”Today, we say that when you pick a fight with any of us, you pick a fight with all of us! And that when you push us, we will push back!”
-speech by Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer, AFL-CIO, 10/26/1995
The American Labor Movement has progressed slowly and painfully through the last century. From this effort there have been many successful gains for the American worker. Perhaps the most significant would be the cornerstone of US labor law, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), sometimes called the Wagner Act. Here’s a short chronicle of events leading up to it being enacted by Congress. Before the passage of the NLRA in 1936, employers were free to spy on, interrogate, discipline, fire, and blacklist union members. During the Great Depression workers engaged in general strikes. On numerous fronts and workplaces they battled police and private security forces. They had next to no rights or privileges insured by law. After much effort by organized labor, benefits slowly evolved; 40 hours, vacation pay, medical benefits, weekends, etc. These are undeniable facts that come directly from efforts by unions & the American Labor Movement. But now union-busting groups and the politicians they own tend to interpret historical events in a light shaded toward management. They promote the idea that unions impeded the growth of American industries, increased costs, and hampered free-trade and capitalist principles, in general. Basically, that trade unionism was un-American. SO NOT TRUE! I feel that the best of today’s historians think Congress instigated the Wagner Act to steer unions away from potentially revolutionary confrontations. Because of the NLRA, by 1945 union contracts covered one third of the private sector workforce. A great wave of strikes hit the US in 1945-1946. Business interests petitioned Congress to amend the NLRA. This resulted in the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 that weakened many union protections. And then the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959 imposed additional restrictions. Our agenda for the future is clear: we need to continue to fight for and advance these workplace protections and, at the same time, create new strategies and tactics for the battles of the new century.
-ARE UNIONS DEAD?
Quite often these days you see reports saying UNIONS ARE DEAD. It is true, there has been a decline in unionized numbers. There is strong anti-union sentiment in all parts of this country backed by corporations. They feed off these reports. We must fight back against these anti-union arguments. The average person these days knows more of these “un-truths” than the real story of what benefits come from unions. Here are some facts and ideas for rebutting these common complaints against unions:
Corporations blame unions for rising prices of consumer goods, plant shutdowns and the decline of entire industries. But they never mention bad management decisions, or competition from state-subsidized nations, or corporations moving abroad to pay less wages, or corporate greed. Consider this, in the 1970’s, the average chief executive officer of a major corporation was paid 41 times what his average worker was paid. By 2004, the average CEO in a large corporation was paid a whopping 431 times what his company’s average hourly wage worker was paid. Mind blowing statistics, and still growing. Undeniable CORPORATE GREED.
-ALL UNIONS CORRUPT?
Yes, it’s true a few union leaders have been convicted of illegal activities. The vast majority of union leaders are honest and hard working folks. They have to be, unions are one of the most democratic institutions in the country. Union failings are nothing compared to what goes on in American business. I looked up some old numbers by the US Chamber of Commerce, and the estimate for the total cost of white collar crime in 1997 was $338 billion dollars. Keep in mind that the Chamber of Commerce is hardly an organization that wants to make US corporations look bad. And the numbers are higher today in.
The annual costs of anti-trust & trade violations is more that $250 billion. Compare that with all the Union dues collected in a year, approx. $7-$10 billion a/year. Corruption in big corporations makes all other things insignificant. Think greedy scandals with giants like Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, Adelphia, Global Crossing, and the banking scandals, to name a few. A good juicy corrupt union scandal gets all the media coverage. As long as corporations own the mass media, that’s the way it will be.
-UNIONS: ARE A SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP?
Of all the anti-union arguments, this is the worst. That we just cater to our own special group of unionized labor. Look at what unions have done for all Americans. Union support helped pass laws to achieve SOCIAL SECURITY, PUBLIC EDUCATION, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION, CIVIL RIGHTS, VOTING RIGHTS, AND WORKER SAFETY. Even after passing of ACA, Unions still continue to fight for HEALTHCARE for everybody. Unionized workers earn not only one third more on average than non-union, but also have more job security, health benefits, pensions, and protection against UNJUSTIFIED DISCIPLINE.
This reveals a simple truth: unions are good for ALL American workers. To make this point clear, John F. Kennedy spoke on this topic in one of his speeches on the Labor Movements in this country. To quote President Kennedy, “Our Labor Unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through Collective Bargaining and Grievance Procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor”.
-A CALL TO ARMS?
When you hear news on these topics from the media, try to discern the facts from a labor perspective. The gains made in this last century are significant. Now, as in the past, large corporations have made efforts to roll back any progress made for the American worker. It will take a concerted effort of all unionized workers to push back. Our strength is in our organized numbers, but individual efforts are crucial. Stand up and be counted. Join in the effort to PUSH BACK.
Stagehands are known for their multitude of talents, not the least of which is a talent for swearing. Some oaths have been uttered that would make a sailor blush. There is one oath in particular that is occasionally spoken by a select few that goes like this:
“…as a condition of my membership in Local No. 205 and in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (sic), Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada, (I) do solemnly pledge myself to accept and abide by the provisions of the Constitution and Bylaws of this Local and of the Alliance.”
Most of us have repeated these words and have heard them repeated at meetings when we gain a new brother or sister. The question is: what were we committing ourselves to?
We must turn our hymnals to ARTICLE TWO Section 1 of the Constitution and Bylaws of IATSE Local 205 to gain insight into the meaning of the words we were required to speak.
Here we find that we are swearing to dedicate ourselves “to the principles of trade unionism.” This means that we are committed to organizing workers who practice our craft. In the case of Local 205, the crafts covered by our charter are stagehands and projectionists. The important distinction here is that we are swearing to dedicate ourselves to trade unionism, not industrial unionism. Industrial unionism’s purpose is to cast a wide net and organize everyone in a particular industry regardless of their craft.
Next, we are swearing to abide by the intention to improve the wages and hours of work, to increase job security, and to better working conditions. Improving wages and working conditions is self explanatory, but what is this bit about “job security?”
In a word, job security means seniority. That so called dirty word that some would have you believe is illegal. As members of Local 205, we have sworn to promote the idea that we are secure in our jobs and will not lose them.
The last few principles we have sworn to abide by should be expounded upon in a later article, but bear mentioning. We have all sworn to advance our economic, social, and cultural interests, and establish peaceful and harmonious relations between members and employers. We swear to increase the stability of the industry, to assure full employment, and to promote and support democracy and free trade unionism.
There it is again. We are sworn to promote and support free trade unionism. This is a concept so important that it is stated at the beginning and repeated. We raised our right hand and committed ourselves to furthering the cause of the skilled workers in our craft. Our purpose is not just to take in individuals in the hope that they will become skilled. It is to seek out the skilled workers in our craft and invite them to stand up in front of us and swear like any good stagehand should.
– Keith Harris
In March of 1974, the Grateful Dead unveiled a sound system unlike any that had ever been, or that the world has seen (heard) since. It was designed by audio engineer Owlsley “Bear” Stanley, who had recently been released from prison, and at the time was the largest portable (somewhat) PA ever. The main component of the system was a huge wall of speakers erected upstage, behind the band. This mountain of speakers became known as the “wall of sound”. The system was unique due to its size, (it is reported as consisting of around 600 speakers, weighing 75 tons, and requiring 26,000-28,000 watts of continuous power, depending on the current point in its evolution) as well as its functionality and quality.
The system was actually six individual PA systems operating independently but together. There was a separate system for vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums, and piano. Each had its own set of amps, processing, and speakers. Band members had control of the area of the wall that was providing reinforcement for their particular instrument, as well as the levels of their vocals. A main (or monitor) mixing console was not required for the operation of “the wall”.
The challenges associated with such a set-up are obvious, the least of which not being the requirements for transportation and installation of this behemoth. The time it took to load in made it necessary for the band to tour with three complete packages and leapfrog much in the way that a broadway show would send gear in advance. There were over 20 crew members responsible for putting it all together, with assistance from local labor (much of which was provided by members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club, which added an interesting dynamic).
This was actually the band’s second attempt at creating such a complex audio arrangement. The first experiment came about a year earlier and was met with tragic results. Every tweeter blew as the band began their first number.
The installation process would begin with the construction of a large scaffolding rig on the downstage side of where the speaker wall was to be erected. As the wall grew, block-and-falls were employed to hoist speakers, which were essentially wooden boxes affixed with speaker cones, up to the higher levels. The speakers were tied to the hoists with rope, raised up and landed on top of the last level. There were also chain motors that were used to lift some of the more obnoxiously massive parts, such as the cylindrically shaped structure of cones that was the section of the wall which provided reinforcement of high and mid-range vocals.
I imagine this was probably some of the oddest seeming stage work to ever take place. A bunch of gangsters building something equivalent to the pyramids while dogs and small children run around on stage. There was even some occasional breast-feeding.
Conventionally, main speaker arrays are located in the downstage corners of the stage, either flown or ground-based. Monitors are used to direct sound back towards the band but, although configured to the performers’ preferences, it sounds nothing like what the audience is hearing. The upstage location of the wall allows the band to hear exactly the same thing that the audience hears, but it also makes the avoidance of feedback somewhat tricky.
What happens, typically, is sound enters a microphone, is amplified and pushed out a speaker, goes back into the mic and this loop pattern creates some of the most awful noise known to human ears. Several steps were needed to prevent this phenomenon from ruining the effectiveness of the whole system.
First of all, the gargantuan cylindrical structure which brought the higher end of the vocals was placed at the top. It produced more horizontal than verticle dispersion, so they could keep most of the sound out of the mics. The low end speakers were arranged in columns lower in the wall and were less likely to cause feedback. Regardless of the physical separation of all the speakers in the vocal system, it was designed in a way to allow all frequencies to be heard equally well. That’s what they say.
In addition to just putting the speakers up high, more technical efforts were needed in order to further minimize the presence of feedback. The vocal mics were actually matched pairs of condenser mics run “out of phase”. The mics were arranged one on top of the other a few inches apart. (60 mm, actually. Not sure if that matters). The band members would sing into the top one, and the sound from this would be amplified like normal. The mics in reverse phase would combine signals in a “differential summing amp” (don’t ask) and cause all sound common to both mics to cancel each other out, thus eliminating feedback from the overall mix. That was hard.
The parts of the system associated with the instruments were slightly less complicated. Each had its own system of amps and crossovers, which would send different frequncies to different parts of the wall, but one of the more interesting aspects of the instrumental amplification was how Phil Lesh’s bass was integrated into the system.
The bass was reproduced quadrophonicaly, which is like stereo times two. Instead of just a left and a right there were actually 4 sound “areas”. Coincidentaly, there are four strings on the bass. It was configured so that each string was on its own channel, and the signal from each was bussed through its own system of amplification and projected from its own group of speakers. Each string came out of a different place in the wall.
The kick drum used its own amplification channel and a column of sixteen 15 inch speakers. That’s sixteen 15 inch speakers, all kick drum. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s loud, although it can be. It was more about having head room. If all the speakers aren’t being pushed to their capacity the resulting sound is going to be much cleaner.
Amplification of all the instruments and vocals was acheived in a manner in which each speaker was dedicated to a small portion of the entire sound output.
This resulted in an impeccably clean sound, almost entirely free of intermodulation distortion. In conventional speaker arrangements, sounds of different qualities and frequencies compete with each other as they cause speaker cones to behave differently than if they were just producing one type of sound. So a sound system could produce as much volume as this one with the use of much less power, but it would be inferior in overall quality and lack the ability to retain clarity in distances of up to a half mile, or be as cool, as this one.
The wall of sound can be seen in the documentary/concert film The Greatful Dead Movie. It was filmed during a 5 night run at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom and contains concert footage as well as accounts of the technical aspects of the Dead’s live performance. It’s the third greatest rock and roll movie of all time, right behind “This Is Spinal Tap” and The Band’s The Last Waltz, which, perhaps not coincidentaly, was also filmed at Winterland.
There is a production credit for IA 16 which rolls by as time lapse footage reveals the deconstruction of the scaff. (Man those guys are fast). I wouldn’t assume that too many of the Hell’s Angels are cardholders, but there’s some representation happening. Probably working under a CBA.
This sit-down in San Francisco marked the end of the road, litteraly, for this mighty wall. The rising costs of fuel and logistical headaches forced the band to abandon this expirement after about 50 shows in six months. It also turned out that the Angels didn’t exactly create a peaceful work environment. These factors also led the band to decide to “retire” themselves. They only played a handful of shows in 1975 and didn’t really start touring again, with a more conventional sound system from here on out, until the middle of 1976. The band would remain whole (relatively) for another twenty years until all the things caught up with Jerry in 1995. (Crying a little right now).
A lot of this might seem pretty complicated, but remember, it was really just some dudes (and one chic) smoking a bunch of weed and screwing around every night.
Hello, world! Time for another edition of Stage Call.
3% raise in wages for Ballet Austin contract is in effect!
PLASA Austin has been cancelled.
Glad to see that Stagecall is back up and running. It is an important way for our members to stay connected with each other, as well as disseminate information and ideals to the workers in our trade. A big “thank you” to the newly organized Newsletter Committee and it’s editor for jump-starting this periodical.
As the Stewards Committee has been actively involved in educating and bringing along a new crop of qualified job site stewards, I have received some interest from members about stepping up to represent their brother and sisters as an advocate in the workplace and becoming an IA Steward. Perhaps at this point it would be best to outline some of the basic requirements, qualities, and responibilitites of becoming an effective job site union steward. Laying these out in one issue here would be next to impossible. So, toward that end, I will elaborate on these topics through subsequent issues of Stagecall.
Stewards face a variety of problems: the mechanics of grievance handling, the wide variety of problems that members bring them, dealing effectively with management, and keeping in touch with union leadership. The following are a few thoughts to help the new steward get through their first introductions to the job and become an effective advocate for the union and the contract. Lets call it “Stewards Basic 101.”
One of the problems you’ll encounter is negative attitudes from some co-workers. This could be from former officers, members with more seniority, or just plain anti-union folks. They’ll tell you that your efforts are fruitless, things never change, you’re wasting your time. All organizations need new caring people to keep them strong and growing. You have every right to be enthusiastic about your local. Don’t let naysayers discourage you from your duties.
2) The Long View
A good Steward does not develop overnight. It’s a process that takes time. You’ll have to learn to be patient. Remember that your goal is to develop your skills over time, and in the process you’ll build respect from your fellow members and management. Like the old sage, take the Long View.
3) Learning Attitude
You’ll have a lot to learn: the contract, past practices, and the way your union and management operate. You aren’t expected to know all the answers, but you must be the kind of person that enjoys finding them. Ask questions, and then keep asking them. You’ll learn a lot about people, the nature of working attitudes, unions and labor relations. So these things should appeal to you.
4) Dealing with Management
Management will often test stewards to see how well you represent your co-workers. This comes in many forms: denying you reasonable time to carry out your duties, refusing to give you extension of time to research a first step towards a grievance. They may deny you access to records in a clear-cut case of injustices in a disciplinary complaint. All this is clearly a breach of the contractual agreement, as well as Federal Law. Learning to work with the particulars of each management situation, while enforcing the contract can be tricky. Your skill at this, with time, will improve.
5) Organizing Approach
As stated, you don’t need to know answers to all questions posed to you. Learn to organize your co-workers varied skills and then access them with your problems. The whole point of the trade union movement is power in numbers, working with others to achieve common goals.
I hope this article helps anyone contemplating becoming an advocate and steward for your fellow co-workers. As mentioned, I will be laying out more on this topic in future articles in an attempt to answer some of the questions about this union function. With hard work, a determined and positive pro-labor attitude, and a willingness to teach and mobilize your brothers and sisters, you will become a vital part of a prosperous and vibrant union. Not a small task, but certainly worthy of great respect for stepping up.
Yours in Solidarity,
Brother Jim Ford, IATSE 205
One of the most valuable protections a worker has is the right to representation when called in by your employer or management. A steward’s presence as an union advocate can sometimes mean the difference between someone being railroaded out of a job or falsely accused, and not having justice prevail. Weingarten Rights are key when discussing representation. In 1975, the US Supreme Court said that during an investigatory interview, employees have the right to request union assistance and can refuse to answer questions until the request is honored.
Under Weingarten, in order for the worker to have the legal right to representation during a meeting with management, the following conditions must be met:
1) Is it an investigatory interview?
If the employee is expected to answer questions concerning wrongdoing that might lead to his dismissal or discipline he is eligible for union representation. Discussions pertaining to job performance do not automatically include the right to representation. The right entails only in situations where it could lead to discipline.
2) Does the employee believe that the discussion may lead to discipline?
Whether the belief is reasonable or not,it is a judgement call based on the circumstances. If the employer merely wants to convey info to a worker then representation is not necessary. However, the burden falls on the worker to decide motive.
Unlike the police MIRANDA RIGHTS, where your right to silence is given prior to speaking, employers have no legal obligation to advise a worker of their right to representation. It is up to the individual employees to know their rights. So, a good rule is to stay cool, quiet and respectful, if urged by employer to discuss the matter.
Call for your Rep and present the following Declaration:
‘WEINGARTEN DECLARATION’ (aka Weingarten Rights)
For workers’ own protection, workers should be instructed to read or hand this statement to management before the start of any meeting that could lead to discipline:
“IF THE DISCUSSION I AM BEING ASKED TO ENTER INTO COULD IN ANYWAY LEAD TO MY DISCIPLINE OR TERMINATION, OR AFFECT MY PERSONAL WORKING CONDITION, I ASK THAT A UNION STEWARD, REPRESENTATIVE, OR OFFICER BE PRESENT. UNLESS I HAVE THIS UNION REPRESENTATION I RESPECTFULLY CHOOSE NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS DISCUSSION’.
In the future, we will again be distributing ‘WEINGARTEN RIGHTS’ cards for each union member to add to their tool kit. Know your rights and use them when needed.
IATSE Local 205
As a steward faces many challenges daily, there is an important topic that they must learn to handle in a professional manner: it’s called sexual harassment in the workplace. And the responsibility falls not only on stewards but all of the members of the union, as well.
Incidents involving sexual harassment are particularly challenging. The incidents involve strong emotions, misuse of power, and the tension that historically surrounds men and women in our society. Our union has an obligation to insure that its members are sensitive to the issues of sexual harassment. Additionally, it must create an environment where victims are comfortable turning to someone in the union for assistance. This means we must build an educated membership on this topic. Also, we need stewards who know how to investigate for possible follow up grievances.
So first off, here’s a brief definition of Sexual Harassment:
“Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”1 Sexual Harassment, a form of gender discrimination, includes “lewd proposals, sexual jokes, and unwanted physical contact.”2 So in some cases this falls under legal heading of civil rights laws.
As good brothers and sisters we must be sensitive to the victim’s concerns. Victims, most of whom are women, can feel powerless, anxious, or even guilty. Standing by them sends a powerful message of unity. Stewards need to listen, record, and document all the details of any incident, and other members should immediately report these situations to their steward. As members we must show support to all victims and create a discrimination free environment.
If the supervisor is the offender, he may deny he made advances. He may blame the employee’s poor work performance or make other excuses. If it’s by a co-worker, he may claim their behavior was “in good fun,” or she “just can’t take it.”
Here you might remind them that if it was his daughter, wife, mother, or sister, he wouldn’t want her treated like that. Sometimes members are just ignorant about the issue of harassment. I say ignorant, not stupid. Ignorant means lack of knowledge.
The best strategy for dealing with this issue is a proactive one: we must educate ourselves on this subject before incidents occur. Legally the employer is responsible for the atmosphere we work in. However, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and our brothers and sisters to stand up against this offending conduct.
Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.
Jim Ford, Chair, 205 Stewards’ Committee
1 Legal Rights of Union Stewards, 4th edition, Robert M. Schwartz
2 The Union Steward’s Complete Guide, 2nd edition, David Prosten
Bible – Stage Manager’s script with all cues noted.
Bobtail – Short semi, a box truck used to transport stage equipment.
Boneyard – Where empty cases are stored.
Bounce – A thin and light colored drop used to “bounce” light off of.
Bring It In – Lower the pipe.
Buddy (Uncle Buddy) – Friction tool used on the fly rail to help control the movement of out-of-weight battens.
Bull Lines – Ropes pulled from the floor to assist the flyrail in overhauling heavily loaded battens.
Bump – To make an instantaneous lighting change or to quickly flash a light. Also, the command to make a tiny adjustment to a chain motor, either in or out.
Cable Stretcher – Tool used when you need just 6” more to make a connection. Rare.
Carpenter Focus – When the flyman nails lights on a pipe with an adjacent batten. Best when lights were focused.
Carptrician – Person who performs work which spans grey area between carpentry and electrics.
Coffee – A 15 minute break about two hours into a call in which stagehands eat as many donuts as they can.
Courtesy tab- End of a piece of tape that’s folded over and stuck to itself for easy removal.
Cyclorama (Cyc) – A curtain positioned upstage and sometimes concave to include stage sides. Used with lighting effects to create the illusion of sky or infinite space.
Dead – No longer in use.
Deck – Stage floor.
Dock – Place where post show socializing takes place.
Drop – Goods hung from the air, scenic element.
Ghost Light – Light left onstage after all work is over to keep the ghost company. Also a safety feature for humans.
Gobo – lit. “Go between optics.” A perforated piece of metal that alters the shape of a light beam, generally used in ellipsoidal fixtures. Also made of glass.
Goods – Fabrics suspended in air by battens, scenic elements.
Hod – Large cable loom.
House – Seating area in a theatre.
IA (IATSE) – International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Studio Mechanics.
Jesus bolt – Pan bolt on a c-clamp, sometimes referred to as a f*** nut
Kabuki – Special effect drop that falls swiftly to reveal talent/other dramatically
Leko – Ellipsoidal fixture in general, originally Lekolite introduced in 1933
Lightwalk – To be onstage as light levels are set. This is done so the designer can see light on people
Loom – Assortment of cables taped together at intervals to keep a long run cleaner and more manageable.
LX – Electrics
Main rag – Downstage most drape, hides whole stage from view
Merde – Pre-show good luck saying in ballet
Mouse – To use a piece of tie line, sash cord, or rope to secure something in place
Olio – A single (often painted) drop. Also, a short piece in between acts in a burlesque or minstrel show.
Overhaul – To bring heavy goods all the way in to the deck. Often requires assistance from loading rail and bull lines.
Parterre – Upper part of the main seating level
Phoning it in – Usually in reference to the talent half-assing a performance
Pigeon Plate – metal floor plate
Rep. (Repertory) – A space or company which performs several different plays alternately throughout the season. Also refers to lighting, staging, etc. which is used with minimal manipulation.
Ring out – To adjust equalization so as to eliminate monitor feedback; also older term for trouble-shooting electrics
Roadie – Technician who travels in support of a show/artist.
Rub – Assistance from the loading rail in pulling the purchase line which moves a heavy pipe.
Sheave – A wheel with a groove on its edge for holding a belt, rope or cable. Sometimes used synonymously with “pulley”.
Sitz (Sitzprobe) – German for seated rehearsal, often first rehearsal with talent and orchestra, sans blocking.
Sky hook – Special rigging tool that allows one to safety off to the sky.
Spark – To turn on a follow spot.
Sport bitching – What you hear around the water cooler.
Sprinkles – Optimal donut topping, especially on pink icing.
Strike – What you get when you knock down all the pins.
Take It Out – Raise the pipe.
Toi Toi Toi – Pre-show good luck saying in opera.
Tootsie Roll – While folding goods, the tendency for goods to roll up instead of folding cleanly.
Vomitorium – Exit from the house.
Wedge – A stage audio monitor.
West Coast – To gather a drop as it is lowered in, and to tie it in a bunch either to a pipe or truss, or to itself for storage.
Whoa – A word used while riding a horse.
Wilson – In cribbage a high point hand at the end of a game that you will never count.