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News :: Labor : Media
Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
31 Jul 2005
After only three months of organizing at the Kendall Square Cinema, the Landmark Theatre chain's biggest theatre, employees voted 17 to one to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local 791 on July 30.

“Kendall Square cinema is now 100% union,” yelled a cinema employee as movie-goers left the theatre, “wall to wall union!”

The vote comes as a result of recent management changes, lack of full-time status even for employees who average over 35 hours per week, small and sporadic raises, and a starting wage of $7.25 that hasn't changed since 2002, according to employee and organizer Lauren Ryder.
kendall.jpg
"I've worked here for two years,” said Rhyland Gillespie, “and the new employees that I'm training earn as much as I do."

The UFCW represents around 6,700 employees of the Shaw's/Star supermarket chain as well as the Excel Case Ready Beef plant in Taunton, MA.

The Kendall is their first organized theatre and it may be the only wall to wall union-organized theatre in the country. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) organizes projectionists on a wide scale, but does not organize ticket takers, concessionaires, and other movie theatre workers.

“Many of our organizing drives have been met with stiff resistance,” said Russell Regan, president of UFCW 791, “they outspend us 10 to one to keep their businesses union-free. It reenergizes me to see how much solidarity these kids have, how much they know about labor, and the huge amount of community support here in Cambridge.”

Theatre management hired an anti-union company called Labor Relations Solutions (LRS) to convince employees not to join the union. Their http://lrs2win.com website boasts a 98% union prevention rate.

“Our firm is staffed with proven talent,” said the website, “including former NLRB officials, former Federal Mediators, former Union Organizers, Industrial Psychologists, and Human Resources professionals.” The LRS strategy is based on holding weekly meetings that ply employees with “the negatives” of union organizing.

The LRS representative, known to employees only as “Alex,” attempted to turn the employees against each other and to recruit assistant managers as anti-union agents.

Nancy Campbell, a former assistant manager of the theatre, was told to “gently dissuade people from joining the union.” She promptly quit.

“I resigned so I could support the staff openly,” said Campbell. She immediately received a flurry of job offers from other independent theatres, and accepted a position at the not-for-profit Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline.

According to many of the employees and customers that gathered outside of the theatre in support of unionization, the battle is as much about increased wages and benefits as it is about preserving a location for showing independent films.

Two years ago Landmark Theatres, the chain that owns the Kendall, was acquired by 2929 Entertainment, an entertainment holding company owned by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner. The company owns all of Rysher Entertainment, Landmark Theatres, and Magnolia Pictures Distribution, as well as an interest in Lions Gate Entertainment. They produce films for art house distribution through 2929 productions and films for High Definition Television through HDNet.

Cuban has gained notoriety not only for owning the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, but also for bold capitalistic statements such as, “I love to fuck with people, and I love finding ways to make more money," printed in the April 2005 issue of Wired magazine.

“He's very up front about the fact that all he wants to do is make money,” said avid Boston film-goer Brian Tamm who showed up to support the union, “all the top management here have been brought in from AMC theatres, and they've shown a lot of contempt for the employees and the customers. This isn't the kind of theatre that it used to be.”

Attempts at organizing Landmark-owned theatres have been made in at least one other city. Employees at the Uptown Theatre, the Lagoon Cinema, and the Edina Cinema in Minneapolis attempted to unionize back in May of 2004 with UFCW local 789, but the vote failed.

Employees of the Kendall will now benefit from the right to grievance and arbitration, the right to bargain collectively and other benefits. The union waived initiation fees, as the UFCW does with any new shop, and modest union fees will only be introduced after a contract is won for the employees. Employees are extremely hopeful for the future.

“We're doing something to improve the conditions here,” said employee and new union member David Greene, “if not for us, then for other people who come to work here. Nobody really needs to be treated like the dirt under somebody's shoe.”





Theatre manager Howie Sandler declined comment for this article.
Mark Cuban did not answer emails for this article.

Website for Landmark employees who want to organize:
http://www.hopefulorganizing.com/landmark/index.htm

Commentary site about Mark Cuban:
http://www.markcubanhasnoclothes.com/

Minneapolis organizing attempts:
http://twincities.indymedia.org/feature/display/16670/index.php

UFCW 791's website:
http://www.ufcw791.org

Labor Relations Services website:
http://lrs2win.com

This work licensed under a
Creative Commons license.
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Comments

Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
31 Jul 2005
Wow UFCW.... let's see how much they like that union 12 months from now.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
01 Aug 2005
Congratulations guys!!! I guess LRS will have to recalculate that 98% success rate.

To Greg (previous poster), I have a suggestion, why don't you go work for a nonunion Landmark and see how much you like that experience 12 months from now? UFCW has a very solid track record with the employees they represent - I think it's an effrontery to these workers to assume that they didn't spend at least part of the last three months researching and determining the most responsible effective and appropriate union to represent them. Why don't you explain your position instead of alluding to some sort of nonspecific problem? Did those dirty pinko devil-worshipping bastards screw you somehow? Let's hear the story. Maybe you should go make some money doing interviews for union busting videos? Your brand of groundless vague "insight" is right down their alley.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
01 Aug 2005
No, actually UFCW selling me and my coworkers down the river turned me off to them.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
01 Aug 2005
I'm assuming Greg is referring to the closure of the Shaw's Distribution Center in E. Bridgewater during the 2001 contract negotitations.
At that time the company, in a very cold and heartless move, closed the warehouse and put nearly 400 employees out on the street.
Local 791 did everything in its power to stop that tragedy from happening. When it could not be worked out, the Union was able to negotiate a very good severance package for all affected members. Local 791 was also able to get grants for over a million dollars for training and placement through the government.
Yet, the Local (who did not close the warehouse, it was Shaw's trying to bust our union) is still somehow held responsible.
Most recently, UFCW Local 791 won an arbitration which will return nearly 200 (full-time) laid off members to work.
Shaw's violated our contract by laying off these members and reducing nearly 100 others from full-time to part-time.
All of these laid off members will be returned to their previous positions and receive all of their back pay. Those who were reduced to part-time, will be made whole for the difference between the reduced part-time rate and their full-time wage rate and returned to their full-time status.
Now maybe the picture that Greg is trying to portray will be made a little clearer.
When workers need to blame someone for something, their Union is always an easy target.
My advice to Greg is, "Know who the enemy is"...
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
01 Aug 2005
As someone who was involved in the Minneapolis effort, as someone who supports everyones right to organize themselves, and as someone who loves film, this makes me overwhelmingly happy. I can say with a great deal of confidence that this is the FIRST union movie theatre in the country. The UFCW model of putting money into organizing rather than political candidates pays offs yet again. You all rock!
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
01 Aug 2005
Congratulations on winning your organizing drive!! What a great vote, 17-1; brilliant!! I am really happy for you all. Please let me and other working people know how we can help you get your contract as soon as possible! Years ago, I used to work at the unionized Orson Wells Theatre in Central Square (it was destroyed by a fire in 1986). I've worked both union and non-union, in all sorts of different jobs (and unions). Working in a union job is always better, despite problems you will have with conservative union leaders. Also, it would really help you get a contract if the UFCW would immediately start union drives at the Waltham Landmark and at Loew's theatres, etc... . Union strength has a lot to do with numbers and if your theatre remains the only one organized, it will be more difficult to get a contract. When we were organized at the Orson Wells, we also had, for a short time, a union at the Nicholodeon theatre and we were trying to start union drives at the Brattle and the Harvard Square. Best of luck!! Let other workers and unions help you!! In Solidarity, Jeff Booth, member AFSCME 3650 at Harvard and member of Socialist Alternative
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
01 Aug 2005
Dont feed the trolls!
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
02 Aug 2005
As a former employee at kendall, this is amazing news, way to go!
Nancy your the best!
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
02 Aug 2005
I would just like to agree with the last post.
Nancy is, in fact, the best!
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
02 Aug 2005
as far as I've heard, the 25% pay increase goes straight into union dues...

gotta love mainstream unions!
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
02 Aug 2005
UFCW has flat rate union dues of $8.50 week for part timers and $11.50 for full timers.

Looking at it as a purely mathematical equation is probably inaccurate however because of things like the right to greivance and arbitration which basically means that the union will fight for you if you are fired for a no good reason.

It really remains to be seen since the employees now have to create a contract. What they ultimately get depends on whats in that contract and how much of that contract the UFCW wins for them.
Liberals
02 Aug 2005
It amazes me how again and again liberals put their faith the boss's union. The UFCW is the worst, of the worst, of the worst union in this country. But hey, getting sold out by your union is so much more romantic than being sold out by your boss.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
02 Aug 2005
I'd like to comment on Greg's recent responses--I strongly believe in your right to an opinion Greg, but it would be much stonger to actually substantiate your claims. Tell us what happened. Please inform us. In typical conservative fashion you have made statements as though they are fact and backed them up with nothing. Why won't you qualify your statements? . Do you work for Landmark or Labor Relations Solution? Be honest. I think it is a romantic notion to believe that corporations always hold the best interests of their employees . Unions may not always be perfect but it definitely is better to have representation. I have met with representatives at Local 791 and I know that they genuinely care. They made themselves accessible and were never arrogant or condescending to staff members. They have a solid record. "Alex" from LRS was unable to dredge up any dirt on them to bust this union at the Kendall. I worked for Landmark for nearly a decade. I observed the changes from within and without and strongly believe that this was the staff's best option. The staff did their research and asked questions. I think you, like Landmark Corporation, underestimate their intelligence. So Greg, tell us, why do you believe that UFCW is the worst? Why do you feel that they will regret it in 12 months?

P.S. Hello Jonathon and Kendall Staff (former and present.) It was a great privelage to work with all of you over the years. You are the best.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
02 Aug 2005
I must chime in on two counts.
1.) Nancy you are the best. I saw your commitment to your friends and co-workers with total disregard for yourself. Your selflessness is a quality that shines through every time I'm around you.
2.) Greg, you should grow a set and step out from behind your keyboard. You see Greg, I've been a member of Local 791 for 31 years. When you shit down 791's neck, you shit down mine too.
I challenge you to tell your story. I challenge you to "substantiate your claims" (as Nancy so eliquently put it). Allow us all to hear why you are so bitter. If you aren't a phoney hiding behind a screen name, maybe you will except my challenge.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Oh by the way "I was there too".
Scroll back up10 entries Greg. That's me.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
02 Aug 2005
Just to let folks new to the site know— there are a few folks on the site that say things just to rile you up. Its one of the detractions of having an open forum. "Greg" may be one of these.

You're doing the right thing by asking him to back it up- if he doesn't do so- I'd say the best thing to do is ignore him.

Most people on here can discern between folks who bring reason to the table and those who just spout BS. The only difference on the net is you don't get to see the look of recognition on your friends face when you both realize someone you're talking to is jerking you around.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
06 Aug 2005
Now I have to spend $12 to see a goddamn movie.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
06 Aug 2005
Just a point of information:

Anywhere from 50-95% of the money from tickets go directly to the distributors (Sony, Universal, Warner Bros, etc.) to pay for the costs of making the movies. Theatres make the majority of their money from concessions sales (popcorn, soda, candy, etc.) While Landmark will most likely blame price increases on the union, they would have raised prices anyway, union or not.

Besides, if a fair wage for the people that serve you isn’t worth an extra quarter for popcorn, what is?
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
10 Aug 2005
All things being even, I would buy a ticket a theater whose tickets were $.25 cheaper, regardless of its union status.

I don't particularly care about Kendall theater employees. Their job takes no skill and anyone reading this could learn it in an afternoon.

They are slow, ineffective, unprofessional, and don't merit a pay raise.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
10 Aug 2005
CONGRATS to teh theater for unionizing!! wow thats so hopeful, its good to see some good news--

does anyone know anything about temp workers unionizing? i'm curious about that. . . .

(hey there nameless "by"- guess you never worked a yucky shit job before in your life? your post sounds like the sort of arrogant-assed milk-fed child harvard and mit students i hafta deal with regulalrly at my parade of shitwork near their respective schools. . . . jeez)
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
11 Aug 2005
For any one that thinks that these types of jobs are unskilled, might i suggest either get one of them yourself and try to live off it or read "nickel and dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich for a little prospective.

Also it is very skilled to be able to deal with the likes of you with a smile.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
11 Aug 2005
"I don't particularly care about Kendall theater employees. Their job takes no skill and anyone reading this could learn it in an afternoon. "

It's nice to hear from management. I didn't think you guys read Indymedia. Good for you!
TEMP WORK
11 Aug 2005
For the person who asked about temp work contact the folks behind http://www.massglobalaction.org/home/ particularly Jason Pramas at info (nospam) massglobalaction.org, who used to run an org based on fighting for the rights of contingent workers.

He would be one of the local experts on organizing temp workers I believe, or at least he could point you in the right direction.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
19 Aug 2005
http://www.kendallunion.org/

New site for Kendall Square Cinema union news, plus film reviews and employee/patron forums.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
19 Aug 2005
wait a minute. we're supporting people that work in for-profit, loew's movie theaters? these are the same theaters that shows the senseless filth that has poisoned the mind of a generation all for the profit of corporate america.

check the movie listings for kendall cinema. these pigs working there now get paid better to feed our kids coke to rot their teeth, support big business, and spread the violent images that have served to deaden the mind of a nation.

who cares if these pigs unionize? would you people next be happy if the halliburton and enron employees unionized to build better machines to rob the american people? shame, shame, shame.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
21 Aug 2005
The Kendall is not a Loews theater. The Kendall shows independent and foriegn films (clearly the last person to comment did not look up the film listings him/herself).

As for the rest of the auguement, it's too hateful/misdirected/insane to address.
Re: Kendall Square Cinema employees join union
21 Aug 2005
you're right, i'm wrong. i apoligize.

now stop feeding the kids the sugar and tell them to get outside and run around so they're healthy.