THURSDAY AM UPDATE: The IATSE ballots are in the mail now. I am hearing that the package does include the 17-page Memorandum of Agreement. However, members tell me that the Local 600 website is claiming it will post info on the proposed IATSE/AMPTP Basic Agreement “as soon as we have access to it”. Yet the Memorandum of Agreement has been available on the IA website since Monday morning. “We do not know how long the Locals have been sequestering it. As of midnight Wednesday the MOA has not appeared on the 600 website or been sent to the members,” one ICG “Vote No” activist tells me. “Denying access to the MOA while sending out ballots on this most controversial contract in years, and preventing a more informed and detailed discussion and debate on the merits of a contract having enormous repercussions on each and every member and their families, is unconscionable — and raises serious questions as to our leadership’s integrity and fitness to serve.”

WEDNESDAY PM: The ballot package for the proposed IATSE/AMPTP Basic Agreement is being mailed out this week for all 17 “Hollywood” locals with a return due date around March 18th. It will include this letter from IATSE President Matt Loeb who lies to the membership that “a vote against ratification is a vote to authorize a strike”.

That elicited this response from the anti-contract forces inside the Hollywood locals like the 400hours.com website:

We’ve heard that The Current IA VP (VP Division Director of Motion Picture and Television Production, the arm of the IA that controls the BA Locals) has said that there will be no renegotiating the current contract proposal. He has said, in essence, that if the membership does not ratify this contract that he and The Current IA President will call a strike.

The leadership of the IA is using fear to coerce the members to ratify a deeply flawed contract proposal. We feel that refusing, in advance, to abide by the will of the membership (prior to the votes being counted) is absurd. It flies in the face of the most basic foundation of trade unionism: the vote of the membership, the will of the membership. A union is not some sort of corporation to be run by CEO’s. The Current IA President and VP have a responsibility is to fulfill the will of the membership… regardless of their personal opinions. If they do not have the confidence that the contract will be ratified on its merits, they should be preparing a plan “B”. It is wrong and possibly illegal to bully the membership into accepting a contract. We are deeply disappointed to say the least.

Here is the link to the IATSE/AMPTP Memo Of Agreement which opponents are calling “the worst concessionary contract” that the Hollywood locals have ever seen. As one activist in the International Cinematographers Guild emailed his IATSE Local 600 members: “So far as I’m concerned, the MOA gives away employment opportunities in New Media, guts our health plan, and gives no security to those who work on a day to day, or part-time, basis. This contract gives away every reason I can think of for belonging to a union. On top of that, it sews up ‘jurisdiction’ over the Internet which means that no group can create an alternative union that might fight for realistic wages and reasonable terms and conditions of employment.”

Nervous leaders like Steven Poster, ICG Local 600’s national president is telling members, “This is not a deal that I am celebrating. We all know what the downside is.” That’s a reference to the increase from 300 to 400 hours to qualify for health care takes place in August 2011 that will by IATSE’s own estimates hurt as many as 15% of the membership. Poster claims that “we as a Guild will work relentlessly over the next 2 1/2 years to put in place programs and procedures to help every single member keep their coverage. We have already created a task force lead by Director of Photography John Lindley to work on this issue.”

But the “Vote No” forces say that’s not good enough and are advising members:

“The Producers have NEVER faced a rejected Hollywood Basic. Our leadership tells us it would be a crapshoot to reject this contract, but they have no problem asking us to bet on the crapshoot of the IA renegotiating this contract in three years. It is far better to bite the bullet now, and for ONCE tell the Producers: WE’RE MAD AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE, than to swallow this poison pill of a contract and die a slow and humiliating death later.”

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