On October 9, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 122, United Food and Commercial Workers 135, Unite Here, the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s San Diego branch and others gathered at the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Diego. The various organizations and community members were supporting Encore audio visual technician workers in their fight for a fair union contract.
Encore, an event production company, effectively became a monopoly following PSAV’s acquisition and re-branding in 2019. In July 2020, Encore workers won their union election with around 75 percent voting to unionize. The workers are set to join IATSE Local 122.
The Encore workers’ campaign website says, “In the beginning 2020, because of COVID-19 closures, the company increased service rates for clients; while the worker saw no improvement of staffing conditions, benefits, nor wage increases. Instead; Encore has put more time, money and effort into trying to bust up our union.”
Nick Gegan, an Encore worker, told Liberation News about the union-busting tactics Encore has used: “Encore was sending workers to mandatory meetings back in early 2020 to talk about unions and how dangerous they are.” Gegan then elaborated on the program of one such meeting that he was paid to attend at Hotel Del Coronado.
IATSE Local 122 organizer Juan Perez said to Liberation News that in addition to Encore’s mandatory anti-union meetings, “They hired a union-busting firm, the Labor Relations Institute, and they would send emails, create videos and those videos were on a website that they would send the workers to.”
During the opening rally on October 9 workers spoke about their working conditions under Encore, such as 10-15 day periods without a day off, being scheduled for consecutive overtime shifts with little to no rest, and being paid as little as $14.50 per hour. After initial speeches from workers and public officials, demonstrators marched in front of two hotels employing Encore workers: Marriott Marquis and the nearby Manchester Grand Hyatt. Marchers chanted “Encore, you’re no good, sign that contract like you should!”
Throughout the demonstration, references were made to nationwide struggles IATSE and other unions are engaged in. Recently on October 4, over 60,000 IATSE workers voted almost unanimously to authorize a strike if their demands for a living wage, reasonable rest and sustainable benefits for film and television workers are not met.
From southern California to Kellogg’s factories across the country, workers are fighting for better union contracts, living wages and safe conditions. The struggle to defend and expand unions is part of the class struggle to end all forms of exploitation and oppression.
Featured image by Haley Manbeck