Sunday, 20 March 2016
STAGE TECHNICIANS AT FACTORY THEATRE: PLEASE STOP!
According to the IATSE Local 58 Facebook page, the stage technicians at Factory Theatre voted unanimously for union representation on February 3, 2016.
Respectfully, I ask these employees to reconsider their decision before it is too late. This is a horrible precedent to set. IATSE is a sexist organization. It is incredibly ironic that IATSE has decided to set up shop at the only theatre of size in Toronto that is run by a non-white woman (Nina Aquino is the Artistic Director). I can only see this as an attack on her.
First, let me be completely clear about my position on unions. I am a union member and a card-carrying ‘leftie.’ I have been very active in my own union - Canadian Actor’s Equity Association — for more than 30 years. My activity has consisted mainly of trying to modernize the organization in a desperate attempt to pull it out of the sexist, homophobic, and ‘commercial- theatre’ focused Victorian mindset. I have met with some success in trying to make those in charge at Equity understand that their organization serves no one if they are sexist and homophobic, and if they do not understand the difference between entertainment and art. I have not entirely succeeded. During my many campaigns to bring Canadian Actors Equity into the 21st century I have been called many things, among them, ‘union hater.’
I am not a union hater. I believe that workers need and must have representation and empowerment in the battle against corrupt employers. They must have unions. However, I care so much about my union that I want it to make sure that it is as responsive as it can be to all of its members. However, union administrators who have vested interests to protect (i.e. personal money and power), insist on calling me a union-hater.
When it comes to IATSE, I have tried my best to find out statistics about the membership of IATSE worldwide, and have met with no luck. As far as I can tell there are absolutely NO statistics available anywhere online about the number of stage technicians in Toronto who are women or persons of colour. This, in itself, is suspicious. I went onto the IATSE 873 website, which seems to represent Toronto film employees. I looked at the charter members listed there. Of 60 names, there were 52 men. I did not find any names that were recognizably African, or Asian, or recognizably ‘not European.’
This isn’t my only reason for calling the organization sexist. I have worked with many female colleagues who are set, lighting and costume designers. These women have told me uniformly, across the board, they have been treated with more than just disrespect by members of IATSTE; they have been treated with contempt. IATSE members treat women who hold powerful artistic positions as idiots —simply because they are women. Just ask any woman who has had to give orders to IATSE. Just ask any male member of IATSE who has been forced to take orders from women.
I understand that there may be important labor issues going on at Factory Theatre, and
the workers there may very well be underpaid and oppressed, and may not have felt that their needs will be met without help. That is no reason to become members of this antiquarian organization, without at the very least taking time to question their policies.
If all mid-size theatres were to become IATSE in Toronto it would be the end of non-commercial theatre in this city. Mid-size theatres will simply not be able to afford to pay them. This of course, is another reason to oppose the IATSE takeover of Factory. IATSE needs not only to respect women theatre-makers, but to respect not-for-profit theatre, theatre that cannot be funded by mega-corporations like Mirvish or TD bank — because the scripts of not-for-profit theatres contain radical, controversial ideas that threaten the conservative, capitalist-centric corporate world.
For years I have watched the Canadian Actor’s Equity organization use the fact that they speak for working class people as a shield to protect them from accusations of sexism, racism, homophobia, and even classism.
But unions must not be beyond criticism.
I plead with the stage technicians at Factory; only go ahead and join IATSTE if your first demand is that all of the IATSE stage technicians working at Factory be non-white women.
If you are not willing to do that…then you are taking the first step towards killing Toronto theatre.