Legally Speaking, It Depends – Guild or Union

Entertainment attourney Christopher Schiller explains the legal reasonings and goes into some common legal and business issues that arise from representation by either a Union or a Guild in the entertainment industry.

Unions and Guilds

Part 1:

First, let’s start with some standard definitions to give us all the same starting points.

As the old story goes, David with just his slingshot, did an okay job on his own against a much bigger and more powerful opponent. The rest of us could use a little help when facing “the man.”

Negotiation is always about power. The ones with power can dictate terms to the weaker parties at the table. When a group of weaker powered individuals join as a united front to negotiate with a common, powerful, opposing party, the playing field can be more level with regard to power. This allows for a more advantageous outcome for the collective.

Collective bargaining is when a group of less powerful individuals who share similar goals, unite in negotiations with a common, more powerful opponent.

The term applies in any unbalanced power situation whether the group is organized, ad hoc or represented by an official organization empowered to negotiate on the group’s behalf.

As we’ve seen in the copyright arena, a distinction is often made based on the worker’s relation to the employer. In the context of collective bargaining, these distinctions are important again.

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Part 2:

Producers can hire Union/Guild members, if and only if they are signatory to that particular Union/Guild’s agreements.

Signatory Producer is one who has signed a binding agreement to abide by the terms of that Union/Guild’s negotiated, standard agreements.

Union/Guild members are forbidden by Union/Guild rules to work for any producer who is not complying with the standards set by those agreements.

The agreement reached in negotiations between major production players and each Union/Guild becomes the basis of the Minimum Basic Agreements (MBA) that the respective Union/Guild requires signatory producers to abide by when hiring their members. (It’s more complex than that, trust me, but let’s leave it there for now.)

The term Scale refers to the basic minimum salary or pay scale allowable under the particular MBA terms for a project of a qualifying type. It is a specified floor. There is no specified ceiling as noted below.

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