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Andy Garner-Flexner, Queer TAG Committee Co-Chair

Kim Fay / June 21, 2022

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To My 839 Kin,

I come to you all as a colleague fortified with knowledge and experience gained as an appointee to the Negotiations Committee, the IATSE DEI Committee, and QT Committee as chairperson.

Before I go any further, I want to give my recommendation to vote YES to ratify our negotiated contract.

This year, we accomplished excellent goals in our negotiations with the studios, and it will set us up to gain much more next round. Most importantly, we did not lose ground. Although we did not get everything we fought for, we came away from negotiations stronger than ever before.

We achieved higher wages for craft-specific proposals, greater studio accountability to the Union via the Labor-Management Cooperative Committee, a pathway for Union-covered remote work, and much more. The tireless work and success for the Union toward these victories cannot be overstated and should not be discounted. Despite being in a particularly vulnerable position due to the volatile state of the economy and uncertainties due to COVID, we left negotiations with far more power, influence, strength, and benefits than at any point in our Union’s history. To that point, I must again stress my recommendation for a yes vote, which will edify our recent gains, and allow us to build the Union to ever greater heights.

I will be clear: what we fought for and did not win is not an effective indicator of what the Union prioritizes or how we view those who are most impacted by those losses. When I entered into negotiations with AMPTP, my aim was to achieve as many of our goals as possible for the benefit of the Union and its constituent members, especially those most impacted by systemic and institutional racism, ableism, and cisheteropatriarchy.

In the areas where negotiations overtly fell short for the Union, such as the QT proposals I and my committee brought forward including the push for gender-neutral restrooms at all studios, and the mandatory use of truenames over deadnames, we were able to compromise for a covert win. For example, the Testing, FAM, POC, and QT committees, along with a few other committees, put forth their proposals into the creation of the Labor-Management Cooperative Committee, which gives us a unique opportunity to have the studios’ ears at least twice a year, where we can inundate them with your voices, your wants, and the data to back it all up. This is just one way we apply pressure and take full advantage of the time between negotiations to build the strongest cases possible for the things our Union members want, need, and desire. In this way, we turn an AMPTP “no” into a “not right now,” which keeps Union needs and wants on the table and gives us an avenue to keep fighting for our goals.

With that said, I am compelled to dispel some confusion and distrust in our Union’s governance and leadership processes, especially where negotiations and Union business are concerned.

Ultimately, the goal of Union leadership is to maximize benefits, conditions, wages, and opportunities for members, at the least risk to members. There are countless tools to this end, but not every one of these tools is effective or appropriate for each point of disagreement or loss in negotiations. During this round, the Negotiations Committee discussed using the strike option, but after weighing the risk to members and their livelihoods against the chances for success, it was decided that the strike was not the appropriate remedy. Among the factors that contributed to this decision were relatively low Union membership engagement and the socioeconomic impact and uncertainty of the COVID pandemic. Speaking for myself, I did not feel comfortable taking what is effectively the final “nuclear” option today, when fighting again and organizing better tomorrow seemed like the more sensible and effective solution. The risk to our members’ well-being seemed too great, since we have only assessed about a third of our total membership’s readiness for such a drastic step—one of which is an option that can very well result in a small gain. It is not a matter of trusting the membership to turn out, but rather a responsibility to consider the members who are most impacted by this move, and to move forward in a more tactful approach.

To that end, we need to build stronger relationships with our members to increase engagement and turnout. Our efforts to sway studios in our favor depend on our Union being firm against the volley of “no’s” AMPTP is likely to throw our way. We do this by ensuring robust resources, processes, and community to survive the worst of it. If you want to get involved with the Union and our Local, then I would encourage you to do so at the capacity that you comfortably can. If you find your friends and colleagues have similar goals—talk with them and garner your ideas into proposals and missions. You have the Union behind you to help you get your ideas realized.

Please check your emails, and please let your Union kin know to do the same. Also, please vote! The one minute it takes to have your voice heard impacts the Union for years. We need you! Either way you feel, voting is necessary, so please vote and tell others to vote.

If you have any questions please reach out to anyone in the Union. You can reach out to me as well, and I will do my best to answer your questions. Thank you and have a wonderful week.

All the best,
Andy Garner-Flexner

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