In a year-end message to her members, Cathy Repola, national executive director of Editors Guild Local 700, said that IATSE president Matt Loeb “had no interest in any input from me” during the union’s recent negotiations for a new film and TV contract.
“He was not interested in what I had to say and was completely unwilling to have a conversation with me about the negotiation issues that were so deeply important to the livelihoods of our members,” she wrote. Citing 2018 as “a year of great awakening for our guild,” she recalled how her members stood ready to strike for shorter workdays and more funding for their pension plan – only to have their demands ignored by Loeb.
“When we held our special membership meetings in late July to discuss the ongoing negotiations,” she told her members, “you showed up en masse. After hearing the details, you sent me away from those meetings with a clear and resounding mandate to return to the table and continue to fight for a 10-hour turnaround for everyone, as well as long-term security for your pensions. Those meetings were incredibly inspiring, and our shared enthusiasm to make some meaningful changes in these negotiations was reinforced as our mission. You wanted the IA leadership to know that not only were these the priorities for the Local 700 membership, but also that the vast majority of our membership was prepared to fight to achieve these goals. The abundance of unified energy in those rooms made me excited about our potential achievements, and I took steps to relay our message to the IA leadership.
“Unfortunately, that excitement soon vanished when, at my request, I met with our chief negotiator, IATSE President Matt Loeb,” repola continued. “This level of membership activism was not appreciated in the way it should have been. In my opinion, he had made his mind up already about what the final deal would look like and he was not happy we were not going along with the program.” During the negotiations, she wrote, “He had marginalized Local 700, as evidenced by his allowing the producers to give Local 700 a shorter turnaround than all of the other locals. That was wrong and should never have happened. And the other locals – all 12 of them – went along with it.”
Once a favorite of Loeb’s, he’d appointed her to serve as the chair of the first-ever IATSE Women’s Committee in 2015, and presented her with his Outstanding Woman Leader Award at the IA convention in 2017. But they had a bitter and public falling out during the lengthy and contentious ratification vote when the Editors Guild – the IATSE’s second-largest local – stood alone in voting to reject the new contract with management’s AMPTP, which was ratified in October with the backing of 12 of the 13 West Coast studio locals’ leaders and a majority of their members.
Loeb accused her of waging a “propaganda campaign” against the pact and blew his top at her during a tense IATSE executive board meeting August 6 in New York City. Attorneys for the guild said his rant contained “sexist undertones,” and accused him of having “ridiculed and threatened” her at the meeting. They also claimed he made comments that “violate the law” by infringing “upon her freedom of speech.”
Then, two weeks after the pact was ratified, Loeb unceremoniously booted her off the board of the pension and health plans. In response, she and Editors Guild president Alan Heim told Loeb that “it is hard to avoid the troubling conclusion that Cathy’s removal is anything other than a retaliatory act for our opposition to the terms of the 2018 IATSE Basic Agreement.”
“Also unwarranted and inappropriate,” she wrote in her year-end message, were Loeb’s “continuing efforts to discredit me and retaliate against me, as demonstrated by his unjustified removal of me from the board of directors of the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans.” A petition demanding her return to the board has been signed by more than 1,700 of her supporters.
Repola also called for a return to civility and unity among IATSE members. “During the ratification process,” she noted, “many members on both sides of the merits of the new agreement felt passionately about their positions – and sometimes that passion led to somewhat disrespectful behavior. I don’t think that exemplifies who we are as a union. We must be able to disagree and to do so by demonstrating respect and dignity, viewing any differences as differing opinions and not a division. On many levels, we are already more united than it appears. We need to build upon that commonality for the successful future of our union. You have demonstrated that this can be achieved.”
Despite her differences with Loeb, Repola says she will continue to fight for the local’s members. “As I stand firm in my commitment to fully represent the members of Local 700, that will always be my absolute No. 1 priority,” she said in her year-end missive. “My actions throughout were unequivocally guided by the will of our board of directors and the membership. When our values and goals mesh with the IA’s, that is of course most ideal. But there should not be a penalty when they do not. The IA has done a great deal of good for the members, and the IA I have known seeks to collectively unify, regardless of our differences. That unfortunately was not at all what we experienced.
“Two years ago,” she wrote, “when I stepped into the head leadership role of our Guild, I brought the same principles with me that have always been important to me: to never compromise my integrity, to always work to my full potential, to lift up others around me, to not be afraid to speak up when things are not right, and to stand up and fight to improve the working lives of our members.
“As we head into 2019,” she concluded, “much of my work will be to interact closely with the Guild’s officers and board of directors to lay out our priorities. I ask you to stay tuned as we call upon you for further involvement and action. This is merely the beginning. You must remain engaged. To stand alongside you with our fists in the air has been a true privilege, and I am thankful for the honor of serving the membership of Local 700.”