Chuck Parker is facing a tough re-election bid as national executive director of the Art Directors Guild, IATSE Local 800. Three years ago, he ran unopposed, but this time four challengers — including two former guild presidents — are running against him. Ballots will go out March 29 and will be counted April 19.
The Art Directors Guild is unusual in that it’s the only Hollywood guild with national jurisdiction that elects its top executive officer – the result of a 2016 Department of Labor ruling that found that its national executive director is an “officer” and not an “employee,” thus requiring an election by the members. That is how Parker first got elected to the post in 2016, defeating longtime incumbent Scott Roth, who had never before stood for election but was appointed by the executive board for 18 years. In 2020, the job paid nearly $250,000 a year.
The four candidates seeking to unseat Parker are Marcia Hinds, Susan Largent and former ADG presidents Mimi Gramatky and Thomas Walsh.
In his campaign statement, Parker said he’s running on his record over the past six years, and on his support for IATSE’s past two film and TV contacts, including last year’s narrowly ratified pact that was approved by two-thirds of the guild’s voting members.
“In both of those negotiations, we were able to significantly increase contribution levels into our benefit plans,” Parker wrote. “It was those increases achieved during the 2018 negotiations that allowed us to fund the critical, Covid-19 health insurance eligibility extensions. In 2021, we made historic gains in Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plan contribution levels for on-call employees as well as supporting diversity, equity and inclusion and health & safety initiatives that will change the industry. We built alliances with other locals that will serve us in future negotiations and beyond.”
“The future,” he wrote, “has not been written and we need to write our own. That is how we garner the respect of our industry’s peers, which we whole-heartedly deserve, and the power and influence necessary to protect our craft and our membership.”
Walsh, who was president of the guild from 2003-13, is one of Parker’s harshest critics, claiming that members’ dues have been “wasted on excessive and unnecessary executive trips,” that members of the guild’s staff have been “subject … to physical and emotional intimidation” and that there have been “no audits of our financial or management practices and staff performance.”
“For the past nine years,” Walsh wrote in his campaign statement, “a minority of members have maintained control over our governance and squandered our dues. They have shown a lack of management acumen and of transparency in the execution of the membership’s business affairs. Our greatest challenge is to restore accountability and trust in our governance.”
Gramatky, who was president of the guild from 2013-16, said in her statement that she believes in “the five Cs: Connection, Collaboration, Creativity, and Compromise to achieve Consensus! The pandemic gave pause, yet acceleration continues. Technology has advanced globalization. Freelance continues as a business model. Zoom and 3D images are commonplace in art departments. Pay equity needs solving. Recent contract negotiations clarified that control and competition cause contention and low achievement.”
She added: “Being the National Executive Director takes dedicated work. It requires practicing the 5Cs among all crafts, genders, ages and ethnicities. Divisiveness must stop! Eliminate competitive egos. Control and complacency are not options. Engaging the 5Cs begins with your participation. Please VOTE.”
Hinds, a former member of the guild’s executive board, is also critical of how the guild is being run.
“For years we have been demanding transparency,” she wrote in her campaign statement. “Demanding fair representation of employment, freedom to express our opinions without repercussions. Not having one craft prosper while another craft has poor representation. We need to stop the gossiping, cliques, and bullying against members. Our members should never fear not being hired because they have a different opinion. It’s worse today than it’s ever been. This needs to stop! These are just a few reasons why I want to step up and become your new National Executive Director.
“The Board of Directors had not conducted an audit for four years,” Hinds added. “This is unacceptable. It is my view that not only are the Board of Directors responsible, but our National Executive Director as well as the Associate National Executive Director are accountable. When someone disagrees with the Board of Directors, they should not be muted. I have witnessed members with their hand raised be ignored during meetings. This censorship cannot continue. Members have the right to review the budget before it is passed. Members have the right to tell their representatives if they approve of the spending, how it’s paid for and how it will affect their dues.”
Largent, a member of the guild for more than 20 years, describes herself as an “outlier” who is making her first run for union office.
“I feel it is time for the ADG members to be heard, have a greater role in the decisions affecting their careers and have new, progressive contracts,” she wrote in her campaign statement. “While it is important to have experienced individuals involved in the operations of the Union, the other candidates have held other offices in the ADG, yet everything has remained status quo. I am the outlier who has not run for a Union office before now.
“I will be a proactive voice and facilitate change so that the members’ best interests are at the forefront,” Largent continued. “Let’s progress together! I’m one of you; I’m working side-by-side with you. I hear you and understand your concerns. I have them too. Did the Union not know the answer to your questions or even return your call? Did your Union representatives stop by your office before contracts were negotiated so you could talk face-to-face and express any concerns or ask questions? Did they make themselves available in person or get back to you with answers to your questions? I want to be your voice for contracts that reflect the world and challenges of today.”
The guild is also electing or re-electing an associate national executive director, which in 2020 paid more than $200,000 a year. In that race, the incumbent and Parker ally who goes by the name of dooner is facing off against Joel Cohen, the guild’s field rep for the past five years. Numerous other board and council seats representing the guild’s many crafts are also up for grabs.
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