The Local 479 Field Representative Team
Local 479 currently employs three Field Representatives who you may already know, or will meet at some point during your career in the film and television industry. Theresa Khouri, Billy Deacon, and A.B. Cooper work together and with Business Agent Mike Akins as a team to provide our membership with a wide and flexible net of representation.
Longtime members likely know one or more of the field rep staff, but newer members and transfers may not and for that reason we have produced this article to provide a history of Local 479’s Field Rep staff, the general responsibilities of the Field Reps, the reporting structure for representation, and the role of Field Reps in the contractual compliance process.
History of the Field Rep Team
As the volume of production within Local 479’s jurisdiction increased in the years following the passage of Georgia’s tax incentives, so too grew the need for the local’s Business Agent to be “everywhere at the same time”.
To address that need, experienced stewards were hired as assistants to the Business Agent, to help provide oversight to a rapidly expanding market. This year these employees’ titles became formalized as “Field Representatives” (or “Field Reps” for short).
Responsibilities of Field Reps
Field Reps are charged with visiting each production from their assigned list on a weekly basis to maintain open lines of communication with on-production and off-production shop stewards and every member of crews who are members of our local.
Each representative is trained to understand each of the contracts under which our members may work, how to respond to issues that can arise during the course of production, and when to alert the Business Agent of potential issues before they escalate.
Most issues that our members experience during the course of their employment can be addressed and resolved by the shop steward embedded within a crew.
Stewards are the eyes and ears of the Business Agent and are encouraged to be in frequent communication with their assigned Field Rep. If a steward is uncertain of correct procedure or feels that they may require advisement they should contact the Field Rep assigned to their show.
In most cases a Field Rep can resolve an issue without escalating the issue to the Business Agent, however Field Reps are not permitted to negotiate with production on contractual matters. They must instead report back to the Business Agent regarding issues that may require official intervention.
The Business Agent is empowered to engage producers on matters of contract and compliance and does so on a regular basis. If members have a legitimate concern that contractual conditions are not being met, the Business Agent will act in the best interests of the membership.
Shown below is a diagrammatic organizational chart indicating lines of reporting.
Work Process of Field Reps
Most of a Field Rep’s day is spent out in the field meeting with crews on set.
Each morning the reps consult call sheets from each of the shows that they’ve been assigned in order to determine which productions may have conditions that might warrant a set visit. Those conditions may include special effects, gunfire, stunts, large crowds, heavy equipment, special lighting rigs, and any other matter that could involve safety risks to the crew.
Every Monday the Field Reps meet to review the list of projects that they each represent. These meetings ensure clear communication among all team members and provide an opportunity to share and discuss local industry news with the Business Agent.
The Field Reps meet with representatives from production companies during pre-production to gather information which will later be included in the Breaking News emails that members receive.
Field Reps are an important part of the Business Agent’s front-end contractual compliance process, which screens crews for residency violations.
A residency violation occurs when a non-resident obtains employment by submitting unacceptable identification in their start paperwork for verification of state residency.
Identifying these violators early in the process benefits the union by ensuring that members in good standing are being hired. Removing these individuals also benefits productions as it removes the risk of contractual grievances and/or being forced to pay the violators retroactive benefits like travel, lodging, and per diem.
One producer described their position on the local’s compliance process in terms of cost savings: “Why would I allow someone from another jurisdiction to come in and work as a local and risk the chance of getting caught and having to pay them retroactively? For that same cost I could have brought in the director’s pick from out of town.”
Since the implementation of these enhanced compliance procedures residency violations have dropped significantly.
This cooperation between our local and productions benefits all parties and maintains Georgia’s competitive edge in the motion picture industry.
If you have any additional questions about how you are represented or need to speak to one of our Field Reps regarding a contractual issue or matters to do with your employment feel free to call the main office at (404) 361-5676.