EXCLUSIVE: The election of officers and board members at IATSE Local 871 is heating up with three weeks to go until ballots are counted. Presidential candidate Crystal Hopkins told Deadline that her opponent, Doug Boney, has a “conflict of interest” that makes him “unable to be a full-time representative of our local.” Boney claims that Hopkins’ “vague and inaccurate statement may be due to her lack of experience in union governance.”
Boney, besides currently serving as vice president of the local, is also the salaried business rep of IATSE Studio Teachers Local 884, a post that pays him $64,000 a year – which is nearly half of the $132,000 in dues the Studio Teachers local collected from its 127 members last year.
Hopkins contends that if Boney is elected as the unpaid president of Local 871 – which represents more than 2,300 script supervisors; production, script and art department coordinators; accountants; and writers’ assistants – his first allegiance will be to the much smaller Studio Teachers local that pays him a salary, plus pension and health benefits.
“I feel that one of the major separators of Doug and I is that I have no conflict of interest when it comes to representing our Local 871 members,” she told Deadline. “Doug, on the other hand, is the business representative for Local 884 — the Studio Teachers local. This means that when he presents himself at IATSE conventions, delegations, and the like, his main priority will have to be as an employee of Local 884, not as the voluntary president of Local 871. The sitting president for Local 871 should be someone who would not have this conflict, so that the members can be best served. I do not begrudge Doug his role in another local, and I am proud of his work for unions in general, but I do not feel that a board seat, especially an executive seat, is best filled by someone who is unable to be a full-time representative of our local.”
There is nothing illegal or improper for him to serve in both positions, and Boney told Deadline that “If I am elected the next president of Local 871, I will continue to represent all members fully and fairly, as the current board and I have during my service as vice president.”
Hopkins and Boney also differed over the recent ratification of the new IATSE film and TV contract: Hopkins was against it, and Boney was reportedly for it. Only one of IATSE’s 13 West Coast studio locals – Editors Guild Local 700 – voted to reject the pact, but Local 871 had the narrowest approval margin of all the other locals. It also had the lowest voter turnout – with only 18% of its members casting ballots – 228 in favor and 182 opposed.
“I was a firm advocate for a ‘No” vote from the 871 membership for the contract ratification,” Hopkins said. “And I was ‘No’ with full knowledge that the contract would be ratified anyway. We are not a large enough electoral body to tip that scale, but I wanted our local to make a statement about our crafts’ treatment and standing within the industry with a powerful ‘No’ voice.”
The local’s current president, Dawn Gilliam, isn’t seeking re-election, but she’s supporting Hopkins’ team – known as the Working Members, Working for Members slate. Dissatisfied with the local’s leadership, Gilliam is calling for all of her fellow incumbent officers and board members to be defeated. In her out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new endorsements, she’s also urging members to vote for all the board candidates on Hopkins’ slate.
“Our local needs board of directors that are in touch with the membership,” she wrote in her endorsement. “How can you make decisions for members when you’re not communicating with the members? Ask yourself this: ‘Is your voice being heard at the board level?’ If not, vote for someone new! First vote! Then, vote for this slate!”
Gilliam has also raised questions about whether the local should continue to employ Leslie Simon, the local’s business rep and chief executive officer, who was paid $152,000 last year.
“Leslie’s contract is up in June and members can vote ‘No’ in renewing her contract,” Gilliam said in an email that’s been circulating among members. “Then the board would have to start asking the hard question: is this person the right fit?”
“It is true her contract is up in June and it’s up to the membership to approve or not approve her contract,” Gilliam told Deadline from London. “Recently the members asked for a Business Reps review, which gives the membership opportunity to weigh in on Leslie Simon’s performance as business rep, which happens before her contract is up.”
Simon, who’s been the local’s business rep since 2013, isn’t mentioned in any of the candidates’ statements, but as one member noted, her continued employment “is the elephant in the room.”
“Leslie has been told numerous times about her behavior,” Gilliam said in an email. “She takes offense at everything. The staff is afraid of being fired.”
Simon also serves as an elected delegate to IATSE conventions, and Boney’s slate – known as Building on Progress Together – is endorsing her for re-election to that post. Hopkins’ slate, however, isn’t endorsing her.
Simon told Deadline that “Local 871’s election is an internal matter and our membership will decide the direction that they would like to local to take.”
Hopkins told Deadline she believes “It is the job of the board to listen to the members and do what is required by the membership no matter how uncomfortable, difficult, or awkward it becomes. I do not feel that the current board has always fulfilled that responsibility.”
“Local 871 is in the midst of an internal union election,” Boney told Deadline. “The members will choose the candidates they feel will best continue building on the progress the local has achieved these past three years, such as the pay equity campaign. As the current vice president, I have stepped up so the local runs smoothly in the absence of the president.”
Both slates have embraced the pay equity movement, which seeks to raise the salaries of those employed in Hollywood’s historically female crafts. Boney, who chairs the local’s Diversity Committee, says in his campaign statement that he “spearheaded getting the Pay Equity Study off the ground by working with our Business Representative to research and interview potential candidates to conduct the study and collaborating with Working Ideal during the research phase of the study.”
That study, commissioned by Local 871 and prepared by the Washington, D.C.-based firm Working Ideal, found a substantial gender pay gap in many below-the-line crafts.
“Pay equity,” Hopkins said in her campaign statement, “is the issue that first brought me on my journey into unionism and activated me to begin some real work. I sent out emails and held a town hall, called into the local to have questions answered, and shared everything I learned to anyone that would listen. I started meeting people for coffee and lunch to discuss what needed to be done, what we could do together, how we could hold power in the space we had, where we were, and make a real change. And we did! Inspiration came from everywhere, and the collective “we” made real headway in the fight for fair pay for the art department coordinator craft. And we continue and will keep doing so until we – all of the 871 crafts – are held to the same level of respect that every other IATSE member has.”
Hopkins’ vice presidential running mate, Marisa Shipley, chairs the local’s pay equity campaign, known as #ReelEquity. “In working on and becoming chair of the #ReelEquity pay equity campaign, I have put a ton of work into connecting with others in the industry about the particular issues that face those working in our crafts,” Shipley wrote in her campaign statement. “And I see change, slow change and small change, but I do see that the work we are doing is paving the way for progress.”
Pamela Brown, Boney’s vice presidential running mate, is a Local 871 board member who advocated for commissioning the pay equity study. “This successful investigation led to the Reel Equity Campaign and an open letter to the industry calling for fair pay,” she said in her campaign statement. “I’m proud to be an original signer of this letter and a Committee member. Now we must unite behind our Reel Equity Campaign to gain deeper respect in the industry, and join with other IATSE members to create an unbeatable force in the next negotiations.”
Hopkins’ other running mates include Elizabeth Seaford, who’s running for secretary; Kirby Firtenberry III for treasurer; and Susan Lowitz for sergeant at arms. Their team is also fielding a full slate of board, trustee and delegate candidates.
Boney’s other running mates include Sandy Fleck, who’s running for re-election as secretary; Michael Williams, who’s running for reelection as treasurer; and RJ Hume, a board member who’s running for sergeant at arms. Their team is also fielding a full slate of board, trustee and delegate candidates, which can be seen here:
Election ballots, which were mailed out Monday, will be counted on December 20.