Posts Tagged ‘Teamsters’

LAPD-Hollywood Feud Clouds Tony V’s Bid For Gov

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

The Big Squeeze: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is caught between an LAPD rock and a Hollywood hard place, as cops and movie crews battle over security costs for Tinsel Town location shoots.

The boulder up against Hizzoner’s backside is Police Chief William J. Bratton, who wants to boot uniformed retired officers who provide film-set security in favor of active, off-duty LA cops, who would be accountable to his commanders — and paid nearly double the going rate.

Pressure on the other cheek comes from the financially-struggling film industry, reeling from the recession and record low numbers of on-location TV and film shootings in LA. They say Chief Bratton’s proposal – on which Villaraigosa has stayed decidedly mum – will make it even less attractive for film crews to shoot in L.A., worsening the problem of runaway production.

As he weighs a run for governor, Antonio Alcalde faces a possible political embarrassment no matter which side he favors in the feud: How would it look if he launched a campaign without full backing of his own chief? And what kind of LA mayor wades into a governor’s race without big time Hollywood support?

When Calbuzz started asking questions about the dispute, Villaraigosa’s press people hemmed, hawed and scurried around for two days to come up with some answers, and finally told us late Friday the mayor is hoping to work out a compromise. But retired cops have had the sweet gig for location security services for half-a-century, and it looks to us like the mayor risks honking off either the film industry – which has rallied around the ex-officers — or the LAPD and Bratton, who argues that the incumbent retirees are not accountable.

As far as we can tell, nobody has looked at how this issue might affect Tony V if he runs for governor. The LA Times has been following the issue as a business story and, to some degree, as a local labor beef between the LAPD and the coalition of labor and industry groups, That includes the Teamsters and the Motion Picture Association of America, who are fighting to keep things as they’ve been for the last 50 years. As Nikki Finke has noted in Deadline Hollywood Daily, Film LA is peeved that the movie-cop issue remains unstuck.

Location cops now make about $50 an hour. Under Bratton’s proposal, if the studios want to keep cops in LAPD uniforms, they’d have to pay time-and-a-half plus a 14% administrative fee — which adds up to $80-$100 an hour, according to Gene Patterson, secretary of the Motion Picture Officers Association.

“The mayor doesn’t have to be caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Marilyn Bitner of Plan A Locations, a company that brokers residential and commercial sites to the film industry: “If you drive out production, you’re losing resources that fund the police,” she told Calbuzz. “I don’t know why the mayor won’t weigh in”

Bitner and other LA sources also told us Villaraigosa has only a perfunctory relationship with the film industry, which may help explain why it took Villaraigosa’s political consultants and LA press people two full days to explain where he stands on the issue.

We got bounced from one staff person to another until spokeswoman Janelle Erickson finally told us: “The mayor enjoys a very close relationship with the film and entertainment industry in LA. It’s always a priority in the mayor’s office to support an industry that creates jobs.”

According to Erickson, Villaraigosa is working on a “compromise” that would allow retired cops to continue location work, but not in their LAPD uniforms. There’s the rub: retired cops and filmmakers we spoke to said that’s no compromise at all. Unless movie cops look like real LAPD officers, they say, there’s no way they can command the authority needed to secure a film site.

“You can’t stop traffic and run interference if you look like a mall security guard,” said Peterson, a retired detective supervisor with 37 years in the LAPD.

Erickson referred us to the Director’s Guild of America where spokeswoman Sahar* Moridani, offered this lukewarm comment: “We’ve always enjoyed and appreciated the open access and the support we’ve received from the mayor’s office.”

It is true that Villaraigosa enjoyed financial support in his re-elect from high-end names in the entertainment world like Spielberg, Geffen, Katzenberg, Hanks, Reiner, Streisand et. al. But they aren’t the ones on the front lines of this fight.

“He may have a relationship with the Steven Spielbergs of the world,” Bitner said, “but he doesn’t have a relationship with the working industry – the people below the line,” referring to location managers, line producers, camera, set and design crews, plus the large number of others who work on location.

So who’s Villaraigosa gonna pick — the working film industry or the chief? As one L.A. media pal of ours put it: “Kind of your classic lady or the tiger.”

*Oops — in the original we called her Sarah. Sorry.

Furthermore: Since our original post, we caught another look at the issue on Sharon Waxman’s “The Wrap”

Feinstein Deals Major Blow to Landmark Labor Bill

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office put out a low-ball statement Friday making clear she won’t be supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, the labor movement’s top congressional priority, at least in its present form.

The little-noticed move makes Feinstein the only Democrat in the California congressional delegation to withhold backing for the Employee Free Choice Act.

As a policy matter, the measure would make it easier for employees to organize unions; as a political one, it would give President Obama, who campaigned in support of the legislation, and majority Democrats in Congress, a visible achievement on behalf of workers at a time of seething public anger at CEOs and corporations.

A co-sponsor of the legislation in the last Congress, Feinstein in recent days has been the target of an organized netroots campaign to pressure her into coming out in favor of the bill. The online effort came during a three-day Capitol Hill lobbying effort by the Teamsters, which sent a delegation to her office Thursday.

While Feinstein does not face re-election until 2012 as a senator, her flip-flop on labor’s most crucial legislation would be problematic in a contested Democratic primary for governor — another sign that she is unlikely to enter the race for governor next year.

Given the political stakes of Feinstein’s action, it’s surprising how little notice it received, no doubt one of the reasons her statement was released on a Friday afternoon. Beyond a few liberal blogs, James Oliphant of the L.A. Times Washington bureau was the only mainstream media reporter to file on it, in a piece his editors played inside the A section.

“I have thought for some time that the way to approach this issue is by trying to see if there can’t be a compromise between the business community, the agriculture community and labor,” Feinstein’s statement said. “This is an extraordinarily difficult economy, and feelings are very strong on both sides of the issue. I would hope there is some way to find common ground that would be agreeable to both business and labor.”

Merits of the legislation aside, Feinstein’s can’t-we-all-get-along statement is breathtaking in blithely ignoring a) what some might term, uh, the fundamental contradiction between capital and labor and b) the fact that the “extraordinarily difficult economy” is a key reason organized labor is pushing for the free choice act, which was introduced on March 13. According to the AFL-CIO’s home page blog, “(W)orkers who belong to unions earn 28 percent more than non-union workers. They are 52 percent more likely to have employer-provided health coverage and nearly three times more likely to have guaranteed pensions.”

As a communications matter, business and corporate lobbyists won the framing debate on the issue. They succeeded in short-handing the bill as “card check” and in focusing media attention on a provision of it that would allow a union to be certified without an election if a majority of employees signed union cards. The bill also would increase penalties for firing workers for participating in an organizing campaign and require companies to submit to arbitration if they could not reach agreement on a contract with a newly certified union after four months. The latter is perhaps the biggest concern for business.

Feinstein’s move came one day after Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter announced on the Senate floor that he would not support the labor law reform. Taken together, the loss of the two Senators is a major tactical defeat for its sponsors, because they need 60 votes to move it out of the Senate to the House, where it was expected to pass more easily. Specter was the one Republican that labor hoped to get to vote in their favor, in addition to all 59 Democrats (assuming Minnesota’s Al Franken gets seated sometime this century).

A proposed “third way” compromise was put forward last week by executives from Whole Foods, Costco and Starbuck’s, but labor leaders denounced it as a pro-business gutting of their proposal.

Feinstein’s position is in sharp contrast to Senator Barbara Boxer, who gave the kickoff speech last week at a Washington convention of Teamster organizers who gathered to lobby Congress on the free choice act.

Boxer was introduced by Teamster President Jim Hoffa as “our friend” and one of 41 senators who have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors. “For me, it’s a family thing,” Boxer said, adding that her husband’s father had been a Teamster. She said she was behind the bill “for the good of the country and for a strong middle class.”