Members and non-members alike have sometimes been confused by how the IATSE works. Obviously we all know we do live and recorded events (when there isn’t a pandemic), but there is a whole lot more involved in working through the IA than that. There are different departments overseen by different Vice Presidents of the IA, there is a definite hierarchy that goes from the newest probationary worker all the way to the International President, and the IA represents dozens of crafts within the entertainment industry. I’m going to try to explain how all that works for those who may have been wondering.
At the lowest level are the 375+ individual union locals in the United States and Canada. They were organized to represent entertainment workers in either a geographic location, a specific craft, or both. Locals are assigned numbers usually based on when they were formed, but that isn’t the only factor. Sometimes Locals merge, sometimes they disband if their work disappears permanently, etc. Local 26 has a large geographical jurisdiction through merging over time with other Locals in the area. Locals typically have a membership meeting monthly.
A directory of all the Locals in the IA can be found here.
One level up from Locals are Districts. There are 13 geographical districts between the United States and Canada. Each District has a Secretary who is responsible for maintaining financial records as well as the District’s activities, and serves as the coordinator for the individual Locals that make up the District. Districts conventions must be held every two years, although many choose to meet annually.
Next level is the International. It is made up of the President, General Secretary-Treasurer, and 13 Vice Presidents. This is known as the General Executive Board, or GEB. Of the Vice Presidents, two must come from Canadian Locals, one from the West Coast Studio production Locals, one from the Special Department Locals, and the rest can come from anywhere in the IA. There are also three International Trustees, whose responsibility is to review the financial activities of the International. The GEB oversees all national contracts of the IA.
The International officers and trustees are elected every four years at the International Convention by the delegates from all the Locals in the IA who attend. As with regular elections, the number of delegates each Local may send to the Convention is determined by how many members they have. There are also several Committees made from Delegates to handle the business brought before the Convention. During the Quadrennial Convention, each Craft in the IA will caucus (meet separately) to discuss common issues of importance to them but that don’t necessarily apply to the IA as a whole.
If you’d like more detail about structure, the International has put together an excellent explanation here.
There are eight Departments within the IA:
- First is Stagecraft, which concerns live events in various forms throughout the United States and Canada.
- The Motion Picture & TV Production department concentrates on all technical aspects of recorded productions.
- The Tradeshow department as I’m sure you can guess deals primarily with tradeshows and conventions.
- The Canadian department of course looks after the Locals in Canada and helps them organize, and concentrates on national issues such as benefits. Since Canada has the same array of crafts as the US, the Canadian department works closely with the others.
- The Education & Training department oversees, supports, and searches out all educational opportunities for workers in the IA. They are closely involved with several other organizations to keep up with changing technology, and operate an outreach program for high school students to foster interest in the IA.
- Social media, website, email, and coordinating with other Departments is handled by the Communications department. They form both a formal and informal means of communicating between Locals and also between Locals and the International. Additionally, they provide materials to help Locals communicate better with their membership, especially with modern means of communication.
- The Broadcast department oversees Locals that represent television, live broadcast, and live sports broadcast. Their responsibility is to help organize everything from local TV stations to national sports networks.
- Finally, the Political and Legislative department ensures IATSE workers have a voice in the political process. They work with the IATSE PAC and encourage Locals in grassroots efforts so our needs are not ignored by elected officials. They also keep members aware of upcoming issues that directly affect the industry, so they can exercise their voices and votes.
Again, if you would like more detail, the IA has put together another page of explanations here.
This gets very involved, but I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible and give you the ones you’re most likely to run into. At the back of every Quarterly Bulletin is a listing of all the crafts represented by the IA and their different letter designations. Local 26 is a Mixed local (M), which means we technically represent workers from all crafts, although we don’t necessarily have workers from every craft at any given time. Most Locals that represent specific crafts are found in large cities, although not all of them.
- M: Mixed locals, such as Local 26 and 274 (Central and Northern Michigan, usually just referred to as Lansing).
- S: Stage Employee locals, such as Local 38 in Detroit.
- TWU: Theatrical Wardrobe Union, such as Local 786 in Detroit.
- MPP,VT&CT: Motion Picture Projectionists, Video and Computer Technicians, such as Local 199 in Detroit.
- T&T: Treasurers and Ticket Sellers, such as Local 757 in Detroit.
- T: Theatre Employees – Special Departments, such as Local B179 in Detroit.
- TBSE: Television Broadcasting Studio Employees
- AE: Arena Employees
- MAHS: Makeup Artists & Hair Stylists
- C: Camerapersons
There are a whole slew of designations specific to motion pictures, and dozens of others as well. For a complete list of all the crafts represented by the IATSE, click here.
Hopefully you’re not more confused than when you started!
Now the refrain: Be safe. Be well. STAY HOME OR MASK UP. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!