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VOICES OF IATSE AN UPDATE FROM THE NORTHWEST’S PRODUCTION CREW UNION BY GREGORY SMITH President, IATSE Local 488

I

ATSE Local 488 represents the vast majority of film and video technicians in the Northwest and is an active advocate of workplace justice for everyone in the freelance film community. These are tumultuous times for unionism. Questions of healthcare and retirement benefits combined with growing public, political and workplace opposition call for a diligent membership and focused activism. For example, in the last couple years, our members have questioned a disturbing practice that has taken hold in our production community. Many production companies (employers) are utilizing the erroneous practice of misclassifying freelance labor as independent contractors. Leadership at Local 488 has consulted with legal resources as well as the Department of Labor and the

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WASHINGTON FILM MAGAZINE 2014

Employment Security Department. In the course of this investigation, it has been confirmed that freelance labor is to be compensated through a proper W-2 payroll process with appropriate taxes withheld. It was reconfirmed that work performed as a production crew member does not meet the IRS criteria or State RCW to be classified as an independent contractor. Requiring crew to submit an invoice for compensation of labor as opposed to a proper W-2 payroll/timecard places the employing production company at significant risk. Not only are there liability issues to consider, but if the practice falls subject to the scrutiny of the state departments mentioned above, there will likely be the discovery of associated unpaid payroll taxes and severe fines assessed. It’s important to acknowledge that most production companies operate properly. Those companies

should not feel a financial disadvantage for their efforts. The time is now to standardize the correct hiring/compensation practice. There are many companies that provide temporary payroll service to facilitate this process. Misclassification of the freelance workforce as independent contractors is a serious concern to all freelance technicians. Local 488 is committed to participating in correcting this mistaken practice. These are times of transition in many aspects of content production. Many traditional alignments are in shift and the participants are grappling to identify their role as the New Media World takes its shape. This professional landscape makes union membership and participation as essential as ever. Please feel free to contact me with questions or interest in IATSE Local 488. WF To reach Gregory Smith, president of IATSE Local 488, contact president@iatse488.com.

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