EXCLUSIVE: In a letter circulating union inboxes today, dozens of IATSE members have come to Matthew Loeb’s defense over claims by the Motion Picture Editors Guild of recent “unprofessional and potentially illegal acts” and disparaging remarks by the International president. However, to paraphrase Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, the signatories to this latest correspondence likely weren’t in the room where it happened.
“In response to an article published in an industry tabloid regarding unfounded comments made by IATSE International President Matt Loeb,” says the short August 9-dated letter (read it here), “we the undersigned were physically in the room and categorically state that those remarks were never made.”
And, incorrect designation of Deadline as a “tabloid” aside, they seem to be right — but about the wrong meeting.
“The IATSE was notified by our law firm that the comment referred to in our letter of August 8 were made in a close-door executive session,” Editors Guild national executive director Cathy Repola told Deadline today, refuting the thrust of this new letter from members of various locals. “The signers of the petition being circulated were not in attendance during that closed-door session.”
IATSE reps had no comment on the petition or the apparent confusion of what happened in what meeting when contacted by Deadline. However, sources do tell us that the larger and open meeting August 6 saw a somewhat formal presentation about the proposed contract made and some restrained back and forth ensued. Union officials confirm there was a closed meeting for the board and staff that day. Apparently, few if any of those who signed this latest letter were at that second meeting, which one insider referred to as “the inner circle.”
IATSE has been holding its regularly scheduled mid-summer meeting of its General Executive Board all this week at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in Manhattan.
Seeking an apology and for Loeb to “withdraw your false statements,” the original August 8 letter from attorney Michale Fienberg at Schwartz Steinsapir, Dohrmann & Sommers LLP on behalf of Local 700 wasn’t specific about what meeting it was pinpointing when it detailed demeaning remarks allegedly made to and about Repola by the IATSE boss on August 6 in NYC.
“Your public comments – not to mention their sexist undertones – serve not only to undermine Ms. Repola, but also infringe upon her freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act,” the Wednesday letter to Loeb and all 13 of the IATSE’s international vice presidents added. “Thus all of your comments violate the law.”
In a response later that day, also exclusively obtained by Deadline, IATSE’s General Counsel Samantha Dulaney called out the letter from the Los Angeles firm as “hasty, ill-informed, and inaccurate.” Which is what the “Response to erroneous report at IA General Executive Board Meeting” headed letter of yesterday affirms in its own way.
“There was a respectful discussion on the terms of the IATSE and AMPTP tentative agreement in which all but one Representative voiced positive remarks,” the “sncerly” signed two-paragrapher said. “At no time did the discussion become personal, aggressive nor disrespectful.”
Again, right but wrong meeting.
As the Editors Guild upper echelon recommended on July 28 that their members vote against the new but “unacceptable” three-year film and TV deal, this new twist is a far far cry from how good things used to be between Loeb and Repola. In 2017, Loeb presented the Editors Guild exec with the “Outstanding Woman Leader Award” for her work as chairwoman of the IATSE’s Women’s Committee. On accepting the honor, Repola thanked Loeb and the convention delegates for “a collective effort to embrace all the women of the IATSE.”
On a more looming note, the 40,000 member strong IATSE has a long history of crushing dissent. A backlash like this, based on half-truths being spread, would not appear to bode well for Repola or the Editors Guild, and could be the precursor to Loeb placing the guild into trusteeship.
In terms of ratifying the new proposed contract, no formal date has been announced and ballots haven’t been sent out yet. When they are, everyone will want to be in the room when those ballots are counted.