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News ::
Victory for Somerville Projectionists!! (english)
28 Jul 2003
Modified: 06 Aug 2003
After having been locked-out for over ten weeks, projectionists at the Somerville Theatre have emerged victorious in their struggle for union recognition. The management has agreed to voluntarily recognize the union, sign a fair contract, and pay full back wages to all locked-out employees. Although this was a modest struggle in and of itself, we see it as a significant victory for young, exploited and pissed off workers everywhere.
YOU ONLY GET WHAT YOU ARE ORGANIZED TO TAKE:
'Pissed Off Projectionists' Declare Victory Over Somerville Theatre

After having been locked-out for over ten weeks, projectionists at the Somerville Theatre have emerged victorious in their struggle for union recognition. The management has agreed to voluntarily recognize the union, sign a fair contract, and pay full back wages to all locked-out employees. Although this was a modest struggle in and of itself, we see it as a significant victory for young, exploited and pissed off workers everywhere.

PROJECTIONISTS WIN A LIVING WAGE!

At the time we struck for union recognition, projectionists were paid minimum wage ($6.75/hr), were not offered benefits, and worked in an unhealthy and undemocratic environment. Under the current two-year contract, the starting wage for projectionists is now in accordance with (and fixed to) the Somerville Living Wage Ordinance (currently $9.55/hr), which is a 40% increase; all full-time employees will be offered health benefits and vacation; and most importantly, the Somerville Theatre is now a 'union shop' for projectionists, which allows for more control over the work environment by the workers themselves and preference for hiring new employees in the hands of the union.

Although this was a clear victory, it was a victory that came at a price. It became clear during the lock-out that the management of the Somerville Theatre did not want some of us to return to work specifically because of our political beliefs. Rather than further stall the contract negotiations, we agreed to voluntarily step aside and be replaced by other union projectionists in order to ensure a speedy resolution that would benefit all. In exchange we will have the opportunity to work in other Boston-area theaters where projectionists are organized through IATSE.

DIRECT ACTION GETS THE GOODS!

We hope that our struggle is an inspiration to other workers, particularly younger workers just beginning to understand their exploitation at the hands of their bosses. Our struggle was won primarily through direct action and community pressure. Although we did indeed file for an election with the National Labor Relations Board, from the beginning of our campaign we had no faith in State-mediation. We felt that the whole NLRB process played into the hands of the bosses and government bureaucrats, and effectively removed the class struggle from off the streets and out of the hands of the workers and confined it to the court rooms of the State.

In the end it was not through the NLRB that we gained union recognition, but through a sustained campaign of public pressure and direct action. We were successful in utilizing tactics and strategies such as economic strikes, informational pickets, and publicity campaigns while simultaneously relying on the pressure from the community (in the form of boycotts, rallies, and phone actions) to win this struggle. We think we were successful in proving that, as workers, our greatest strengths are in the refusal of our labor and our ability to organize effective resistance that goes beyond the workplace and into the community.

ANARCHISTS IN THE WORKPLACE?

Absolutely! Through out the dispute at the Somerville Theatre, there have been attempts by Melís lawyer to 'red bait' certain projectionists by publicizing the fact that some of us are anarchists. Well, as one trade unionist who walked our picket line a few times eloquently stated: "Every workplace could use a few anarchists to ensure the boss takes a good ass-kicking every now and then." We couldn't agree more. Politics aside, the fact of the matter was that we were being exploited by a wealthy boss, and no amount of 'red baiting' changed this fact in most people's eyes. As for the actual politics in question, those of us who do identify as anarchists have been up front about it and have no problem defending out beliefs. We would like to see a society in which the needs of people are valued over profits, and exploitative bosses are a thing of the past. However, we are not hopeless dreamers. We recognize we are a far way off from this sort of society, and in the meantime we need build power in our communities and workplaces and work towards class victories that directly benefit people's lives.

THANKS TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS

One of the most inspiring aspects of this struggle has been the wide support we have received from trade unionists, activist groups and members of the surrounding community. Thanks to fellow unionists from SEIU, UE, CWA,
IBEW, IWW, AFA, AFSCME, Teamsters, Greater Boston Central Labor Council, and our own union IATSE; also activist groups such as NEFAC, BAAM!, Jobs With Justice, Somerville Greens, and the Student Labor Action Project; and lastly, a very special thanks goes out to all the Somerville residents who supported us, everyone who made a phone call (or ten) on our behalf, and anyone else who may have helped our campaign that we forgot to mention.

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES...

The struggle at the Somerville Theatre may have come to a close, but there are other labor disputes heating up around the city. At this moment, the union contracts covering thousands of Boston-area workers at Verizon are set to expire. Up to this point negotiations have been unsuccessful and the possibility for an East Coast strike is very likely. We hope that everyone who has supported us though out our struggle will also support this important strike if it does occur, and defend workers' right to job security and health benefits. Further information on the impending Verizon strike can be found at: www.massjwj.net.

Solidarity is our greatest weapon for a better future!

In Struggle,
Pissed Off Projectionists
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Comments

Congrats (english)
28 Jul 2003
Good job.
victory only through struggle (english)
29 Jul 2003
Bravo, keep it real!
Not Quite (english)
31 Jul 2003
"Rather than further stall the contract negotiations, we agreed to voluntarily step aside and be replaced by other union projectionists"

You have not been replaced by union projectionists: you have been replaced by the very people you called 'scabs' and who now get a raise, have to pay dues, but don't have to join the union.
jeez (english)
01 Aug 2003
for those that are wondering what the above comment is about... having other projectionists from the union start working at the theatre isn't going to be an overnight process. some of the people who scabbed during the strike will remain at the theatre for now. however, the contract states that the union has preference for hiring when openings happen. this is for the duration of the two year contract. despite my disappointment that some people scabbed and sided with a multi-millionaire, i still hope that they have learned something from this and will see that they have more power as a collective workforce than as seperated individuals in a workplace. the difference is clear, the wages are now tied to the somerville living wage and benefits and vacation are now offered. none of this would have happened without a unionization drive. i also hope that the concession workers who are still payed wage at or just above minimum wage will organize and demand a reasonable wage.
jeezly crow (english)
01 Aug 2003
The concession people realize how easy their jobs are compared to working, say, at a first-run chain theater. Of course, they could still organize, but now they have witnessed the way organization has removed people from their jobs, so if they do organize, it will no doubt be in a more reasonable and efficient way.

And while the union does have the first chance at filling any openings at the somerville theater, the theater can also automatically decline the union's choice and hire their own projection staff as they please.
Ha, ha, ha... (english)
01 Aug 2003
Well, as it became clear in labor court, our lawyer is far more competent than yours. So, if you would like to risk a fat Unfair Labor Practice, by all means breech the contract and try and discriminate against union projectionists. Really, union lawyers live for this kind of shit, especially after people affiliated with the theater are stupid enough to publically brag about it beforehand. Bring it on!
WHO'S FOOLING WHO? (english)
03 Aug 2003
so , let's see, fei theatres does.nt want you and they get their wish. your so called "union" does'nt want you, and they get their wish.now you 3 can tell all the stories you want and put all the spins you want on it , but the truth is this- you don't have a job at the somerville theatre. your union does'nt want anything to do with you,you are all big fountains of misinfomation and if any of this is wrong then prove me right?
this is getting old (english)
04 Aug 2003
you know, you guys really know how to make asses of yourselves. you keep posting the same tired lies over and over, just so that we have to keep writing the same response to combat your lies. you not even make a coherent argument.



stepping aside to make the contract negotiations speed up was a small concession when we were able to go work at other theatres. yes, the guys that scabbed on us will benefit from all the work we did to convince the owner to recognize the union. at this point, i don't care. this was about making the somerville theatre a better place for all the projectionists there now and all that will come after us.



actually, our union is quite impressed by our organizing abilities and ability to mobolize the community around our struggle. i'm sure they would have liked to have us around for the loews fight a year ago.



i think that our statement clearly states that we are no longer working at the somerville theatre. we are now working in other theatres.



see my above comments. you're repeating yourself here, again.
hands in the air from Frisco (english)
04 Aug 2003
Folks in San Fran applaud your tireless, and sometimes, unpopular effort. Congratulations! It's the poeple that make change happen, not fat cat business men nor hollow government puppets.
Vive!
Please Comment... (english)
04 Aug 2003
With a resolution of support from the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor, good coverage in the local press, and frequent (if not constant) pickets, it's hard to see how anyone living in the area would not know about this dispute.

Be that as it may - many i know went to the Somerville Theater for a movie and crossed the picket anyway.
No formal boycott was organized, but did the willingness of theater patrons to cross your picket hurt the situation much?

I couldn't see myself doing it, but friends argued that my ticket alone doesn't mean jack to theater management, and since there was no boycott i was just spiting myself out of a film.
There's also the idea that a boycott could give management the excuse to eliminate projectionist positions if the number of shows was decreased.

So was it silly to stay home?
the boycott (english)
04 Aug 2003
Mr Bun Wrote:



we actually had an active boycott going. over the course of the strike/lock-out we handed out about 20,000 leaflets calling for a boycott of the somerville and capitol (same owner) theatre. the boycott apppeared to be very effective. by a rough estimate, i would say that attendance at the theatre was less than half of what it normally was.



the ticket sales actually don't create that much profit, but the lost concession sales is where the theatre would be hit hardest. that's where most of the profit comes from and the manager gets a cut of the sales. every person who boycotted counts and we thank you for being one of them!



that's very unlikely. only one projectionists works at a time right now. s/he covers all five theatres. also, it was clear that the decrease in ticket sales was directly linked to the strike/lockout and would presumably return to normal levels once a fair contract was negotiated.



of course not. if it wasn't for hundred of folks like you, it would have been much easier for the management of the theatre to ignore us.
that's what you think (english)
04 Aug 2003
actually numbers were up all around before,during and after compared to other years,go figure.
possibly (english)
05 Aug 2003


that's entirely possible. i never compared the ticket sales to other years. the truth of the matter is that lots of people respected the boycott and sales were down in comparison to the months leading up to the strike. if this wasn't true, we would probably still be walking the picket line.
balancing out (english)
05 Aug 2003
perhaps the people who supported the theatre's side evened out or even surpassed the number of people who "BOYCOTTED" and that is why the #'s were up? whatever the reason, life goes on without you all, and as martha stewart would say -"it's a good thing"
java jones (english)
05 Aug 2003
been to starbucks lately?
will it ever end (english)
06 Aug 2003


i really don't think that there was an organized mass of people who were spending every waking hour seeing movies in the theatre to ensure that the projectionists continue to be payed minumum wage. maybe you think that, but i would have to diagnose you as delusional.

we're arguing over a moot point here, aren't we? there was enough pressure from somewhere (we'll let everyone draw their own conclusions) to convince mel that it would be a good idea to negotiate a contract with the union and give the projectionists a 40% raise.

i'm really confused as to the point that you're trying to make. are you trying to say that sales weren't down and that mel was foolish for negotiating a contract?