Leaders of IATSE locals across the country who recommended unanimously that their members ratify the union’s new film and TV contracts had a distinct advantage over opponents of the deal. While voting was underway, they had access to records showing who had voted, and who hadn’t – though not how they voted.
That data was provided to the union by Honest Ballot, the independent company that conducted the electronic balloting. It should be noted that there is nothing illegal about giving this information to the union while voting was ongoing, though some critics feel it violated the very nature of a secret ballot.
A vice president of one of IATSE’s largest locals explained in a Facebook post that “every local gets reports of exactly which members have voted and which have not. There is no indication of how each member voted, but they know exactly who and who has not voted. This allows them to tailor their GOTV [Get Out the Vote] campaigns accordingly. The goal is to raise the member participation vote. In past ratification votes, member turnout has been pretty abysmal,” the exec said.
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“They do get that while it’s in process but not how they voted,” a local union spokesperson confirmed to Deadline.
Linda Gibbs, president of Honest Ballot, declined comment.
Having access to the records of those who had and hadn’t voted while voting was underway allowed local leaders to target non-voters with reminders to vote. In texts and emails, some locals simply asked non-voters to remember to vote, without making any recommendation one way or the other.
Other locals, however, used the information in a text-messaging campaign to urge members who hadn’t yet voted to vote Yes. And in close vote, as this one was, that might have made all the difference.
“It’s disappointing to learn that the locals were targeting members who had not yet voted with encouragement to vote Yes in some cases,” said Brandy Tannahill, a member of IATSE Grips Local 80, who was the host and organizer of two grassroots inter-local town halls in the run-up to the ratification vote. “It seems as though it undermines the concept of a secret ballot and the neutrality and respect that should be afforded to the voting process. We will have no way of knowing whether or not the contracts would have been ratified if those text messages had not been sent out.”
There actually were two separate contracts up for ratification: the Hollywood Basic Agreement, covering 13 locals based in Los Angeles, and the Area Standards Agreement (ASA), which covers 23 locals outside of L.A. Both were approved by razor-thin margins.
In the popular vote – which doesn’t matter under the union’s rules – a slim majority of Hollywood members voted to reject the contract: 50.4% no to 49.6% yes. But the contract ultimately was ratified under IATSE’s electoral college-style rules, in which each of the locals is allotted as many winner-take-all electoral votes as the number of delegates they had at IATSE’s last convention, based on the size of their memberships.
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In the end, eight Hollywood locals with 256 delegate votes voted to ratify the Basic Agreement, while five locals with 188 delegate votes voted to reject it.
The Area Standards Agreement was approved by a narrow popular vote of 52%-48% and by a delegate vote of 103 in favor to 94 against.
Members of Local 480 in New Mexico approved the Area Standards Agreement by a margin of only four votes – 483-479 – which made all the difference in its ratification. Local 480, with 1,472 eligible members, is not the largest of the 23 locals covered by the contract, but large enough to have tipped the electoral vote against ratification if only five fewer members had voted “yes.”
A rejection of either or both of the contracts would have sent IATSE leaders back to the bargaining table with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – and set the stage for a strike if better terms couldn’t be won.
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