EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood’s Studio Teachers Local 884 has won a major victory in its nine-year struggle to get the producer of many of Nickelodeon’s kids shows to sign its contract. Under the terms of the IATSE’s new Hollywood labor contract, Rocart Inc. has agreed that it now will hire union teachers for all the child actors it employs on shows it produces for the popular children’s TV channel.
Up until now, Rocart has been hiring nonunion studio teachers for the shows through a referral agency and classifying them as “independent contractors.” The teachers union has long argued that this was a misclassification and that the nonunion teachers Rocart hired were really its employees. Earlier this year, one of the local’s members even sued Rocart over this alleged misclassification. It’s expected that that suit will be dropped.
“This is a big victory for those teachers. It’s been a battle that we’ve be fighting since 2006,” said former Local 884 business rep Linda Stone, who gave credit to Rocart for signing the contract and “doing the right thing.”
Shows that Rocart produces for Nickelodeon include Henry Danger, The Thundermans, Bella And The Bulldogs, Game Shakers and Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn. Under the terms of the agreement, the shows’ teachers will get to keep their jobs and can join the union after 30 days of covered employment. It’s believed that fewer than a dozen studio teachers currently are employed on the shows but that many more will come to work under the union’s contract if Rocart’s lineup for Nickelodeon expands.
Some employers prefer to hire “independent contractors” because it can save them a lot of money. By not having them on their payrolls, employers don’t have to pay taxes covering unemployment and Workers’ Comp benefits or pay the employer’s half of Social Security and Medicare taxes, which the independent contractors must pay for themselves. Some have called this “wage theft” because paying the employer’s share of these taxes can reduce independent contractors’ take-home pay by as much as 7%.
Companies that hire independent contractors also don’t have to provide them with pension and health benefits, and they don’t have to pay them overtime or provide accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Independent contractors also are not protected from employment discrimination by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and are not entitled to leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.