479 NEWS

Business Agent’s Report Fall 2016


In this issue I’d like to share details of Local 479’s role with two different government-sponsored jobs programs and the strategy that led to our participation with each of them. Let’s first understand each program’s history and mission:

Georgia Film Academy (GFA)

In January of 2015, Governor Nathan Deal announced the establishment of the Georgia Film Academy to provide courses designed specifically to support the workforce needs of the film and digital entertainment industries.  The GFA is a collaborative effort between the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia.  The Board of Regents oversees the GFA in addition to its traditional role of administering all public colleges and universities comprising the University System of Georgia, as well as the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Public Library System.

Atlanta Workforce Development Agency (AWDA)

Created through the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, AWDA has assisted thousands of Atlanta residents in securing gainful employment and self-sufficiency. In October of 2015 Mayor Kasim Reed launched the City of Atlanta Entertainment Training Program, the first job-training program in the United States focused on helping the film industry build a talent pool of trained below-the-line workers with relevant experience.

Some of you have expressed concern that these city and state-sponsored workers are being trained with your tax dollars to take away your jobs.

While others might be tempted to suggest that if a trainee/intern is sharp enough to take away your job you might not be working hard enough, I’m all too aware that having your job taken away by people working for lower wages is a real concern for our members.

To avoid that situation we have negotiated an arrangement so that trainees/interns are given very specific limitations to ensure that trainees/interns cannot be used to replace the number of qualified workers required by any department.

In fact, our department heads are under strict obligation to continue to staff their departments as they always have, based on all the factors they have always used to estimate required manpower.  Many of you have reported that productions are attempting to abuse the intended use of these trainees/interns by understaffing departments and filling them with these individuals.  Our department heads, however, should not allow trainees/interns to replace our members, and the agreements we have put in place with productions are written to empower the department heads in that regard.  These department heads must closely supervise the trainees/interns placed in their departments and ensure that they have not been placed in an attempt to undercut the required staffing needs of those departments.

Because of our involvement with the tax incentive legislation beginning in 2003, with its passing in 2005, and the rewrites and additions passed in 2008, and because of the ultimate success of those incentives for the state and the luster that success has added to their careers, we have developed relationships with Governor Deal, Mayor Reed, and other legislators over the years.

So, when the GFA and the AWDA programs were established, both the Governor and Mayor asked Local 479 to provide assistance to their on-set operations.

Neither the state nor the city were obligated to turn to a labor organization to provide guidance, but when they did we used that opportunity to create “Memorandums of Agreement” (MOA) between Local 479 and each program, to establish guidelines and ground rules to prevent participants in those programs from taking away jobs from our members.

Had either program decided to leave Local 479 out of the equation we would have been forced to police the programs as outsiders.

The MOAs help to negate the necessity for grievances, and essentially serve as contracts, similar to contracts negotiated when a production is organized.

The position Local 479 has taken with these programs benefits everyone, from the state to the studios, and especially current and future members of our local.

These programs provide us with the opportunity to educate trainees and interns on the importance of the union and issues from safety to set etiquette, so that these people are especially well-positioned if they decide to pursue a career in our industry.

AGAIN: trainees/interns cannot be used to replace members.  This is the MOST IMPORTANT measure addressed in the written MOAs with each program. The guidelines put in place by the MOAs keep this from being possible, without heavy repercussion to the production or department head that uses these interns or trainees to intentionally replace members.

Bullet Points of the Memorandums of Agreement between Local 479 and the GFA/AWDA

Georgia Film Academy

Work Hours

GFA interns can work no more than 8 hours in a day, excluding meal periods, and 5 days in a week.  If a GFA intern is found to have worked past the 8 hour maximum, the production must treat that intern by the guidelines of the CBA, paying them scale wage for the craft they performed for the entire days work, as well as benefits.


GFA interns must be paid federal minimum wage or better, and these wages are the responsibility of the GFA, for up to a maximum of 20 days.


GFA interns are placed on productions by the GFA, with the knowledge and approval of Local 479.  Each production that takes on GFA interns signs a Participation Agreement, acknowledging our MOA, which is sent to the local to keep on file, along with a list of the interns the production is taking on.  There can be no more than one intern working with any department at any one time.

Atlanta Workforce Development Agency

Work Hours

AWDA trainees can work no more than 8 hours in a day, excluding meal periods, and 5 days in a week.  Because Local 479 has a full-time employee (AB Cooper) directly involved in filling out and submitting timecards for AWDA, the local is able to police this rule and intervene when a trainee is being abused.


AWDA trainees are paid by the City, not the production.  A trainee can only receive up to 17 weeks of pay from the City, and then they are no longer eligible to participate in the program.


A.B. Cooper, a full-time employee of Local 479, places AWDA trainees onto productions.  After the trainees complete the orientation workshop provided by and at the Local 479 office, A.B. contacts productions directly and works to place each trainee in a department that is already fully staffed and would like to serve as a mentor to these trainees.  There can be no more than one trainee working with any department at any one time.

Schools, programs, and courses exactly like the GFA and the AWDA exist all over the world.  Here in Atlanta, the city and state legislatures called in Local 479 while still in the ground floor stages of development and allowed us to establish a partnership with them, so that in addition to turning out educated, qualified technicians, these individuals are educated in the importance of the union to the entertainment industry.

Your Business Agent,

Mike Akins