Who’s Magazine?

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Our Union Magazine ICG refuses to accept this advertisement because the “sale of the product is much less important than the message.” The “message” is loud and clear, it’s the IATSE’s message at the top of the page. And then there is 12on12off’s confirmation; “As human beings, we believe that every person’s health, safety, and life is worth more than any film or TV show we can produce.”

Strange what a Union magazine considers forbidden words. But then editor David Geffner boasts, “we are the best industry magazine.”

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Open Letter to IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb…

Dear President Loeb,

Hollywood Reporter quotes Kent Jorgensen and identifies him as a top Union official. In writing about assistant camera Sarah Jones,  he speaks of a “manifestation of a too common lack of a regard for safety.” Alluding to the sleep depriving work he says; “I’m a union leader, I’ve got a faction that wants one thing, another one that wants something else. Some people want to stop hours. Some say, ’I want to pay for my boat with my overtime.’ It’s a tough call.”

At the 2013 I.A.T.S.E. Quadrennial Convention a unanimous Resolution was passed beginning with these words:

“There exists indisputable evidence from scientific, medical and empirical studies linking sleep deprivation and fatigue to critical safety and health hazards.”

The Resolution warns, “this is a critical issue of health, safety and life.” Not a subject for negotiations.

How can Jorgensen to be quoted as talking about factions within our organization when the IA has spoken with all the authority of a Resolution? Will you, Mr. President, correctly state the IA position publicly? Is there a discipline procedure in place to deal with a  top Union official speaks publicly, contradicts a unanimous decision made by the membership and expressed in that Resolution?

 

Sincerely,

Haskell Wexler

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Letter to Vice President Michael Miller

 March 14th, 2014

 

Mike Miller

6th Vice President IATSE

1430 Broadway, 20th Floor

New York, NY 10018

 

Dear Michael Miller,

 

I know you are very aware that our members consider sleep depriving short turnaround and the long drives to and from work as primary safety hazards.

There is no question IA workers are on pictures with scheduled 14, 16, or more hours.

There is no question a prime safety concern of all members is sleep deprivation and the longer and longer drives to and from the job.

There is no question the Long Hours Resolution was adopted by 805 delegates to the 67th Quadrennial IATSE convention. This was a unanimous decision.

The Resolution states, “There exists indisputable evidence from scientific, medical and empirical studies linking sleep deprivation and fatigue to critical safety and health hazards.”

The IA acknowledges safety, health and well-being of our members to be of the greatest concern.

There is no question the AFL-CIO report on the state of safety and health protection is entitled, “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect” and that “long hours of work and the way work is organized is a major health and safety issue.”

You spoke at Sarah’s candlelight vigil. You said, “no worker should ever be afraid of speaking up or refusing to participate when they feel they are in an unsafe situation.” It is a fact, by definition, sleep deprived workers are in an “unsafe situation.” Did you notice the back of the Sarah T-shirt? WE ARE ALL SARAH JONES.

You know that as individuals we cannot complain. That’s why we have every right to expect our Union to speak for us. Certainly this is true when our safety, our health, and our very lives are at stake! As a Union officer, you know employers will have us work longer for less money under questionable safety conditions because it is their duty to prioritize the bottom line. It is to our credit, and the credit of the 850 Union brothers who voted unanimously in favor of the Long Hours Resolution.

This, is a part of a letter assistant cameraman Robert Rendon sent to me:

A couple of days ago on my way home from work at 5am, I wrecked my car. The scariest part of my experience was the fact that I was no more tired as usual when I crashed. I was not dozing off, nodding my head nor driving with heavy eyelids. It was as if someone turned off a power switch in my head. As my awareness came back online, I found myself colliding with a bus stop. I am physically ok but my car was not. I am very lucky- not only for myself but also for not killing anyone waiting on a bus.

You should read the whole letter, which includes Rendon was the,“4th car wreck on this production in a couple of weeks.” This situation is not unusual! Rendon writes; “…our clocked hours are consistently 14-15 hours each day within a five day week. We consistently have 1-1 ½ hours drive time each way off the clock. We often go 8 hours before our first meal and are rarely offered a walking 2nd meal. Our schedule is a roller coaster with an early Monday morning call and the week ending on a Saturday morning around 8A.”

If assistant cameraman Rendon killed himself when he wrecked his car, would we have organized a candle light parade for him? Since the death of assistant cameraman Brent Hirschman, who crashed after a nineteen hour day, we could have had many memorials for the victims of extreme hours.

The organization 12on12off has archived a litany of horror stories. They are available to you, to our Local, who has often stated, “the safety, health, and well-being of our members to be of the greatest concern.”

As scheduled hours increased, fatigue cases piled up. Employers received advice from insurance company lawyers, that they make sure that safety meetings encourage workers to announce when they are fatigued and that the employer will offer a hotel. They’re concerned because OSHA rule #7 says:

No one shall knowingly be permitted or required to work while the employee’s ability or alertness is so impaired by fatigue, illness or other causes that it might unnecessarily expose the employee or others to injury.

In far less noticed than Rendon’s particular case, and many less reported, shows “offer-a-ride” has changed the conversation to blame the worker for not realizing that he or she is tired. President Poster has not communicated to producers the strong, good decision of the IA on this subject. Instead he wrote congratulatory letters to producers who provide “courtesy housing”. It is clear that the offer for a hotel is a useless band-aid to our work schedule.

12on12off has always stated this fundamental issue: “We believe that every person’s health safety and life is worth more than any film or TV show we can produce.” I guess Poster was paying homage to 12on12off when he  paraphrased us with, “no TV show, no movie, and no job opportunity is worth the sacrifice of a human life.”

Sarah’s father told me he prays she will not have died in vain and that our passion to get the shot will not lead others to gamble in an unsafe situation.

Continuing excessive sleep depriving jobs are deadly. Who will speak for us? So far, not the IA even though we have a unanimous resolution. On Friday, March 28th, 12on12off calls for all work to stop after 12. No work on Saturday. NO FRATURDAY.

 

In Solidarity,

Haskell Wexler

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Boxer, Galassi, OSHA, and NIOSH…

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Barbara Boxer, in her June 19th letter about OSHA:

They have informed me that they have responded to your concerns of long work hours and sleep-deprivation for                     workers in the motion picture industry on two occasions.

OSHA is well aware of the hazards of long work hours and has publicly acknowledged the problem for years.

Included in Enforcement Director Thomas Galassi’s letter are two OSHA documents where the subject is sleep deprivation. Thomas Galassi says that OSHA is well aware of sleep deprivation and the deadly hazards of long work hours and extended work shifts. He says OSHA has publically acknowledged insufficient sleep is closely connected to injuries and serious illnesses.

He suggested I read OSHA’s FAQ on “Extended Unusual Workshifts and OSHA Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes.” All of this is news to the workers involved. Nothing in the many years of communications has OSHA ever stated a position, privately or publicly, to warn about sleep deprivation. See my film “Who Needs Sleep” for the real world on this subject. Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy New Year!

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Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?

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President’s Report

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In Local 600’s recent newsletter, President Poster took “a moment to celebrate our recent victory at the IATSE convention to adopt our resolution of long hours” but then, very quickly switches “to our attention the equally pressing issue of Radio Frequency transmitters.” He writes about the dangers of Radio Frequency and says that “Local 600 is taking this matter to the industry-wide Safety Committee which established safety regulations for the motion picture and television industry. We want to make sure our members aren’t put in harm’s way.”

Poster has not taken the issue of fatigue to the Industry Wide Safety Committee. Poster has not notified the CSATF of the unanimous decision of all locals which begins with this, “There exists indisputable evidence from scientific, medical and empirical studies linking sleep deprivation and fatigue to critical safety and health hazards.”

Poster, talking about Radio Frequency, urges workers not to be silent out of fear of losing a job. “I want you all to know that the union will be there for you on any kind of work related problem.” That’s about RF. How about after the fifth sixteen-hour day, a member says it’s not safe on this set? Will it be sufficient if the 1st AD offers a ride with a sleep deprived teamster to a hotel?

Again, Poster about RF, “Your safety comes first!” The exclamation mark is correct within the quote. The bizarre, illogical anti-human attitude of Poster and the very, very high and detached autocrats who run the profitable business enterprises do not want their “managerial flexibility” challenged.

It is the complete and verifiable truth, sleep deprived workers are unsafe, unhealthy, dangerous to themselves, the public and destructive to family life.

To equate this as just another equally pressing issue, Poster evidences either despicable ignorance or calculated avoidance of the truth.

 

 

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A Guild

A GUILD was a medieval association of similar trade or craft. Shoemakers, Tinsmiths, artisans, etc. They associated to make standards of excellence and limited the people to join by requiring high standard tests. Being a guild member was a guarantee of quality to the Feudal Lords. With mass production the quality of the shoemaker was not a factor. Working at a machine, his “guild artisan status” disappeared and Feudal Lords became corporate.

Union’s were formed to protect and advance the status workers. The struggle for union recognition, for the 8 hour day was full of sacrifice and courage in the face of repression and violence.

We changed the name of our Union to a Guild. Our magazine, our literature, speak little about organizing, little about wages, safety, job security – nothing about oppressive greedy bosses or the meaning of the words, “it’s not in the budget.” We do have seminars to concentrate on all those things which may make us better technicians, more desirable craftsmen for the corporations who are now the Feudal Masters.

Our Guild offers up members at varying prices and conditions depending on what the corporations (large and small) say they can pay or are willing to pay.

The Guild does not, and cannot, guarantee excellence or competence. We serve as a convenience for employers, giving them access to a cohesive labor pool. High budget pictures will buy into the Guild to avoid the expensive disruption of a picket line. They buy the contract as nuisance protection.

Competent workers are available all over the world and pour out of film schools at 100,000 per year. On graduating they work non-union, make their friends and work contacts in the non-union world.

A high level of professional competence is not producers primary concern. Particularly now with “we fix it in post.” On set controls of density, color and framing diminishes the necessity of Guild member professionalism.

A Union, a “Trade Union,” is an alliance, an organized association to further common interests. Traditionally our common interest is for better working conditions, better wages, better safety, job security and an opportunity to have work that enables us to enjoy family, friends and quality of life.

Who are we Local 600 I.A.T.S.E.?

Where do we fit?

Where are we headed?

Who runs the show?

How do we measure progress?

What definition, Guild or Union? How our leadership has performed on the subject of “Hazardous to Your Life” may well reveal in the clearest way many complicated questions. Guild or Union not just words but a critical concept.

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Chicago Tribune “Four Days in Chicago” review…

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My film “Four Days in Chicago” was shot when President Obama invited the world’s most powerful military alliance, NATO to meet in my home town. Today’s Chicago Tribune features a review of “Four Days in Chicago” written by Nina Mets in her “Chicago Close-up” column. You can read it in it’s entirety here.

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Haskell UCLA Speech

UCLA Speech

Thank you, Chancellor Block. I am gratified to receive this medal.

This sure may well be the highest honor a drop-out from UC Berkeley has ever received.  I did have 5 years of non-academic education at sea.

Oh yes, I did get a medal from President Franklin Roosevelt.

 

And Dean Rosen, I am also honored to be here with you. Even though you’re retiring, the basic mission of this program will continue. I am so admiring of the school’s commitment to connect high standards of professionalism in Theatre, Film, Television and Digital Media with the social issues of the real world.

 

 Greetings, storytellers! Welcome to Life. The Movie.

I see Professor Marina Goldovskaya in the audience. Hi Marina! I think it was 1970 or so when you interviewed me for Soviet television. I had just completed the U.S. scenes for my film “War Without Winners” and now I needed shots of Russian autoworkers. Paul Newman and Admiral Gene LaRoque put up the money because they wanted to speak out about the insanity of nuclear war. Mutually Assured Destruction—MAD. Good Americanism against evil, godless Communism.

Do we feel more secure now that we have improved and remote ways to kill and destroy: it’s reality, not a video game. Now the ism is terrorism. How do you kill an ism?

When I was making my picture “Latino” I was up close to U.S. sponsored terrorism in Nicaragua. They were called Contras. President Regan said,  “They were the morally equivalent of our founding fathers.”

 I liked the picture “Dead Man Walking”. Sean Penn’s character sentenced to death for murder was asked for last words. “Killing is bad… if I do it, you all do it, or if the government does it.”

You are graduating. I know the pressures out there are very strong for you to accept the conventional definitions of success. We are storytellers committed to entertain and engage our viewers. I believe you, as artists, can have a conscience and still do good, professional work.

 Life “the movie”. They try to sell us a scenario that we are the good guys, the chosen ones with God on our side. That we fight back. That we have the right. Some even call it patriotic duty… to bring civilization to the rest of the planet.

 Shortly before he died, President Kennedy gave a commencement address at American University about peace—what he called “the most important and least understood topic” in the world.

 “What kind of peace do I mean?” JFK asked the graduates. “What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.”

In a decaying society politics becomes Theater. Bruce Springsteen said, “We live in a time when what is true can be made to seem a lie. And what is a lie can be made to seem true.”

Orwell said that in a time of deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. I am not asking you to commit a revolutionary act. I am asking if you will accept the challenge to be artful storytellers and truth seekers.

Your stories can have an affect on this world. They are an essential part of our moral conversation. As skilled and talented artists, you have a responsibility to yourself, and to all of us.

I remember 43 years ago we were involved in the Viet Nam war. When I received an Academy Award, on the way up to the stage, I thought this might be the only time in my life to speak to millions of people. I said what was in my heart, what was then considered unpatriotic words, “I hope we can use our art for peace and love.”

 One change I like to make now  – we must use our art for “peace and love”. 

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