March 14th, 2014
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.