Deborah Eden, whose husband Brent Hershman was killed while driving home after working a 19-hour day on Pleasantville in 1997, has joined the “Vote No to Save Lives” movement, urging IATSE members to reject the union’s new film and TV contract.
Please vote no!” she posted on Facebook. Ratification ballots were sent recently to 43,000 members of the union’s 13 West Coast studio locals and will be counted on October 10.

Hershman’s death sparked a movement – and a documentary film – to curb the industry’s long work hours. And while the new contract does contain some relief in this area, it offers Los Angeles-based members of Editors Guild Local 700 an hour less turnaround between work shifts than members of the other 12 Hollywood locals. And plenty of loopholes remain in the new turnaround provision that would allow for extremely long workdays on many shows.

Motion Picture Editors Guild

“The change for turnaround is nine hours for Local 700 and 10 hours for all other locals,” Cathy Repola, national executive director of the Editors Guild, told her members recently. “However, this will not apply to pilots and first-season episodics.” And, as she noted in a recent podcast, “That area is absolutely where our members need the relief the most.”

Repola told her members: “For features and long-form TV, the provision will only apply if you work two consecutive 14-hour days. None of this will apply to any on-call employees. An additional hour of straight time pay is the only penalty if the ninth hour is invaded.”

Eden, who is not a member of IATSE, was featured prominently in Haskell Wexler’s 2006 documentary Who Needs Sleep? about the dangers of long workdays.

“He was exhausted, but his 8-year-old daughter Ariel had been sick and he wanted to be with her when she woke up,” she said in the film. “It was late when Brent called to say he was coming home, and I remember asking him if he was going to be able to have enough rest to get up to take Ariel to the doctor; she had strep throat. He told me he loved me and he would be home.”

But he never made it home. “Midway through his trip, the exhaustion overcame him. He drove his car off the road and was killed,” she said in the film.

IATSE

Hershman, an assistant camera operator, was a member of IATSE Cinematographers Guild Local 600, whose leaders are urging a yes vote on the new contract.

Repola and the Editors Guild’s leadership are opposed to ratification of the contract, but has remained mum on why she believes her local was singled out for not receiving shorter turnarounds – at least for now.

“We had a unified mantra going into these negotiations,” she said Wednesday during a podcast conversation with Scott George, the guild’s Western executive director. “We all agreed everyone would get 10 hours. Nobody would be left behind; nobody would be carved out of that. And that’s not what occurred.”

He added, “There’s been a lot of speculation as to why (Local) 700 ended up with only nine hours, where the other locals received 10.”

“Understandably so,” Repola replied, noting that her members in New York already enjoy a 10-hour turnaround.

“But you’ve been reluctant to comment on that,” he said.

“My primary goal is to have members educated about what they’re voting for or against, and I think my commenting on that particular point would move the dialogue in a direction that I’ve been reluctant to promote. And yet, I have been asked about it repeatedly, so perhaps there will come a time where I will have to actually talk about it in a way that’s I’m reluctant to do so now.”

In a new video posted on its Facebook page, IATSE says that “after decades of trying, we have finally made a massive stride forward in improving rest time provisions. It was a hard fight, but ultimately we triumphed.”

Commenters on the video, however, are mostly opposed to the deal, outnumbering those who support it 50-4. “Only when the contract actually limits the work day will long hours be eliminated,” wrote commenter Kristin Glover.

Even so, with the backing of IATSE leaders and 12 Hollywood locals, the contract is expected to be ratified. Failing to do so will result in a strike authorization with no guarantee the companies will return to the bargaining table.