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Organizing F.A.Q.

If you have questions about organizing your post-production workplace, your best bet is to speak directly to an Editors Guild organizer. You can, however, find answers to some of the more commonly asked questions by following the links below.

  • What is organizing?
    • The democratic process of joining with your coworkers to negotiate better terms and conditions of employment is referred to as organizing. The principle behind union organizing is simple: we have more clout with our employers when we negotiate as a unified group than we do when each of us negotiates as an isolated individual. Organizing sometimes involves petitioning the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a union election; sometimes it involves approaching an employer to demand so-called “voluntary recognition.” In any event, it entails building a strong majority of employees willing to stand together to improve their jobs.

  • What are my legal rights as an employee?
    • The National Labor Relations Act establishes employees’ right to engage in concerted activity -- i.e., actions that a group of employees undertake together -- for the purposes of improving the terms of their employment. Organizing to negotiate for a union contract is a textbook example of the kind of concerted activity that the law protects. It is illegal for an employer to interfere with its employees’ exercise of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

  • What’s the Editors Guild? What’s the IATSE?
    • The Editors Guild is a local chapter (Local 700) of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Local 700 represents about 7,300 post-production professionals nationwide. Spanning more than four dozen distinct classifications, our membership works at all stages throughout the post-production process. The IATSE, with more than 110,000 members in the U.S. and Canada, represents artists and technicians working in all manner of below-the-line crafts in the motion picture industry, as well as stagehands in the legitimate theater.

  • Whom does the Editors Guild represent? And where?
    • The Editors Guild doesn’t just represent editors. From dailies colorists to re-recording mixers to videotape and digital operators to vault technicians, our members work in a myriad of specific crafts and at every phase in the process of post-production. We represent post-production artists and technicians employed by production entities as well as those employed by fixed facilities. The bulk of our 7,300 members are based in Los Angeles and New York -- the Guild maintains an office in each city -- but our jurisdiction extends throughout the United States, and we have members working in many parts of the country.

  • What’s in a union contract?
    • A union contract is negotiated between a group of employees, through their designated representatives, and their employer or employers. Contracts address all represented employees’ terms of employment: wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions. IATSE contracts set minimum rates (scale rates) for each covered classification, specify the health and retirement benefits an employer provides its employees, spell out overtime and premium time provisions, and generally insure that employers adhere to established industry standards.

  • Are all union contracts the same?
    • No, not every union agreement is identical. Although most of our members work under contracts that closely follow patterns set by master agreements negotiated with multi-employer associations, securing a first contract at a non-union employer entails negotiations with that specific company. The specific terms of union contracts, therefore, can vary from employer to employer and may also vary according to the budgets of particular projects. A crew assembling a three-minute short for exhibition on YouTube, for instance, may not enjoy all the same terms and working conditions as a crew working on a major studio's tentpole feature. The contents of any particular agreement get determined through negotiations, and the outcome of those negotiations depends upon several factors -- e.g., the status quo from which negotiations start, what an employer is able to afford, and the leverage with which employees come to the table.

  • How do health insurance and retirement benefits work under a union contract?
    • Most (but not all) of the contracts Editors Guild members work under require that employers pay into the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans (MPIPHP) on their employees’ behalf. (Some contracts have employers paying into the IATSE National Benefits Fund or into employer-specific plans.) MPIPHP benefits are designed to be portable in order to meet the needs of a largely freelance workforce.  

    • Under the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, employees earn health benefits in six-month increments. 600 hours of union work are required to initiate coverage, and 400 hours every six months (less than 50% of a full-time equivalency) are necessary to maintain coverage.  

    • Detailed information about the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans is available through the MPIPHP website.

  • What is a scale rate? If I’m making more than the union scale rate now, will organizing this job make my rate go down?
    • A scale rate is a contractually determined minimum rate of pay for a given classification. You are always free to individually negotiate a wage in excess of scale, but, if you are working under an IATSE contract, your employer can never pay you less than the appropriate scale in its contract. We routinely negotiate language ensuring that those who enjoy “better terms or conditions” they have negotiated individually (e.g., over-scale rates) do not lose those conditions as a consequence of a contract being implemented. Just as your wage doesn’t go down when the legal minimum wage goes up, so people earning over-scale rates don't get brought down to contractual scale when we win a union contract. Scale is a floor, not a ceiling.

  • What are union dues?
    • Union dues are the regular payments members make to support the organization’s administrative costs. Editors Guild members pay dues on a quarterly basis and on a sliding scale; those working in higher-paid classifications pay more than those working in lower-paid classifications. Picture editors, for example, usually pay about $300 per quarter (depending upon the contract under which they work), while loggers pay $120.  

    • More detail about how members' dues are calculated is available here.  

    • Unlike other forms of representation that you can purchase -- by hiring an agent or hiring a lawyer to represent you, for example -- union representation does not operate on a fee-for-service model. Although dues are necessary to fund the organization’s staff, facilities, and projects, members are not simply hiring the union to act on their behalf.  

    • The strength that we have derives not from the monies members pay, but instead from the solidarity members show. When the Guild negotiates a strong contract for a group of employees, the strength of that contract chiefly comes not from the expertise of a professional negotiator -- although the Guild does indeed employ experienced and talented negotiators on its staff -- but instead from the leverage the crew generates through its cohesion and commitment. Dues keep the lights on, but it’s solidarity that powers the union.

  • I am already paid well on my non-union gig. Why would I be interested in having a union contract?
    • Although employees in some classifications will earn significantly higher wages on union jobs than on comparable non-union jobs, union contracts offer a lot more than just scale rates. A union contract’s overtime provisions, “golden hours” (double-time pay for exceptionally long shifts), night premiums, and turnaround time rules all give employers strong financial incentives to schedule more humane workweeks. (And such provisions ensure that, when employees do need to work onerous hours, that work is rewarded at a premium.) Vacation pay and holiday pay increase employees’ compensation over and above their base rates. Perhaps most dramatically, the superlative health and retirement benefits that come from working union help to provide stability and sustainability to a professional cobbling together a career from a series of short-term gigs.  

    • In August of 2014, the post-production crew of the long-running unscripted television series Survivor decided to organize their workplace. The experienced editors who made up the bulk of that crew were amongst the best-paid in the business; they had already parlayed their experience and talents into enviable rates. But when they organized, they were able to achieve together what none of them might have achieved individually: eight-hour workdays, strong overtime provisions, premium pay for weekend work, vacation and holiday pay, and excellent healthcare and pension benefits. The show’s assistant editors and loggers saw significant increases in their base pay, but even the best-paid individuals on the crew saw dramatic material gains from unionizing.

  • Aside from union contracts with health and pension benefits, what does the Editors Guild have to offer its members?
    • Collective bargaining -- the negotiation and enforcement of employment contracts -- is the chief function of any labor union. But, beyond our efforts to improve working conditions, the Editors Guild is a fellowship of post-production professionals joining together for our mutual benefit.  

    • The Guild offers extensive training opportunities for members, so that folks are able to develop their skills and stay abreast of the latest technology. We host regular mixers for folks to build stronger professional and social networks. We maintain an “available list,” a database of the resumes of members looking for work, searchable by signatory employers. Our award-winning publication, CineMontage, celebrates and informs folks working in the crafts we represent.  

    • A union isn’t merely an agent for collective bargaining; it’s a community that comes together so that we might all be stronger.

  • What can we do to unionize more of our industry?
    • Just as any given crew is stronger when all their members stand united, our entire profession is stronger when more post-production work is performed under union contracts. The Editors Guild has an imperative to organize a greater share of post-production work performed in the United States, especially in those sectors of the industry -- e.g., post facilities, digital labs, trailer houses, unscripted television, commercial editing -- that now remain largely non-union.
       
      Here are a few of the ways in which individual members and prospective members can help to secure more union work:

      • Share the information on this website and share our Post, Proud video with your network of colleagues, especially those who often work non-union jobs;
      • If you have experience working union jobs, explain to colleagues who only work non-union the advantages of union employment;
      • Participate in conversations on social media and other forums for post-production employees; and
      • When you are working a non-union job, contact a Guild organizer to speak confidentially about your employer.
  • What are the arguments against unionizing?
    • When employees in a non-union workplace are interested in organizing, management will often try to discourage them from doing so. It is illegal for a company to threaten retaliation or to promise rewards in order to thwart an organizing effort. The right to organize is enshrined in the National Labor Relations Act, and it is a violation of federal law for employers to interfere with employees’ exercise of that right.

    • But management has the legal ability to argue that unionization is a bad idea, and often they make such arguments in mandatory meetings all employees are forced to attend. The anti-union arguments management makes tend to cluster around three major themes: (1) employees should trust management to do what’s best for everyone, without management having to formally negotiate with employees; (2) the union can’t be trusted; and (3) sticking with the status quo is better than the uncertainty of trying to make change in the workplace.

    • Here are some of the typical talking points that you are likely to hear from management (or even, perhaps, some anti-union coworkers) as they try to raise employees’ anxieties and discourage a Union Yes vote:

    • Trust management.

      • Management is already looking out for its employees’ best interests.

      • “Management has new plans to address longstanding grievances.

      • There’s an open door policy that allows employees to address their concerns outside of formal negotiations.

      • The company is a family.”

    • Be suspicious of the union.

      • The union is a business, rather than as a democratic organization advocating for employees.

      • The union is a third-party or outsider interfering with the company’s family.”

      • Distrust union promises and guarantees.”

      • Look at the high salaries of union bosses.”

      • You will be forced pay the high cost of union dues, fees, and fines.

    • Worry about uncertainty.

      • Restrictive union rules will result in a lack of flexibility or competitiveness.

      • Unionizing raises the prospect of layoffs or closure.

      • It’s possible that contract negotiations could make terms of employment worse than they are now.

      • Unionizing means you would have to go on strike.

      • You would lose the ability to speak for yourself once you’re a union member.

    • Sometimes this barrage of talking points works, and employees lose confidence in their ability to stand together to negotiate better terms with their employer. Defying one’s boss takes a lot of courage, and it’s always easier just to accept the status quo.

    • But, more often than not, when employees have the chance to vote in a free and fair election, they prefer to have a voice in their workplace rather than relying solely on management to represent their best interests. Employees who take the time to educate themselves realize that, across professions and industries, people do better when they bargain collectively.

    • In our industry, we can point to a long and proud history of post-production professionals working prosperously and harmoniously under union contracts at many of the most successful companies in the business. Since 1937, Editors Guild members have demonstrated that we are stronger together than we are as individuals.

  • How can I find out more about organizing?
    • The best way to learn about organizing is to talk to an organizer. You can contact an Editors Guild organizer via the contact form on this website, via email, or via the Guild’s organizing hotline: 818.925.MPEG (818.925.6734). All such communications are held in strict confidence.