The International Cinematographers Guild has announced several key staff changes just weeks before its newly elected leaders are to be sworn into office. Rebecca Rhine, the guild’s national executive director, described these and other staffing changes as being “on a scale we have not experienced before.”
The appointments include a new Western Region Director, Assistant Western Region Director, in-house legal counsel and Eastern Region Business Representative.
Alexander Tonisson, a 14-year veteran of the labor movement, has been hired as the ICG’s new Western Region Director, replacing David Behm, who had been with the guild since 1998. “I am very excited about bringing my skills and experience to work with the guild’s members and staff,” Tonisson said. He most recently served as Director of Field Services to the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, where he ran the day-to-day field staff operations in all four of the union’s regional offices, including all representation, legal work, bargaining and internal/external organizing.
Tonisson, who joined the staff on May 20, “is accomplished in program development, coalition building, labor organizing, campaign planning and directing, contract negotiations, directing labor communications, managing union staff and research and legal strategy,” the guild said.
“We look forward to Alex’s fresh perspective and expertise as we continue to build the most effective staff structure we can to better serve our members,” Rhine told the guild’s elected officers in a recent communique.
Xiomara Comrie, who had been the guild’s Lead Business Representative and acting Western Region Director, has been named Assistant Western Region Director of the guild – IATSE Local 600. She joined the guild’s staff in 2008 as a business rep after a 20-year career as a camera assistant. In late 2015, she was appointed the first National Diversity Officer and early last year was promoted to Lead Business Representative, working alongside the diversity and women’s committees to increase awareness and promote inclusion and access within the membership and the industry. Under her watch, Local 600 has implemented communication seminars, Unconscious Bias training for the Local 600 board and members and has forged relationships with numerous organizations including the PGA, Hollywood CPR, Canon, Tiffen and Time’s Up.
“Xiomara’s proactive commitment to responsiveness and her special relationship with so many members because of her work in the craft has been invaluable during this transition and we know she will continue to make great contributions as a member of the senior staff team,” Rhine told the guild’s elected officers.
Heather Pearson, meanwhile, will become the guild’s new in-house Legal Counsel, succeeding the retiring David Adelstein. Pearson was most recently senior counsel at the WGA West. She graduated from UC Davis Law School and was a captain in the United States Army. “She has represented WGA in difficult arbitrations and in state and federal courts and supervised other attorneys and business representatives when they were conducting guild arbitrations,” Rhine told the guild’s officers.
Adelstein, who served as outside legal counsel for 21 years before joining the staff four years ago, will retire at the end of the month, Rhine told the guild’s officers. “We wish David the very best in his retirement and thank him for his tireless service to members and the organization. We are particularly going to miss his tremendous acumen in arbitrations where critical jurisdictional cases are at issue and his deep knowledge about the history of the guild.”
Anna Nowlan, meanwhile, joined the guild’s New York office as an Eastern Region Business Representative on April 29. She most recently served as Lead Organizer for New Jersey Communities United in Newark, NJ, where she was responsible for overseeing all aspects of labor and community organizing campaigns. Prior to that, she worked as a Council Representative and Organizer for District Council 37 AFSCME in New York, where she represented members at investigatory interviews, investigated and filed grievances, lead membership meetings and new member orientations, and was engaged in community and political action outreach.
“As part of our goal to build the most powerful and effective Local 600, we must work together to manage rapid growth in an evolving industry,” Rhine told guild leaders. “Increased infrastructure needs are the inevitable outcome of that change. That means setting priorities and directing resources towards meeting those priorities. With all unions, staff is the key resource that we must deploy effectively. This year we are seeing staff change on a scale we have not experienced before. We are saying goodbye to dedicated and talented friends while welcoming new employees, many with different backgrounds and fresh perspectives.”
The staff changes were made in advance of the June 22 swearing in of the guild’s new president, Lewis Rothenberg, who last month defeated longtime president Steven Poster; newly elected 1st national vice president Christy Fiers, who defeated incumbent Paul Varrieur; newly elected national secretary-treasurer Stephen Wong, who defeated incumbent Eddie Avila; and newly elected assistant national secretary-treasurer Jamie Silverstein, who defeated incumbent Douglas C. Hart.