The Union agrees that during the existence of this agreement, unless the Producer fails to comply with an arbitration award, not to strike against, picket or boycott the Producer for any reason whatsoever, and to order its members to perform their obligations to the Producer hereunder and to use its best efforts to get the employees to perform such obligations. The Producer agrees not to engage in any lockout unless the Union fails to comply with an arbitration award.
Its come to my attention that questions have been raised regarding the purpose of the above clause in the IATSE contracts. Those who question this General Provisions clause (found in the TAG CBA on page 53, paragraph J) consider it to be the biggest liability to the union and question its purpose.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, this clause is one of the keys to the strength of the contract and reasons that a producer would have for signing one.
Many who propose the above argument against the clause state that the ability to strike is the key to any leverage the union has over the employer. The argument assumes that if the union gives up the ability to strike, they’ve handed over any means to effect meaningful change in the contractual relationship with the employer. This also implies that the employer-employee (and therefore employer-union) relationship is based in a continuing struggle where both sides are willing to effect mutual destruction.
This just isn’t the case. At the core of the relationship between a vfx artist and an employer, there is a symbiosis based on need. Shop Owners *need* artists for their experience, skill and talent. Artists *need* shop owners for their ability supply employment by successfully bidding on (or creating) work. This basic relationship is mutually beneficial and co-dependent. As long as the shop owner has work, the artists will keep working .. and as long as the artists keep applying their skill, the shop owner will be recognized as successful and continue to get work.
Union contracts like ours use the collective leverage that comes from the above mentioned core relationship to establish boundaries against owners seeking profit at the expense of artists. Our contracts set standards and conditions that artists have input in drafting. Effectively this resets the artist/owner relationship back to that core where both sides stand on equal footing with regards to the items stipulated in the contract.
Essentially, that is exactly why the clause is so strong. By agreeing not to “push the button” on the employer-employee relationship, both sides have agreed that the core need is more important than the possibility of a dispute over contracted agreements. IATSE contracts stipulate a grievance procedure (found in the TAG CBA on page 36, Article 15) that can lead up to binding arbitration over matters of contractual disagreement.
This is a procedure that the union and producers must take if either side feels the other has violated parts of the contract. This procedure delineates steps and methods of rectifying the disagreement so neither side has to take drastic detrimental measures against the other.
For that is exactly what a strike or lock-out is .. drastic and detrimental to both sides. Neither side truly “wins” when resorting to these tactics. Including this language in the contract helps the employer and employees to continue to work together towards the common goal of productive, satisfying and profitable creation of the product.