Membership Growth Increases Diversity

From The Official Bulletin: 2017 Q1 / No. 655:

Membership Growth Increases Diversity

"Union membership density in the United States and Canada has been on the decline for several years, yet IATSE membership is growing. In 1993, the 100-year anniversary for the Alliance, membership was 74,344. Today we represent over 132,000 working people in the entertainment industry. As our membership has grown, so has the diversity of the Alliance. As our membership develops to reflect a diverse society, one of the main ways we can represent our members is to assure equality in the workplace through our contracts with employers.


Why is this important?


As members of the IATSE, we know that Unions empower workers and their families as employees and citizens. One of the main ways that the IATSE can assure empowerment in the workplace is the transparency that is provided in collective bargaining agreements. These contracts increase fairness and prevent discrimination in the workplace. This is one way Unions help in the fight for equality in the workplace.


Employers typically promote a culture of secrecy around what others are paid. This pay secrecy makes it easier to be arbitrary on wages and ignore discrimination in the work place. With a Union contract everyone can see the rates that have been collectively negotiated.


Under the National Labor Relations Act, all workers have the right to engage in "concerted activity for mutual aid and protection." This means coworkers can get together and talk about things that matter in the work place, including wages. Often times people are uncomfortable talking about wages in the work place, regrettably this perpetuates pay secrecy. Most working people don't know they are allowed to talk about wages, so few know their rights.


Unions typically raise workers' wages by 11% on average, but collective bargaining has an even greater effect on wages of people of color by increasing earnings by more than 17% on average. When workers stand up together to negotiate a contract, they have the ability to request information from the employer that is relevant to the negotiations. This includes pay rates for all employees who would be covered by the contract.


A prime example of this was a recently organized group of workers negotiating their first contract. They noticed, when comparing the wages of all the workers in the bargaining unit, a person with a non-European American sounding name made $2.00 per hour less than other workers. This was despite the fact that the job classification and the years of service were the same as other coworkers. This became an important issue for the unit to assure that all of the employees would have pay equity, through the process of coming together with one voice the workers created fairness through transparency. All employees in that job classification are now paid the same.


Another way a collectively bargained contract can protect workers and provide equity is in non-discrimination clauses. Many contracts state that the employer cannot discriminate based on age, race, religion or gender. It is important for local unions to also add sexual orientation and sexual identity to those clauses. Even though the US Supreme Court established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, in thirty-one states an employee can be fired solely for being gay. If an employee is transgender they only have protections in the workplace in three states in the U.S. That is not the case if the union has negotiated this clause in their contract for their protection. That is why adding these classifications is so important for our members.


So as the IATSE continues to grow, we must remember that in addition to providing fair wages and benefits for workers, a collectively bargained contract is the most effective way to reduce inequity in the workplace."