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Historic Organizing Campaign for American Film Institute Employees

November 4, 2009 - The non-represented front-of-the-house employees at the American Film Institute, Silver Theater and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, were treated as second-rate employees in comparison to other AFI employees.   At this location, the projectionists have historically been covered by an IATSE collective bargaining agreement, but the front-of-the-house non-technical workers were not represented.   The front-of-the-house employees were paid barely over minimum wage and received no benefits because they were routinely scheduled for too few qualifying hours.

A large majority of the impacted employees signed authorization cards and a recognition petition was then filed with the NLRB.  At the point when recognition was demanded, AFI began a vicious anti-union attack against the workers’ campaign.  Management stooped to writing scare-tactic letters to the employees in attempts to discourage their efforts to organize.  In response, President Loeb directed a strategy utilizing the national resources of the IATSE to defend the rights of these employees seeking to organize and gain union representation.  President Loeb put pressure on the company by informing the public of the dispute, and by threatening potential action at the site of the AFI Fest in Los Angeles if the matter remained unresolved.   As a result of discussions between the IATSE and executives at AFI in Los Angeles, the management at the Silver Theater location altered their tactics and positions, and resumed bargaining.

Negotiations concluded in November and the contract went into effect in December.

A loud message was carried to the employer that the IATSE stands together to protect its own and an attack against one group is an attack against the entire IATSE.