[Fwd: A Movie Electrician Responds to Katha]

Marta Russell ap888 at lafn.org
Tue Nov 16 09:08:26 PST 1999

Tom Lehman wrote:

> I expect to hear from a few others out in California familiar with the
> situation in the movie industry.
> TL

I don't recall Katha saying anything against the workers. The discussion was about the union and my original post was about the recent union decision to get on board the free trade issue.

My film experience was in visual effects production and later supervision of that production -- a category of film work where there were no unions representing supervisors or workers because we did not fit into the traditional trades.

I've worked on many many movie sets and film locations in my day, and I certainly would not characterize the Hollywood work scene as one where "our working conditions are among the worst in the world." It is a gross exaggeration. Bagels, donuts, coffee, appleboxes to sit on, directors who though can be egomaniacs, generally respect the trades and count on their expertise to do a job properly. Contrast this to production line work in sweaty factories where women slave 12 or more hour days with no breaks at salaries this guy would laugh at -- where workers lives are at stake, where their youth is used up, health destroyed and are as replaceable as barnyard animals and treated the same. It does not do Hollywood workers image any good to bemoan the supposedly horrible working conditions -- I've never seen one in over 13 years of active film production work at many major studios, not even on low budget independent films. Not that these workers should not have job security, good pay, and benefits, etc. but really there is no comparision to many working people's conditions in the world.

The question I have, is why didn't the Hollywood unions see this NAFTA thing coming and do something about it before now? My suspicion is that they saw it but did not believe it could happen to them. They've have a pretty isolated business, dependent upon skills unique to a Hollywood setting -- but now that more workers can do the same work in Austrailia, in Canada, in Korea -- for less money -- this locale security is a thing of the past.

My original post made the point (correct me if I am wrong) that the Hollywood unions had done very little in the past to join the fight against NAFTA when other worker jobs were going to other countries - insulating themselves from the other workers plight. Now when their ox is getting gored they join the frey because they are losing their jobs and standard of living.

This has been coming a long time, but only recently has there been protest. The studios knew where this was going way before the union got activated. Did the Hollywood workers think the MPAA would protect them when every major corporate interest in the nation has abandoned the workers -- they are all corporations which are more interested in profits than people's lives?

Marta Russell

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