Teamsters Local 399 has reached an agreement with Quixote Studios to represent its drivers and dispatchers, ending the union’s weeklong boycott of company. Quixote is a leading supplier of production vehicles and trailers to L.A.-based film and TV productions. The deal, which covers about 30 drivers, also calls for an election to see if the company’s 80 warehouse workers want to be represented by the union as well.
“We are very pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Quixote Studios,” Local 399 Secretary-Treasurer Steve Dayan said tonight in a statement to members. “We are officially no longer boycotting Quixote, and in fact we encourage you to buy, rent and use their equipment. With a signed contract in place Quixote will now be paying into your health and retirement fund as well as paying drivers and dispatchers fair wages and working conditions.”
The dispute began August 6 after Quixote decided not to go forward with an election to see if its employees wanted to be represented by the Teamsters. An angry exchange of letters ensued.
“We have no indication from our employees that they desire union representation, or that they are disgruntled with work conditions, compensation or benefits,” Quixote President Mikel Elliott told Dayan on August 6 after the company decided not to recognize the union as the bargaining agent for its employees. “We maintain that Quixote is now and has always been a friend to 399. The vast majority of our rolling stock is operated by 399 members. We recognize 399’s valuable role in the transportation sector of our industry. We see no benevolent or mutually beneficial motivation behind your union’s decision to organize our warehouse workers.”
Stating that he is “more than willing to continue this symbiotic relationship,” Elliott however warned Dayan that “if you choose to undermine that long-standing relationship, understand that we will utilize every resource at our disposal to protect the company that we and our employees value and depend on. We will make it clear to all stakeholders that this is a labor dispute manufactured by a well-healed union against a locally-grown, locally-based company, at a time when our industry needs all stakeholders united to contain costs and bring business back. We will remind our clients – the producers, production companies and studios that rely on our services – that cost increases ultimately get passed on to them.”
Dayan fired back the next day, telling Elliott that “in spite of your trickery and lies, Local 399 will press ahead with seeking recognition and a contract for the drivers and dispatchers and seeking to organize your other underpaid and under-appreciated employees. To those two ends, we will use every weapon available to labor, from launching a boycott next week to picketing your rolling stock wherever it is situated, whether parked at a location or next to a sound stage on the Disney lot.”
Dayan, who also serves as chairman of the California Film Commission, told Elliott that his inference that the Teamsters were contributing to runaway production was “highly offensive.”
“How dare a company that made enough money off the backs of its employees in Los Angeles to invest $15 million on a facility in Louisiana lecture this union on keeping jobs local,” Dayan angrily wrote. “And let's be real, you want to keep your company’s labor costs down by even misclassifying employees as independent contractors not to pass the savings on to customers, but to continue buying expensive foreign cars and buying up competitors like Movie Movers.”
Seeing that it was fighting a losing battle to try to maintain a nonunion Teamsters shop in Hollywood, Quixote relented Friday.
“This has been a major distraction for our industry,” Elliott said in a statement Friday night. “It is now time to focus on the passage of AB 1839 and get back to work,” referring to the passage of a new $400 million California tax incentives program.
“Both sides were determined to reach an accord without further delay in order to send a message to studios, production companies and advertisers that it’s business as usual for production in Los Angeles and throughout California,” Quixote said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is the workers in our industry that have been caught in the middle of all this. The leadership of both Quixote and Local 399 took this to heart and displayed remarkable restraint and a willingness to compromise for the greater good of all stakeholders. The Teamsters and Quixote have agreed for Local 399 to represent Quixote drivers and dispatchers. In addition, per the rules of the National Labor Relations Act, there will be a secret ballot election in the near future in which Quixote warehouse workers can decide whether they want to be represented by Local 399 as a collective bargaining unit.”