


 - posted 06-18-2003 01:16 PM      Profile for Paul Salley   Email Paul Salley       Edit/Delete Post 
Found this article on http://bostonphoenix.com

DEPT. OF LABOR
Jonathan Richman and the Pissed Off Projectionists
BY CAMILLE DODERO

Labor struggles are steely-eyed showdowns, but the ongoing battle between Somerville Theatre management and its camp of picketing projectionists has recently broken into a bare-knuckle beat down. Four of the picture palace’s seven part-time projectionists went on strike May 1, a day after demanding that the theater recognize their desire to join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 182; the demand was a bid to secure an increase from their $6.75-an-hour minimum wage. Now more than a month later — after the self-declared " Pissed Off Projectionists " offered to return to work unconditionally; after they haven’t been scheduled for shifts; after the reel spinners went to labor court to contest the movie house’s assertion that managers would be eligible to vote in an upcoming union election because they’d been running the projectors since the strike; after an unknown vandal shattered the Somerville Theatre’s front ticket window and the projectionists publicly swore they didn’t know who was responsible — the conflict has become a sanguinary slugfest with indie-rock progenitor Jonathan Richman standing in the Pissed Off Projectionists’ corner.

Last week Richman moved his show from the Somerville Theatre to the Middle East Downstairs in support of the locked-out projectionists, but won’t get into specifics about what factors led him to the decision. " While I disagree with the management of the Somerville Theatre on this particular issue, " Richman says over the phone from a tour stop in Toronto, " they’ve always been great when we played there — and I’d gladly play at the Somerville Theatre again. "

Richman admits he discussed the dispute with both sides for weeks and still isn’t sure he understands who’s to blame. " I don’t think this is black and white, " Richman says. " I don’t want anyone to look like the enemy. " Nevertheless, the decision to pull out of the venue " was the conclusion I came to. I told both parties that I wasn’t sure it was even the right decision, but this is how it looked to me. " He adds, " In the middle of what seems to be an honest labor dispute, I just figured that it’s not the time to play the theater. "

This past Monday, Richman’s name still appeared on the Davis Square cinema’s neon marquee, even though he’d yanked the engagement days earlier. As for the Somerville Theatre’s stance, a female voice answering the phone for its executive office offered, " We have no comment. " And who is this? " Doesn’t matter. Pretty much anyone you talk to around here, this is what you’re going to get. "

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7952
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 06-18-2003 02:53 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Admittedly, I don't know the details of this dispute, but I might be more inclined to support the projectionists' position if any of the half-dozen or so shows that I've seen at the Somerville Theatre in the last year had been presented properly. I don't think I've ever seen a show there that wasn't mangled in some way (scratches on entire print including trailers, poor focus/framing, or any of a number of other possible issues that were clearly the fault of that theatre's operators).

In general, I think that the union can be a good thing when there is a fair trade involved: theatre owners agree to pay a higher wage than they normally would and in return the union agrees to provide them with well-trained, professional operators. When things work as they should, both sides benefit, as does the moviegoing public.

As things are, however, I have a hard time with the idea that the same people who seem to have trouble with "film done right" should suddenly get paid more to do the same poor-quality work. Maybe I've just been unlucky and this theatre normally practices "film done right." Somehow, I doubt it, though.

Although I don't know much about this situation, I wouldn't be surprised if both sides were at fault. The theatre owners probably could have avoided this whole situation if they had been willing to pay their operators somewhat more than minimum wage from the beginning.

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Sean McKinnon
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Posts: 1561
From: Peabody Massachusetts
Registered: Sep 2000


 - posted 06-18-2003 03:55 PM      Profile for Sean McKinnon   Email Sean McKinnon   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have spoken to a member of Local 182 about this. This persons comments were that "These kids have talked to the wrong people in our union and are getting poor advice" and that "They dont care if they get thier jobs back or not they say that they are doing this just for fun" and that "we (IATSE 182) never ever go on strike that is stupid everyone knows that when you go on strike it is 100% legal to replace you"

Also, that article is incorrect... These operators are not locked out. They were most likely replaced in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act. A lock out is when collective bargaining (which has not occured here) reaches an impasse without a contract and the employer removes the employees from work until a contract is established. That is a lockout. This is a bunch of kids who decided they wanted to strike and got replaced. I hope that for the self respect of proffesional unions out there these jokers are not allowed to return to work as thier statements and attitude are very unproffesional.

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John Hawkinson
Film God

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From: Cambridge, MA, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 06-18-2003 04:44 PM      Profile for John Hawkinson   Author's Homepage   Email John Hawkinson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Previously discussed in Yak, I just bumped up Somerville, MA projectionist strike.

--jhawk

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Justin West
Master Film Handler

Posts: 265
From: Peoria, IL, USA
Registered: Jul 2001


 - posted 06-20-2003 07:35 PM      Profile for Justin West   Email Justin West   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I just had to reply...regarding the comment that "...everyone knows that when you go on strike it is 100% legal to replace you"

That is not true. It depends upon the reasons the workers committed their CONCERTED ACTION. Could they have listed unfair labor practices, safety and health issues, working conditions, or was it simply "money"?

As for the suggestion that..."These operators are not locked out. They were most likely replaced in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act. A lock out is when collective bargaining (which has not occured here)..."

A "lockout" can actually occur without collective bargaining. The workers, after their concerted action (a walkout) offered to return to work and the theater management refused to take them back. Call it whatever you wish. Labor law may or may not respect these workers. Granted, they would have had more understood protections if they had organized their own union
PRIOR to walking out but I have seen NLRB judgements made for workers who were not members of a union. Again, the issues are the key.

Lastly, for the opinion that "This is a bunch of kids who decided they wanted to strike and got replaced. I hope that for the self respect of proffesional unions out there these jokers are not allowed to return to work as thier statements and attitude are very unproffesional."

Keep in mind we are talking about an enterprise (motion picture theater ownership) that has, in general, done all that it can to eliminate and decimate the "profession" of Moving Picture Machine Operator to replace them with teens who are also expected (typically) to pop corn in the concession. Wages of $6.75 an hour, all of them PART-TIME, and situated in Boston, Mass (no doubt a high cost of living) with a management that likely expects master-craftsmenship in the trade with some kind of gratitude for allowing these workers the privilege of toiling in their facility with equipment that probably is not state-of-the-art. These workers must live with their decision but without knowing all of the issues, I cannot pass judgement in this dispute.

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Sean McKinnon
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From: Peabody Massachusetts
Registered: Sep 2000


 - posted 06-20-2003 11:49 PM      Profile for Sean McKinnon   Email Sean McKinnon   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A lockout is when management removes represented employees from thier jobs and a member of management operates in thier capacity a manager or "Supervisor" is defined by section 2-11 of the national labor relations act. In order for an employee to be represented thier has to be collective bargaining. This is a case of individuals asking to be recognized as a collective bargaining unit, bieng denied that request, and then striking in retaliation. If you go on strike you may be replaced... If you choose to come back to work the only thing that management has to do is return you to your position *IF* there should be an opening.

That is my interpretation of the law. I have dealt with the NLRB and have had nothing but favorable experiences with them. But again law comes down to interpretation and my interpretation is of a management side. If I had the cash I would go to law school I find this stuff absolutely fascinating, especially labor law.

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Jack Ondracek
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From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
Registered: Oct 2002


 - posted 06-23-2003 12:25 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This has been an interesting subject to me, too. I experienced it... maybe not to the extent that some of you did, but I was a union operator in a relatively small town, working mainly large, single screen venues when we were systematically "de-unionized" by an Oregon operator that moved into our state.

Looking at this thread (and others), what I wonder from a group like this is: Considering the realities of the business today...
we're not running labor-intensive, manual-everything arc projectors (for the most part)... does anyone here reasonably expect that a living wage should be made in all booths?

A single screener in a small town places vastly different expectations on an operator than does a large multiplex, but I've seen little variation in the overall attitude here. A decently paid projectionist slot would put a lot of small-town operations out of business... but might not have such an effect on metropolitan multi's. Should a living wage be justifiable at all levels?... or maybe once a certain number of screens is reached? Not accounting for the greed of some chains, where do you draw that line, and how do you put a "$10 - $30 + benefits" employee into that slot while maintaining the rest of the staff and management, and still pay the rent?

It would seem one of those issues that lends more toward "vicious circles" than rational solutions.

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Tim Reed
Better Projection Pays

Posts: 5242
From: Northampton, PA
Registered: Sep 1999


 - posted 06-23-2003 12:53 PM      Profile for Tim Reed   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Valid points, Jack, but in regards to:
quote:
how do you put a "$10 - $30 + benefits" employee into that slot while maintaining the rest of the staff and management, and still pay the rent?

The thing I've seen over and over, is some outfits will have no problem assigning two or more youngsters to do the same amount of work one good professional could. The company pays more overall to get the job done, and not necessarily at the same level of quality, but they will fight tooth-and-nail to keep one person from getting that much compensation.

For some reason, it seems they don't want anyone to get more than a certain amount of money; their managers, included... not many are getting paid what they're worth.

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Jack Ondracek
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From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
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 - posted 06-23-2003 07:21 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
True.

I guess what I'm fishing for here is... given today's realities, what factors (screen count, income or population level, etc) could be used as benchmarks to justify the cost of a reasonably paid pro-operator?

That also being said, how does a local deal with the way the chains' use the "manager-projectionist" title to do an end run around unionized labor? Our largest multiplex usually has 6 or 7 "managers" running around the place... only one of which appears authorized (though not necessarily 'qualified') to make an actual decision.

When my daughter asked about an operator's job at a Regal outlet, she was told she had to qualfy as a "manager" do any work in the booth.

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Mark Hajducki
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 500
From: Edinburgh, UK
Registered: May 2003


 - posted 06-24-2003 06:42 AM      Profile for Mark Hajducki   Email Mark Hajducki   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
$6.75 seems a very low wage for people who are supposed to be professional projectionists. It works out at below the minimum wage in the UK [for anybody over 21].

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Ron Lacheur
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 643
From: British Columbia, Canada
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 06-24-2003 09:04 AM      Profile for Ron Lacheur   Email Ron Lacheur   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Quite often the managers get sick of running the projectors and then they train the ushers and popcorn shovelers to work upstairs.

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John Pytlak
Film God

Posts: 9987
From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Registered: Jan 2000


 - posted 06-24-2003 10:06 AM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Quite often the managers get sick of running the projectors and then they train the ushers and popcorn shovelers to work upstairs.

And often a case of "the blind leading the blind". [Roll Eyes]

IMHO, at the very least, the lead projectionist should be a career position that can attract and keep a skilled and competent person, who can properly train and supervise the projection staff, and handle routine maintenance and any day-to-day technical issues that arise.

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9435
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 06-24-2003 11:30 AM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
lets do some math
lets take a 10 plex and assume we pay the operator $20.00 per hour so that works out to $2.00 per screen times say 2.5 hours per show that works out to $5.00 labour cost per show time not very much when you look at it in that perspective

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R. Andrew Diercks
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Posts: 232
From: Marion, Iowa (In the middle of everywhere)
Registered: May 2003


 - posted 06-24-2003 11:36 AM      Profile for R. Andrew Diercks   Email R. Andrew Diercks   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I find it amazing that anyone in this day and age...especially kids...feel they need a union to run a projector. While being sheltered in the midwest, I don't know any theatre that still has unionised projectionists here. It is not dangerous anymore and it is seldom a career choice for these kids unless they become techs or managers. I can see more need for this in a huge operation, but not your average complex with 14 or less screens. All of mine are part-time and do great. I have trained them well enough and if a major problem arrises, that is why I am the manager. It is only 5 screens however.

Besides that when studios take 90%, how can we pay career people to do this for high wages!!

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9435
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 06-24-2003 12:13 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Well it is a lot like insurance
Recently in Canada revenue canada now requires remitance of sales tax on tickets that are refunded for lost shows and on the ticket value of all comps used
It seems there has been so many "lost shows" that tax revenue is down

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