Safety Everywhere

by Joseph Martin

While we tout safety as a virtue, I have found that in many areas of our industry we are either non-compliant or ignore simple things we can do to make our jobs easier and safer. I find in our local that the membership does work safely. We are great about making sure enough hands are on a heavy object and asking others for help when it is needed. While this covers a major part of the issues we deal with assembling road shows, there are many details we miss, specifically with PPE (personal protection equipment) and fall arrest.

Fall arrest is far and away the worst safety equipment issue we face today in our venues in Austin. While there are some notable good things we stay on top of (fall arrestors in the Long Center box booms) these improvements are to a fairly modern building after years of increased OSHA regulation on high work. I know that it is practically impossible to ask for a fall arrest to be available every time we climb a ladder over 6 feet, but we need to question ourselves where fall arrest is practical and necessary. Would it help? Would it make the work safer and more comfortable to perform? For example, the hinged grid opening in the Long Center is a huge falling danger to anyone working around it. Never have I heard anyone from employee to management say anything about wearing harnesses near the opening, just to “be careful.” Note I’m just using this as an example, not to call out or shame the Long Center. Traditionally, riggers don’t ever have to wear harnesses on the grid and we aren’t used to bringing them up. But this is a special exception to that standard that has been overlooked. There are many other work locations in this town that need evaluation. Careful as careful may be, accidents happen, and the conversation needs to move forward to instill a culture of safety. Any task that presents a mortal danger needs to have a counter to take mortality out of the equation. I know that extra 5 minutes to put on a harness and clip off to the beam adds time to the day, but it could also save a life.

The worst offender of all the venues in town is the Erwin Center, where riggers climb the 110’ roof steel with no dedicated lines for fall arrest. The venue was built before there were any regulations regarding fall arrest. As a result, the riggers there, including myself, either climb without harness or use a harness mostly for equipment management. Only in extremely rare cases do we actually use harnesses for fall arrest and positioning. Everyone has to be vetted as a safe, experienced climber/rigger to be allowed on the steel. That doesn’t change the fact that every time riggers go up, they are at risk of losing their lives.

If I make any points in this article, my biggest one would be that even with years of experience and practice, the danger is still present. And wouldn’t it be great if that danger didn’t have to be so dangerous? As professionals doing a dangerous job, we deserve to have the necessary systems in place to prevent death. While not a union venue, many of us work at the Erwin Center and need to work harder to instill a culture of safety and encourage our brothers and sisters to use the tie-off method they find comfortable and safe. For me, it involves taking a 22kn climbing sling, basketing the beam or safe tie-off point nearby, and clipping it into my central front positioning ring. This allows for clean movement along the beam, and, in the event of slippage or an accident pulling me off the beam, I would slide off to the side or under it, within easy distance to pull myself back up without taking the damaging shock load of a fall on a shock absorbing lanyard. This also prevents the need for a rescue operation, which would need to happen within 15-20 minutes of a fall to prevent death due to suspension trauma. It is important to note that my method works, but it is by no means standard and should not be taken as such.

Every industry related to construction/physical work is highly regulated in terms of safety, except for entertainment. We often feel like those rules don’t apply to us, but they very much do. OSHA is ramping up its stance on entertainment safety, and it’s high time. I have noticed more and more touring companies coming through with hard hat requirements. A show coming up at the Erwin will require all riggers to wear hard hats. It is important to note that a hard hat is not for the sole purpose of protecting your head from falling objects. Ever been hit in the head with a board or pipe someone was carrying as they turned around? I’ve seen guys have their temples busted open from getting slammed with a piece. Wearing a hard hat is not about how much you mistrust the people around you or above, it’s about protecting your extremely valuable head. “Nerdy” looks be damned. It’s a job not a fashion show.

There are many jobs where a hard hat is not required, and that is ok. We need to be aware of hard hats and their usefulness during large jobs such as Dell World, big road shows with lots of cases/things flying, and, of course, at the Erwin Center.

For us tall people, I have found a hard hat to be invaluable as my natural height puts my head closer to objects I have to duck to avoid. There have been a few occasions during installs where I have been crawling around in an unfamiliar ceiling and my head found the obstruction before my eyes did. Due to wearing a hard hat, I didn’t injure myself, just my pride. In the instance of Ballroom A at the ACC, I know a few riggers who have caught a roofing nail, scraping their head enough to draw blood. A hardhat in this instance completely eliminates that risk or even the minor annoyance of being occasionally poked in the head by a sharp object, which speaks to the scenario of making work more comfortable. Remember, it isn’t about how awesome you are or how long people have been doing it; it’s about eliminating risk and injury.

Without eyes to see with, our job is impossible. Drilling, cutting, grinding, and other fun particle related activities must be accompanied by the proper eye protection. A metal or wood splinter flying into your eyes can result in something minor as a single-day annoyance or as major as a lifelong diability. Putting on a pair of safety glasses is the easiest, fastest form of PPE and it is of paramount importance. Before conducting a particle related task, take 2 seconds and put on a pair of safety glasses. If you know a piece of overhead scenery has excess sawdust inside of it and will fall out of it upon removal, go get some safety glasses. If you are asked to do a task requiring grinding, go get the facemask. All the major theaters in town carry these amenities, and we need to be on top of asking for them before engaging in a particle related activity.

Safety-toe shoes need to be on everyone’s mind the next time they go shopping for a new pair of work shoes. I know there are many common complaints with this type of footwear among stagehands, but technology has eliminated many of those. Gone are the days of cumbersome steel-toed full boots. You can find great aluminum or composite-toe shoes that are styled like athletic shoes and weigh just a little more than a regular shoe. A foot injured by a heavy road case or piece of scenery will put someone out of work for weeks. Don’t let that person be you.

I wrote this article because I hate seeing and hearing about my brothers and sisters getting hurt on the job when the injury could have easily been prevented by a simple and practical solution. In 2015, we have already had 2 deaths in the stage industry. I don’t ever want one of those stories coming out of Austin. My intention is not to be preachy but to raise awareness of things we need to be thinking about.

The industry is modernizing. We shouldn’t be working like it is still the 80’s. Improvements in safety are good for us and our friends and family that care very much about our well being. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your mother/brother/significant other. Be aware of yourself, be aware of others, and stay vigilant in suggesting ways to make our venues safer, more enjoyable places to do what we love.

Stewards Corner: Health & Safety Basics

The editor of Stage Call, Sister Cowan, asked me to provide something on this topic, and so I will attempt to bring out some details that are not only beneficial to 205 Stewards but to the membership in general. Some of this info I have presented on our stewards/discuss web site in the past. I would also like to explore some fine points in greater detail.

Last year, several Local 205 officers & members attended the IATSE Training Trust general entertainment safety class. The instructor was Kent Jorgensen, a name you see quite often in the IA Bulletin. Upon completion of the class, we received our IA Safety Officers’ certification cards along with completion cards for attending the10-hour OSHA general industry safety & health training course. What follows is the curriculum from that training session:

First, there is only what can be described as a confusing “patchwork” of laws and agencies that govern workplace health & safety matters. However, they are all very important. Why?  Because there are six-thousand American workers killed on the job each year. Accidents occur, but far too many deaths are unnecessary and preventable. The best known health & safety law is OSHA, the Occupational Safety & Health Act.  It is administered by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Half the states administer their own federally approved programs for public sector employees. Not for us. In Texas our first line of defense is OSHA. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency plays a role in oversight. There are many different sources for these rights and responsibilities in this area, but the general standards and principles apply across the board. They cover things like temperature, air quality, lighting and cleanliness in the workplace, exposure to hazardous substances, electrical guidelines, carbon monoxide exposure, noise levels, back injuries, scaffolding hazards, fall protection, stress-level reduction, personal protection equipment requirements. This includes respirators, safety goggles, hard hats, harnesses, gloves, ear plugs, and the like. FYI, lifting injuries are the single largest Workers Compensation expense in North America.

Federal OSHA law says employers have a “general duty” to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are “likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” This is referred to as: the General duty clause (Section 5 of the OSHA, public Law 91-596).

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, it is required by law that employers display the official OSHA poster that describes everyone’s rights and responsibilities under the law. Your steward can answer your questions or will know where to go to find someone more knowledgeable. Once again, I have asked the e-board to put in place a Health & Safety committee, which would mean there is a knowledgeable group of individuals to deal with these concerns. They would help to insure that no possible hazard is taken for granted. Most of our employers are just as concerned about preventing on-the-job injury. For those that aren’t, this committee could help to “push” and persuade employers to take corrective action. It would benefit us all if some members took on the task of learning about this highly technical area. You don’t have to become an expert overnight. Just commit to begin this journey of learning and help provide security & protection that safeguards our members. One great source for learning is COSH. It’s a national network of twenty-five union-based Coalitions on Occupational Safety & Health. It’s website is: <>. The New York website of COSH is packed with a lot of good information.

The National Institute for Occupational Health & Saftey (NIOSH), an arm of the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is also a good resource. They are part of the Dept. of Health & Human Services. They are at:  <>

It is almost always best to work through your union, but individuals have the right to contact OSHA if they feel the employer is negligent. You can get answers about your rights or how to file a formal complaint requesting an inspection about hazardous conditions. It is possible to do this and have your name withheld from the employer. You have some legal protections against reprisal if you exercise any of your legitimate rights. Again, my advice is to work through your union and get the full benefit of the power of the Bargaining Unit. Strength in numbers. And always remember that it’s the employer’s legal responsibility to keep your job safe and healthful.

You also have the right to information. Your employer is required to maintain and keep available for inspection certain types of documents. This also applies to the agencies who administer the laws. Documents you can obtain include:

*The Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries, known as OSHA Form 200. Your employer is required to keep these records for five years.

*Copies of the standards, rules, regulations, and requirements that apply to your workplace. This includes the OSH Act itself.

*Information on workplace health & safety incidents as well as the relevant medical records about on-the-job injuries. Plus information as to what measures the employer is taking to reduce improper or dangerous job-related injuries.

Under OSHA and NLRA guidelines, you and your coworkers may refuse unsafe work under certain conditions. Be careful though. You must have a “reasonable” belief that there is imminent danger of death or serious injury. You will strengthen your legal position if you notify your supervisor before stopping work.  Also, alert the union and your co-workers beforehand to enlist their help for collective action. IMPORTANT: You’re best off if you don’t refuse the assignment outright; instead, say you will do the job, once it is made safe.

Occupational Health & Safety hazards can be found in every type of work setting. Because they are sometimes hard to detect, many threats go unnoticed until they become extremely dangerous. In some cases they can be fatal. Just recently we heard of a fall at the Super Bowl that resulted in a death. This caused sorrow for all of us working in this trade. It is critical that we all stay vigilant in observing our surroundings. Because in the end, no law, no power, can protect us without informed, aggressive self-defense.

Work Safe, Work UNION PROUD!

Jim Ford
Stewards’ Committee
IATSE Local 205
Austin, Texas

Heads Up! Communication is Key

by Mikela Cowan

One of the most common phrases we are taught early on in our careers is “Heads up!” Sometimes it’s a shouted phrase from above to give anyone below them a warning to move. Sometimes it’s a loud notification from the fly-rail or deck that pipes are coming in. In either situation, communication is key to the safety of our brothers and sisters.

When on the fly-rail one may be running line sets and in constant communication with the loading-rail or folks on deck by voice (yelling) or radio. The TD or head carpenter may be on the deck calling pipes in and out, constantly talking to the head fly-man about which line sets to fly which directions, weights, or the progress of loading or unloading weight. Then the head carpenter can tell his crew or other departments when they can hang on a pipe, transfer goods, or drop units. In turn, the fly-rail is in constant communication with the loading rail to ensure they are awake and adjusting the load properly. Occasionally the fly-rail will need to call the loaders for a rub. Also moving above the crew’s heads are pics and cables of varying size and weight. It is crucial that hands lowering in or taking out Socapex cables and pics use their outside voice to notify folks on deck about these pieces. If nobody hears the heads up, they likely won’t move and may end up with a lead pipe on their head. The same idea should be applied to anyone in a lift or focus chair when dropping in a bag for supplies. Nobody wants a bag full of dead lamps crashing in on them.

When communicating verbally there are two basic paths of audial travel: your outside voice (don’t be afraid to yell when necessary, but please be considerate of the person standing next to you) and radios. In tech or show mode, com belt packs and head sets are often utilized. If this includes you, please use your inside voice and don’t leave your mic on unless absolutely necessary. On the radio, standard operating procedures can make communicating clean and efficient. When calling for someone hold down the button and say “<your name> calling for <their name>.” Give them a moment to reply, “Go for <their name>.” Please be succinct in your communication or request. Hopefully they will be as well – it is not only clear but also polite to your department, if not the whole crew.

It’s good to use your outside voice when calling to others from a distance, say, calling down from the top of a ladder to move. When you are a few feet away from a colleague and lifting a heavy object together, don’t yell, when you confirm you are both heading in the same direction, and lifting in tandem. These are basic communication skills and safety, not rocket science, folks. Verbalizing things that may seem intuitive can save somebody’s backs or toes. When you are pushing things onto the truck at the end of the call, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance with unwieldy pieces. Also, it’s good to wait for one of the loaders to call for another piece, there is no hammer space on a truck.

Sometimes you may lock eyes with another stagehand, and think they know you are silently telling them to take a heavy object from you. They may just be spacing out, pondering what props brought for break that day. Please be smart, be safe, and use your voice to communicate.

Young Workers Conference 2014

Sister Cowan and Brother Levin with fellow Longhorn, Emily Tao, Director of Communications at IATSE.
Sister Cowan and Brother Levin with fellow Longhorn, Emily Tao, Director of Communications at IATSE.

YWC report IATSE YWC Report 2014

Local 205 sent two representatives to the IATSE Young Conference this year.  Sister Cowan and Brother Levin would like to share some of their experience with you.

Did you know?
-21% of IATSE membership is 35 and younger Continue reading Young Workers Conference 2014

Swearing Stagehands

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

Stewards Corner: Stewards Basics 101

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.”

1) Enthusiasm
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

Winter 2012

Stewards Corner: Weingarten Rights

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:


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.

Jim Ford

Stewards Committee

IATSE Local 205

Rigging Primer






Hello Brothers and Sisters of the 205! I have created this guide in hopes that all in our local who want to pass the ETCP Theater and Arena Rigging exams have the resources necessary to pass with flying colors.  As someone who is a certified Theater Rigger, I have taken the exam and know what it takes to acquire the title. While individual study is necessary, the essential key to success is group study. Throughout the year, I will be holding study sessions for everyone who is interested in testing for the certification. These sessions will be mostly on the math aspects of the test, as most experienced riggers can already pass the general knowledge portions. Those with an interest in rigging but not the test should attend the Beginner Rigging Class, as everyone in the field deals with rigging on a daily basis. I encourage everyone to dig deep into the knowledge pool of rigging. The principles that we use in stage rigging apply to many other trades, and will serve you well in your career. Much of it comes straight from high steel ironwork and ship/crane rigging. In your studies, it is also important to brush up your knowledge of mathematical and general physics. Everything we do as riggers is directly related to the properties of gravity and geometry/trigonometry. A solid background in these subjects will be a big help. I wish everyone success in their journey, and I am always here to help! If you have any questions, please contact me here.


Unfortunately, the information that needs to be given in this section can not be pulled from a website. That used to be the case, but some of the authors listed below figured out that this information is valuable, and should be compensated for their time and effort in compiling it. While I know the books are pricey, they are the definitive texts in the field. Any serious rigger with intensions of moving on up in the entertainment world needs this information. You will have it for life. The texts here should be studied more than anything above. The respective books on Arena and Theater are mostly what the ETCP test is written from, and have the most official  information on the subject to date.  The math book by Delbert Hall is a fantastic addition to your arsenal. While Arena Rigging and Stage Rigging Handbook: 3rd Edition explain the math, Delbert teaches it in a way that doesn’t blow most humans minds. The book is totally optional, but will help immensely.  When the book was a website a few years ago, I used it to study and I would have been much worse off without it.

Stage Rigging Handbook: 3rd Edition -For Theater test takers

Harry Donovan’s Arena Rigging – For Arena test takers

Rigging Math Made Simple – All disciplines

Continue for links containing detailed manufacturer information on rigging materials.


Here are links to many of the major manufacturers that provide rigging hardware for the entertainment industry. The information you are looking for are the material data that specifies weight capacity, tolerances, and acceptable uses. Arena applicants should pay special attention to shackle, chain motor, and wire rope specifications, while Theater applicants need to pay special attention to hardware used in a counterweight system (i.e. batten clamps, tracks, hand line, 1⁄4” wire rope, trim chain, loft blocks, head blocks, and SCH40 1 1⁄2 pipe)

Types of Shackles:

This page shows what types of shackles you might encounter out in the field. Anchor shackles are what we most commonly use, you will likely never see chain shackles out in the entertainment world outside of special circumstances. If you do see a chain shackle, remember they are only to be used with one rigging attachment. A bridle hung from a chain shackle will place a side load on the straight vertical members causing an unsafe situation. Remember that an anchor shackle can only be used in a bridle if the bridle angle is more than 30 degrees. Anything less will be considered a side load on the shackle. For example, when we do low-low bridles at the Erwin center, we use a pear ring to make the apex of the bridle to prevent side loading of the hardware.

Master/Pear rings:

Make sure you scroll all the way on this page. It covers a variety of hardware from different manufacturers you will see in the field. As described above, this is the hardware you need to use for any bridle over 30 degrees or when there are more than 2 rigging attachments in the shackles bell. While it is not recommended you do so, sometimes the only way to get a point where you need it is through the utilization of this hardware. As long as you are using a Master/Pear ring that is rated at least 5:1 the tension you are placing on the bridle, all is well.

Wire Rope/Eye Bolts/Chain/Hooks/Turnbuckles/Swages/Clips/Thimbles/Snatch blocks:

Here is one of the greatest resources I have ever found on the subject of wire rope. Contained is not only strength ratings of many different types, but explanations of the reasoning behind structural design with wire rope as well as most everything it attaches to. Not only does it give the raw info, it lays out theory behind safe usage. All disciplines of rigging should study this well.

This page lists many of the common ropes used in counterweight and hemp systems today. Multiline II is the most common, you can see it in use at the Long Center. Stage Set X is also a variety you see in the McCullough Theater at UT. Other ropes listed on this page are much less commonly seen, but it is nice to know of their existence and material properties in case you are ever faced with a project that requires rope with a special application. These ropes come from manufacturer New England Ropes, which has been the standard in quality for entertainment industry rope needs. Most theaters you go into with a counterweight system will likely have New England Ropes, which is handy to know when ordering replacement line. When it comes down to your personal hauling line, generally any polybraid or polyester rope between 1⁄2” and 5/8” diameter with over 2000lbs tensile strength will get the job done. Your rope needs to pull through a pulley easily, and provide a good gripping surface without being hard on your hands. Do not purchase rope from a big box hardware store however temping it may be. The rope sold there is mass produced in China and does not come with an official tensile breaking strength or material data sheet. Make sure the rope you are buying is rated and batch tested. You can find rope for the same price as Home Depot through Rose Brand that is solid core polybraid and carries an official rating. Even cheaper if you buy a spool, which I highly recommend. (Custom colors!)

Track Hardware/Counterweight Hardware and Operation/Pipe Attachments:

H&H Specialties has a veritable gold mine of information on these subjects in their catalogs. Diagrams, rules of use, in depth explanation of track weight capacities and hanger spacing are all here. The PDF on Counterweight Rigging isn’t very exiting visually, but is a fantastic guide for the beginner, and a great refresh for the experienced. Spend some time here.


Check out this website to look up information on common steel material you will rig on in theaters and arenas. As a rigger, it is useful to know more than the average bear about building structure and the materials that comprise your theater/arena specifically. Always consult the building engineer in regards to the actual strength of the beams. Every building is different. In no way should the tensile strength of any material be used as a means of rating a system.

Fantastic article about chain grading and the reasoning behind chain grading. It even gives you the formula for calculating tensile strength of chain. As long as you know the size and grade, you can calculate the strength rating of any chain. Also provides links to spec sheets for every grade of chain. Note that anything under Grade 80 is not suitable for overhead lifting. Example of deck chain used in Arena rigging.

Chain Motors:

 Here you have the bread and butter of the entertainment rigging industry, the classic CM Lodestar motor series. Most road shows and rental houses will have a small army of these in varying lifting capacities. It is essential to know chain weights and motor weights to calculate your lifts. On the page, you can find the official maintenance manual for Lodestar series motors. Study this to get a really in-depth look at chain hoists, their parts, and troubleshooting. You will know much more than the average rigger. Most of the info you need to pay attention to for the tests purposes are the lifting capacities, electrical/control properties, and knowing that chain motors are rated 25% under their actual capacity to account for the small shock load produced by the initial inertia of lifting/lowering. Also note that Lodestars are rated in metric tons. Make sure to check out all the different models CM offers too. ProStars are popular for their light weight and silent operation, and are rated from 300-1000lbs, differing from the metric rated Lodestars. Make sure to note this difference when you look at the label on the butt of the motor housing.

Beam Clamps:

You will use beam clamps whenever beam clearance is too low to use traditional 5’ wire rope slings and still achieve trim height. Note that beam clamps of large capacities will not allow you to attach to steel too small to take the load it is rated for. In other words, if your rig is going into a building with 2” angle trussing (typical in small ballrooms and venues), you won’t be able to rig your show with your 1 ton beam clamps. Better hope your points are rated for less than a half ton!

Stewards Corner: Zero Tolerance Policy


                In past articles I have tried to shy away from fluff pieces that just mimic old inefficient policies of dealing with important topics. Our members need perspective and honest appraisals on important issues that face our workers today. With that in mind, I have tried in the past to address the issue of lax and less than forceful representation by our leaders, sexual harassment in the workplace, and political activism.

This piece involves the complicated issue of suspension and termination from your job, due to drug test failures and drug use by our workers, either in the work place or on your personal time.  This issue tends to be very divisive in its opinions by our members.  There are strong feelings for and against the implementation of heavy-handed drug policy with vigorous enforcement clauses. I make no moral judgments on anyone’s opinion either way.  I will simply attempt to lay out some legal aspects maybe not commonly known by our members; and yes, I will try to point out some improvements that can be brought to bear.  My only motives are to educate and to keep our technicians on the job and working.

—Zero Tolerance Policy—

                Bosses LOVE “zero tolerance policies.”  One arbitrator called them “the last refuge of weak managers.” In my opinion, he should also to include weak union negotiators in his statement.  Hard to believe, but several of our current contracts rely on a zero tolerance policy regarding what might be called egregious behavior in the workplace.  This could refer to fighting, threatening violence, stealing, drug test failures, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, felony convictions, etc.  For our discussion purposes, let’s narrow our view to drug test failures.  This could mean just using pot, not just the harder drugs which are in no way acceptable to our professional standards. Hey, come on, some have called out liberal Austin as a marijuana local.  Be that as it may, these discipline policy issues are on the rise.

A ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY provides that workers who commit a specific infraction (failed drug test) be immediately discharged with no consideration for mitigating circumstances such as an employee’s long standing seniority or past record.  Worse yet, if an accident occurs they test all parties, even those collaterally damaged by the incident. These workers are clearly victims in the incident, only to be re-victimized by having to pass a urine test.

If the union questions the policy, the employer is likely to cite contractual language which gives it the right to issue rules and regulations.  This is part of the “managements rights” section in most contracts.  Management can set rules, policies, and regulations for employment.  Arbitrators generally uphold these rules when they are used to maintain production quotas and insure a safe working environment (something they are legally bound to do).

However, even if the contract’s management rights clause waives the union’s right to negotiate on the contents of the rule, the employer must allow the union to bargain on how it will be applied.  I believe this tactic has eluded our leadership.  Our representatives simply look to a strict interpretation of contract language for what they can and can’t do. But, as labor attorney and writer Robert Schwartz shows, there is a tactic to combat, somewhat, even the strictest of contract language. I believe Local 205’s negotiators are not aware of this tactic and simply say “it’s not in the contract,” believing they can’t argue, discuss, or negotiate on the contents of the rule; or bargain on how it’s applied. To clarify, we have an option to challenge the conditions of the violation and we are not doing it. I believe our negotiators just look at strict contract wording, which is very limiting as the final word.   And apparently Schwartz agrees with my interpretation.

These overly broad zero tolerance policies can lead to grossly unfair punishments.  And some of our working brothers and sisters have suffered because of them.

Let me explain.  When an employee whose conduct should result in a warning or short suspension is discharged because of a zero tolerance policy, the union should assert – through the Business Agent and Stewards’ Committee (Grievance Committee) – that the policy violates the Just Cause clause of the contract.  Fair notice, disparate (uneven) treatment might be a good reasonable argument.  This is one of several possible tactics to argue against a mandatory drug test. At the very least, it may mitigate the severity of the punishment.  It would be to our benefit for our contracts to have language – that employers deem reasonable – more clearly defining the union’s contract interpretation.

Summary discharge is contrary to the basic principle of just cause for discipline.  Outdated as it is, it’s the old master vs. servant attitude that employers constantly try to enforce.  Not to mention, if discharge was instituted before test results or a good faith investigation of facts, we can argue the employee did not receive due process.

It is widely accepted that the just cause concept compels an employer to weigh the gravity of the offense, consider the mitigating and extenuating circumstances, and apply the least severe penalty that is likely to lead the employee to correct his or her mistakes.  A disciplinary firing and drug test failure can have long term negative effects on an employee’s career.

Zero tolerance unilaterally extinguishes these just cause-bargained protections.

Union Silence on the Issue

                The union will have a hard time contending that zero tolerance violates the contract if it has failed to object before the current discharges.  The employer will undoubtedly argue that past practice shows agreement with the policy.  Management will never want to appear to condone illegal recreational drug usage by its employees.  As a tactic to overcome that contention, we, the union, should distinguish the current cases from the earlier cases, stating that current cases more clearly violate the just cause standard.

Other Arguments

                Unions can use the wording of zero tolerance policies against the employer.  A policy might state that a violation “may” lead to immediate discharge.  This can be interpreted to mean that dismissal is only one of several possible alternatives.  Similarly, if a policy states the offender is “subject” to discharge or punishment “up to and including discharge,” the union may have some wiggle room.

It is hard to believe that our International and local representatives signed on to this overly broad zero tolerance policy.  Although we as stewards, reps, and advocates can raise defenses such as lack of evidence, lax of enforcement, disparate treatment, and due process, we will be fighting a battle with one hand tied behind our backs until we get some basic change at the contract level.

Until then, in my opinion, it’s nothing short of a crapshoot to spend time and money taking these kinds of situations to arbitration.

I found a case recently in researching arbitration cases of mandatory dismissal in drug cases:

COMPARE BIOLAB INC., 114 LA 279 (BRODSKY 2000) “If required by the contract, a discharge based on a positive drug test is likely to be upheld in arbitration even without evidence of impairment.”  (*3)

GES Contract Wording

Our agreement with the Tradeshow employer GES has this kind of extreme zero-tolerance policy. I would hope the International and IA Reps would listen to our pleas to change this policy in future contracts or give us support, in both time and monies, to properly process these kinds of dismissals through the Grievance Procedure. It would surely go all the way to arbitration and that is an unfair burden on a small local like ours. Or, a much easier remedy would be to strike it from future contracts all together.



Jim Ford, chair
Stewards’ Committee
IATSE Local 205
Austin, Tx
JUST CLAUSE: A UNION GUIDE TO WINNING DISCIPLINE CASES by Robert Schwartz was the primary source for this article.


***A good contract with a good union is good business***
—John T. Dunlap, US Secretary of Labor


Education Committee Report RE: Freeman AV

Written by Katy Hallee

April 24, 2014


As we move forward in our goals of obtaining a contract with Freeman AV, I believe training is an essential step in that process. If we continuously present Freeman with more and more highly trained workers, they will ask for a contract with us to retain those workers!


On January 29, 2014 I came across a set of PDFs on Local 122’s website entitled Freeman AV Operational Standards. The data seemed relevant to the work we have been doing for Freeman AV here in Austin. I saved the files and began making inquiries through Brother Perez to confirm that these PDFs were something we should be sharing with our membership.


I did not hear back from Brother Perez, so when I found myself working for Freeman at the end of February I questioned the Freeman employees I was working with and happened to be introduced to Dave Vass who is the Safety Officer for Austin’s Freeman AV and in charge of training here! Dave confirmed that they previously had a training seminar series for their employees that has since been distilled into these 25 PDFs. They now carry out training with these documents and on-the-job training.


Dave is more than happy to have this information disseminated as widely as possible. He also informed me that one area they are in need of trained individuals is covered in standard #9 AUDIO RECORDING – MARANTZ PROFESSIONAL CDR-420. This device is used to record sessions when the client wants a record of what happened. They are more than willing to provide their equipment for us to use in training our members and individuals on the hiring hall list that work Freeman calls. They are also open to members shadowing other members on a call, off the clock, in order to learn a new skill such as camera operator. This is how training is handled in the San Antonio local and they are more than willing to follow the same method here. All we have to do is show and interest and ask. Arnold Garcia has taken advantage of this opportunity and went to Freeman’s shop for training on one of their video recorders. He got a week of show call out of it!


I have already shared these documents with 19 members. All I need is a gmail address for anyone wishing to have access to the folder. We could also send the document at the bottom of the folder that is a copy of all the links I have downloaded to our membership. I would like the stewards help in informing those people working Freeman calls of this opportunity and collecting their email addresses if they want the information.


I also recommend compiling a list of members that have the aptitude and level of responsibility required to learn the audio recording skill and solicit their interest in a training class. I believe a demonstrated ability as board operator in another area and the corresponding level of responsibility is required for this job as it is like wedding photography. You only get one chance to do the job properly and there is little supervision to make sure you do the job correctly.


We need to make this information widely known and reach all of our workers that are working these calls. A more educated workforce will further our cause for a contract much better than trying to push the issue with Freeman!

AV Standard 0001 – Tripod and Fast-Fold Screens
AV Standard 0002 – Fast-Fold Screen Dress Kits-1
AV Standard 0003 – Flipcharts and Whiteboards
AV Standard 0004 – Safelock Stands and AV Carts
AV Standard 0005 – Cable Care and Taping
AV Standard 0006 – Electrical Metering-Circuit Load Calculation
AV Standard 0007 – Cleaning Exhibit Equipment
AV Standard 0008 – Meeting Room Speaker Placement-Setup
AV Standard 0009 – Audio Recording-Marantz CDR-420
AV Standard 0010 – Analog Audio Recording
AV Standard 0011 – Video Display Image Optimization
AV Standard 0012 – Choosing Correct Video Conduits-Distance Limitations
AV Standard 0013 – Presentation Computer Setup
AV Standard 0014 – Security-Theft Prevention
AV Standard 0015 – Pipe and Drape
AV Standard 0016 – Microphone Placement
AV Standard 0017 – General Session Lectern Microphone Placement
AV Standard 0018 – Conventional Lighting Instruments
AV Standard 0019 – Lighting Trees
AV Standard 0020 – Blocking Exits
AV Standard 0021 – Marking Damaged Equipment – Repair Stickers-Damaged Tape
AV Standard 0022 – Flat-Panel Video Display Handling
AV Standard 0023 – Console and Cable Labeling
AV Standard 0024 – Truck Loading-Unloading
AV Standard 0026 – Wireless Microphone Setup