EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca Rhine, who has served as national executive director of the International Cinematographers Guild since December 2015, is stepping down when her contract expires at the end of September.
Rhine, IATSE Local 600’s first female executive director, explained in a letter to the guild’s elected officials Sunday, “This Local has so much heart and so much potential, but it can be undermined by mistrust and our tendency to turn on each other.”
“Building a stronger union requires patience, collaboration, and hard work,” she wrote. “That means instead of posting about how it should be done, do something. That means if you are going to talk about what is wrong, offer some ideas for how you think it could be done right. That means bringing members together to educate and empower them by telling them the truth, even when it isn’t what they want to hear. Then turn your attention outward to the fight that matters to working members, the one with our employers for better wages, benefits and working conditions.”
Guild president John Lindley, who is stepping aside after his one term in office ends June 18, sent a letter to guild leaders and staff on Sunday notifying them of Rhine’s decision. “My single regret,” he wrote, “is that we were unable to maintain an environment for her that would have encouraged her to stay.” Four candidates are vying to succeed him in the guild’s ongoing officer elections, which conclude on Thursday.
With nearly 9,000 active members, the guild is IATSE’s largest local, and one of only three with national jurisdiction. During a fractious vote last November for a new film and TV contract, the guild was one of five of IATSE’s 13 West Coast studio locals that voted against it, though Rhine and the guild’s officers had recommended its ratification.
Rhine, in her letter to Lindley, the national executive officers and the national executive board members, said:
“I write today to let you know that I will not be seeking to renew my employment contract with Local 600 once it expires at the end of this September. I am choosing to tell you this now so there is absolutely no perception that my decision is connected in any way to the outcome of the Local 600 election currently underway.
“I do not make this decision lightly. The work we have done together over the past six and a half years has been both challenging and deeply meaningful for me. So many elected leaders and rank and file members have gifted me with their warmth, kindness, and support. I hope each of you knows how much that has meant to me.
“The employees of the organization have worked tirelessly to create the union every working person and their family deserves. They have done all I have asked of them, and more. I believe together we have created a partnership of elected leaders and professional staff that is committed to building a stronger, smarter, and more effective local. I hope that continues.”
Rhine went on to say: “I believe the fight for working families is the most righteous fight there is, and I will do all I can to ensure a smooth transition through September and beyond.” Signing off “with my deepest respect and affection,” she appended a quote from Japanese writer Haruki Murakami: “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm’s all about.”
Lindley said in his letter on Sunday:
“Today, national executive director Rebecca Rhine, informed me by letter of her decision not to renew her contract at the end of this September. During her six-and-a-half-year tenure with our Local, Rebecca has brought her significant labor skills, intelligence, warmth and humor to her work and elevated our Local to new heights for the benefit of all of our members. Her strategic and tactical expertise guided us through multiple contract negotiations, an industrywide shutdown, a fractious ratification, and more. We now have a functioning PAC (political action committee) and legislative initiatives that will serve us far into the future. Perhaps most importantly, we have made new and stronger alliances with other Locals in the Hollywood bargaining unit.
“She has strengthened our structure by attracting talented and dedicated professional staff in every corner of our Local. Rebecca has assured me of her continuing dedication to our members by doing whatever it takes to help us through the transition to a new national executive director. While it is often said that everyone is replaceable, Rebecca has set a new standard that will be difficult to match. My single regret is that we were unable to maintain an environment for her that would have encouraged her to stay. I am sure you join me in wishing her well into her future wherever that leads her.”