Cinema Workers, Management Discuss Grievances

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 11, 2006

Shattuck Cinema workers and union representatives met with management on Wednesday to negotiate pay raises, and other basic demands including uniforms and grievance procedures. 

Landmark Cinemas, the parent company of Shattuck Cinemas, and the owner of 58 other theaters all over the United States, had frozen pay increases for workers for over a year, citing problems with funds. 

In an e-mail to union representatives on Aug. 4, Landmark announced that the pay increase freeze was being removed and that they were readjusting wages to be competitive in the market. Harjit Gill of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the union for Shattuck Cinema workers, said that this was an effort to keep the workers from unionizing. 

“They feel that any kind of increase, however small or nonexistent, will satisfy workers,” he said.  

“Workers wanted to meet with management to negotiate the terms and conditions of the proposal that Landmark had put forward. For example the proposal lets certain workers get up to a dollar as a raise and there are others who receive zero cents. We asked the management why this was so and demanded an increase for all. We believe that all workers should be rewarded for their hard work. Overall the meeting helped us to make some good gains. The management has promised us a decision within the next forty eight hours.” 

According to Gill, the workers did not have a problem with the current management at Shattuck Cinemas. Instead their disagreements were with those higher-up in Landmark Cinemas, which is based out of Los Angeles. 

Gill said that workers also wanted a “non-discriminatory” clause included in their contract which is currently not available to “at-will” employees. 

Some kind of a resolution was also supposed to be reached regarding the workers’ uniforms. Currently the workers are not happy with their uniforms and want management to change them. 

Workers have also asked for a chair for the person who rips the ticket at the entrance of the theater because at present he doesn’t get to sit down for seven to eight hours straight. The management was not in support of this because they think that it is unprofessional. 

There is also currently no break room for the cinema workers to gather in during their free time, which workers feel is necessary.  

The other important thing that workers want to negotiate on is the final step of the grievance procedure which includes a mediator who steps in to resolve disputes between the company and the workers. The workers want to employ the services of the Berkeley Dispute Resolution Services whereas the company wants them to use an arbitrator, which the union feels is less localized and steeped in bureaucracy. 

Another issue which was discussed at the meeting had to do with the scheduling of the workers. Currently, the management puts up a schedule once a week and workers have to stick to that. The workers along with the union have proposed that the management let the workers do the scheduling. “Although we know that the management will never agree to this the workers would like to pick someone from among themselves once a month who would be in charge of the scheduling,” said Gill. 

Gill added that community members in Berkeley were very supportive of the workers. “We have people coming to our rallies, giving us donations and even writing letters to the management at Landmark to back us up. We were very happy to see councilmember Kriss Worthington at our meeting on Wednesday. He supports the workers because he thinks that they make the city function.” 

Councimember Worthington told the Planet that he had attended the meeting to let the management know that the public was in support of the workers rights and wanted them to have a fair contract. “With respect to the chair that the workers want for the person who rips the tickets, I think its highly doable. I don’t think Bay Area moviegoers would find it disrespectful at all. It’s a simple accomodation and won’t even cost them any money. It’s absurd that the management don’t want to grant them this request.”