NEW YORK — Union projectionists held an informational picket in front of the invitation-only gala at the new Independent Film Channel (IFC) theater here June 9, after management broke off talks with their union and hired nonunion, unlicensed projectionists, in violation of state law.
Michael Goucher, president of Local 306 of the International Alliance of Theater and Stage Employees (IATSE), told the World, “These folks here are using the word ‘independent’ to crush our union.”
Barry Garfman, the local’s business representative, said, “They’re refusing to sit down and negotiate with us, even though we were promised that they would.”
IFC had spoken with IATSE representatives, telling them that the company recognized the union as the representative of local projectionists. In a surprise move, IFC opened the theater using nonunion labor. After checking with the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, Local 306 found that one of the projectionists is unlicensed. According to the laws of New York State, projectionists in certain cities and towns — including NYC — must pass a test and obtain a license.
Goucher says a licensed, unionized workforce in this field benefits workers and theatergoers alike. Such a well-trained workforce increases the quality of the screenings, especially in a theater like IFC’s, where there are many different types of film and video projection techniques.
Goucher, who said he has worked through two fires and two power blackouts, insisted that it is critical to the safety of the public to have professionals like Local 306 members who are trained in crowd control.
He said that no one knew what the nonunion projectionist at the IFC theater is paid. “We do know that if he was a union guy, he’d be getting benefits, a pension, and all those contributions that oftentimes are not even thought of in a situation like this. It’s the difference between having a job and having a life.”
Chanel Patterson of Steamfitters Union Local 638, who was passing by, told the World she supported the picket. “I don’t agree with any nonunion work. Everything that has to be done by union should be done by union, and no other way. If it’s not union I don’t stand for it ever.”
Independent Film Channel Theater did not return calls to the World for comment. Those wishing to contact IFC’s parent company, Rainbow Media, can call (516) 803-3000.