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Unions at Work: Actors Union Welcomes California Contractor Law

Feb. 4, 2020, 2:13 PM

This week we look at a union survey of actors and stage managers in California, where a law making it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors just went into effect, and at a tentative labor agreement between the University of California and a union that represents about 19,000 patient care employees. Keep up to date with a roundup every Tuesday on union initiatives, bargaining developments, and other labor news.

California Law Needed, Actors Union Says

A newly effective California law that makes it harder for employers to classify people who work for them as independent contractors is badly needed, according to a just-released survey from the Actors’ Equity Association.

More than four out of five nonunion actors and stage managers in California have been classified as independent contractors and asked to work for less than minimum wage, according to survey results released Tuesday by Actors’ Equity, which represents about 51,000 actors and stage managers at theater companies across the U.S. Actors and stage managers in the state also don’t get adequate health benefits and they face pressure to work when they’re injured, survey respondents said. The survey results highlight the need for Assembly Bill 5, which became effective Jan. 1, the union said.

California’s fiscal 2019 arts funding levels made it number 26 out of 50 states in per capita funding, Actors’ Equity Executive Director Mary McColl said in an interview Jan. 31, citing figures from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Actors’ Equity is asking state lawmakers to resist calls to exempt theater actors and stage managers from A.B. 5’s protections while at the same time boosting funding for the arts so that theaters facing tight budgets aren’t adversely affected by the law, she said. Some theater companies—particularly smaller companies with nonunion workforces—are already arguing that they should be exempt from the new law, McColl said.

State lawmakers should make it clear that actors and other theater employees are covered by the law, while also ensuring that theater groups get the funding they need to stay afloat, she said. “We see California as a leader on employment. It could become a leader when it comes to funding, too,” McColl said.

University of California, Workers Reach Pact

Nearly 19,000 University of California patient care workers would receive double-digit pay increases under a proposed contract with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299.

Union members will vote Feb. 4-6 on the tentative agreement. It was reached after three years of negotiations and six strikes at UC’s 10 campuses and five medical centers, with outsourcing being the major issue. The workers, including technicians and respiratory therapists, haven’t had a contract since 2017.

The proposed pact would provide a 6% across-the-board increase upon ratification and 3% increases in each year of the four-year agreement, according to a Jan. 28 summary from the university. Workers also would receive 2% annual step increases. A one-time $3,000 payment for full-time workers, pro-rated for part-timers, would be paid upon ratification and a second one-time payment of $1,000, also prorated, would be paid in 2021. A $1,000 longevity payment would go to employees with 20 years or more of service.

The agreement was reached the same week that Local 3299 members approved a four-year pact covering about 8,000 UC service workers, including janitors and transportation employees. Workers under that contract, which was ratified Jan. 30, will receive annual 3% increases in years 2020-2024 and a 3% ratification increase. Full-time service workers will receive a $2,500 one-time payment upon signing and a one-time $1,500 payment in 2021 with pro-rated payments for eligible part-time workers, UC said.

Former N.C. Union Boss Stole Local’s Funds

The former union boss of a North Carolina local faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting to stealing more than $200,000 in union funds.

Keith Ludlum, a past president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1208, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and embezzlement charges Jan. 28. He must repay the money he stole and pay a $10,000 fine on top of any potential prison time.

Terry Slaughter, Local 1208’s former treasurer, previously pleaded guilty to his role in stealing money from the union. The two officials’ misuse of the funds ran from January 2012 to March 2015.

UFCW Local 1208 is based in Tar Heel, N.C., and says it has about 3,600 members in North and South Carolina.

—With reporting by Andrew M. Ballard in Raleigh, N.C., and Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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