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New York’s location workers on a path to become Teamsters

Teamsters, Local 817 President Tom O’Donnell asks studios to voluntarily recognize new representation

By Addie Morfoot

New York’s assistant location managers, location scouts and location coordinators are one step closer to becoming Teamsters by this summer.

While New York-based location managers are Directors Guild of America members, their junior colleagues have never been represented by a labor union. Negotiations over wages, overtime and kit rental fees were determined on a case-by-case basis. Pensions were not offered and health insurance had to be secured privately.

In early 2014, seven non-DGA New York-based location workers formed the United Location Department Workers with a goal to unionize. The group grew rapidly to 300 by early 2016.

Last summer, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 817 offered to represent the group’s members. Currently, Local 817 represents approximately 900 New York motion picture and television drivers, casting directors, casting associates, commercial location manager and scouts.

The president of Teamsters Local 817, Tom O’Donnell, said he initially assumed that the DGA had jurisdiction over New York’s location department and would eventually represent all classes. But when that didn’t happen and the fledgling group was being approached by unions with “no film history or expertise” he decided to step up and offer membership to 250 of its members. (Unit production assistants and location coordinator assistants will not be part of the labor union. The entry-level jobs rarely last for more than a year and often lead to a location assistant and location coordinator positions, which would be covered by the union.)

“I always felt that they deserved representation,” O’Donnell said. “These are people who desperately need some assistance and have long been overlooked. It’s just the right thing to do.”