We are happy to report that there is overwhelming support for forming a union among freelancers currently or recently working at Leftfield. This is an important moment. As many of you know, the main goal of this campaign is to organize a union across the industry. The more production companies that unionize, the more power freelance non-fiction producers will have to define a minimum industry-wide standard for compensation and benefits. In order to accomplish this, we are holding union votes company-by-company until we reach a critical mass in the industry. Leftfield will be the seventh company to unionize in New York, but the campaign is larger than this one production company. Organizing Leftfield, one of the largest production companies in New York, puts us in a position to advance the discussion about what we deserve and will inspire other freelancers to follow our lead.
The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) represents storytellers in film, scripted television, digital media, and news. Their members enjoy excellent health benefits, 401K, pensions, paid holidays, residuals, guaranteed credits and minimum rates. Creative workers in the non-fiction television industry deserve no less. Instead we are saddled with comparatively low weekly wages, no provisions for overtime and no stake in future earnings generated from our hard work.
Many of us agree that Leftfield provides consistent work. We also know there is room for improvement. Choosing the WGAE as our bargaining agent insures that we can advocate for our rights as a group, without fear of being fired for demanding what we know we deserve.
We want to be clear: This is NOT an attack on Leftfield, nor is it is an attempt to divide the company. It is because we care about this industry and our jobs that we are invested in the long-term prospects of improving industry-wide standards and laying the groundwork for sustainable careers.
In the coming weeks as we move towards a secret-ballot union election we can expect Leftfield to tell us that things are good here, that we don’t need a “third party” to deal with the company and that the WGAE is in no position to get us anything we want. It is important you understand that the WGAE is taking their cues from us, and the point of organizing is having the power to advocate for ourselves. This process will be open and democratic with many ways to participate.
If we do nothing, we risk a great deal. Rates across the industry have gone down, production schedules just get tighter, crews get leaner, etc. We already see this happening as companies decrease their budgets to get the bid. We are in an impossible situation. When we succeed at producing a quality show on a tight budget by going over and above, rather than rewarded we are asked to do even more for even less the next time out. And production companies justify lower rates and tougher conditions by pointing to a hyper-competitive industry that forces them to ask us to bend as far as we can. With a union, we can be certain that we have a voice and a seat at the table in that industry. We can use our collective power to make sure that all the companies are competing over quality, rather than who can pay people the least to do the most.
We are proud to join with hundreds of other non-fiction freelancers to organize our industry. We sincerely hope that Leftfield accepts the invitation to sit down with us and the WGAE to have a productive, cooperative discussion about making improvements. And we hope that when you receive your ballot, you will join us in voting “Union Yes.”
With respect and collegiality,
The Leftfield Organizing Committee
If you haven’t had a chance to speak with someone from the Writers Guild, we still want to hear your questions, concerns and what you want to see changed.
Please feel free to contact the WGAE organizer, Isham (firstname.lastname@example.org, 701-330-2682).